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Sunday, 26 February 2017

Theyyam by the river Valapattanam

    If I was waiting to visit Kannur, it was to experience Theyyam. I had  heard so much about it from our homestay owners who  recommended it highly .I had also  read a lot about it ,which mentioned that Kannur was the Land of Theyyams. .The rest of it ,the beaches ,the  forts ,the beautiful walkways and the sunsets came as a bonus .

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Image courtesy junglekey.in

So what is Theyyam ?
     Its a ritual art form of north Kerala (not to be confused with the kathakali dance of the state ),which is held in the  months of December to April .It is held in almost all places of northern Kerala
  except the Parassini Kadavu temple in Kannur ,where it is held everyday .The thyyam is held in        front of the village shrines , with devotees surrounding the performers . It is performed in many ways in praise of various gods ,by the lower caste people of this region.for the well being of family and society. This has been a ritual for this area for several thousands of years .

The road to the Parassini Kadavu  Temple is a long winding one  with lush greenery and beautiful mansions all around .Just before reaching the temple we crossed a bridge over a river and the road culminated to a surprisingly crowded place .The place was lined with shops selling all possible things required for the visit to the temple and souvenirs to take back home ,leaving no doubt in our minds that we were at right place.
                                            Inside the temple complex we were amazed to see a voluminous river flowing alongside .The river was the Valapattanam.The Theyyam was yet to start since it does not start before sunset .So a boat ride on the river Valapattanam at sunset was the next evident option  . 

 It was a day of many amazement and surprises I guess, as nature put up a beautiful show for us.We were the only ones on the river that evening when the sun bathed the sky and the river with its last rays for the day.The golden hues of sunset lent an ambiance of  serenity with the Parassini Kadavu Temple gleaming at the edge of the river at a distance.
Peace and simplicity had a close relation,I wondered.

   The Parassini Kadavu Temple is also known as the Muthappan Temple,named after lord Muthappan. Legend has a very interesting tale about how Muthappan emerged as the Lord of the region but that is a different story .

    For the time being I can only think of our bewilderment as we entered the temple complex. The place had an unusual number of dogs roaming everywhere.It did not take us long to notice that there were two large bronze statues of dogs at the entrance of the temple and many more smaller ones near the shrine.It was palpable that our canine cohabitants had a very vital role in this temple.We later learnt that they were the bodyguards of Lord Mutthappan, and it is so believed that once when the temple authorities removed them the theyyam performers were unable to put up a performance.

The Parassini Kadavu temple from the boat

   With the setting sun the crowd which was till now dispersed all over the temple complex slowly gathered to the shrine.All lights were switched off in the hall which houses the shrine .Many oil lamps were lit up at the shrine in the dark hall, providing an enchanting atmosphere.

   All eyes were now fixed at it ,so as to not to miss a moment of what would come up next.What came up next did not disappoint us , the attire with the headgear, the drummers and other folk musical instruments being played ,together lent an atmosphere of awe. The ensuing performance was the story of Lord Muthappan,through folk dance and music.The performers are believed to take the form of the Lord during the performance  .The devotees touched their feet to seek blessings after the performance.

        The temple was unique in its own way.The devotees offered fish and liquor to the lord here and prasad is first served to the dogs here and then to the people.

   Be it the Muthappaan Temple or Theyyam at the village shrines,this age old form of art had its lasting  impact on me. I visualised how astounding it would be to watch the brightly coloured dressed Theyyam performers perform in a warm winter afternoon,in a picturesque Malabar village.

Image courtesy junglekey.in
       As the car crossed the dimly lit bridge once again as I returned to Kannur,I reflected at the strange relation man shares with nature. I wondered if it is the Maker who draws faith ,or merely faith which makes a man the Master. These and many more such thoughts jostled for space in my perplexed mind ,while the car drove past the now dark scenery of palm lined roads and glimmering mansions.
         The Parassinikadavu Temple is located at Anthoor,16 kms from Kannur city .If you are driving from Kannur.it is best to start in the afternoon and reach there by sunset,to witness theyyam .The temple has provision of serving tea and refreshments to all devotees .There are many shops outside the temple where snacks are available for the visitors.