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Kerala,Keralachat,Malayalam,Malayalam Music,Keralam,India,KeralaVoiceChat,Kerala Map
Kerala,Keralachat,Malayalam,Malayalam Music,Keralam,India,KeralaVoiceChat,Kerala Map
Kerala,Keralachat,Malayalam,Malayalam Music,Keralam,India,KeralaVoiceChat,Kerala Map
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Vishu falls on the first of Medam (March-April), which is the astronomical New Year's Day.  One's good fortune during the year would depend on his seeing some good thing on Vishu morning.  The heart of the festival is the preparation of the kani (the lucky sight or gift).  The older custom of preparing the kani is described below.  The women of the family take a large dish made of bell-metal (uruli), arrange in it a grantha (palm-leaf manuscript), a gold ornament, a new cloth, some flowers from the konna tree (cassia fistula), some coins in a silver cup, a split coconut, a cucumber, some mangoes, and a jack-fruit.  On either side of the dish are two burning lamps with a chair facing it.  

After these are set in the living room of the house, family members are taken one by one with their eyes blindfolded or closed shut.  When they are in the living room, the blindfolds are removed so that they may view the vishu kani.  The kani is then taken from the home to the homes of the poor for their benefit.  The father (Karanavan) of the family gives gifts of money to children, servants, and tenants.  During the rule of the rajas, state officials used to pay respects to the reigning king to wish him a Happy New Year, to offer gifts, and receive presents from him.  The day is marked by a grand feast at home for all the members of the family and dependents.


The Teyyam or Teyyattam (cult-dance) is not a national festival popular all over Kerala.  It is found only in Malabar, but it is an integral part of the religion of the Malabar Tiyas (Ezhavas), and as such it deserves mention and further study; a closer study of the different aspects of this cult can enlighten us about the origin of the Ezhavas, of which ethnologists know very little.

Teyyattam means the "dance of god," as Teyyam seems to be derived from daivam (god).  It is a conscious religious rite aimed at becoming the god or goddess for a few hours.  The dancer exhibits his achievement of the divine identity by the movements of his body and by the wearing of the divine mask. The theory behind this phenomenon is easy to understand.  In a play an actor assumes the role of a character and becomes that character during the duration of the play and carries the audience with him into his new world.  We have all experienced this feeling while watching a movie or play.  Religious worship is also a play, a divine play, in which the worshipper enters briefly the divine world.

Teyyam is a divine dance in which the dancer transforms himself into a god or goddess who blesses his/her faithful people who in turn worship him/ her.

The dancer wears different types of headdresses of conic and circular shapes; the dancer also paints his face and body.  The dance, on the one hand, is the worship of the deity; but, on the other hand, the dancer is also the deity who bestows blessings on the faithful.  As a form of worship and entertainment, the worshippers sing songs regarding the origin of the shrine and the deity (Pattu-festival) and perform the dance (purakkali). A large number of Teyyam-gods and goddesses are worshipped in Malabar not only by the Tiyas but also by the Brahmins who have now taken over the religious cult of Teyyam by Aryanizing it.  The Brahmins have their own Teyyam, like Rakteswari, Bhagavati, and Chamundi, who have been transformed into different Saktis or incarnations of Parvati.  The priests of Teyyam, however, are still Tiya priests.

Teyyam celebrates primarily the Mother Goddess, the Bhagavati, who is very popular in Malabar.  There is probably not a single village in Malabar without a shrine or kavu (grove) dedicated to the Bhagavati.  She is worshipped, as the Virgin Mary of the Catholics is honored in Lourdes, Fatima, Notre Dame, Velamkanni, and so on, in diverse forms and under different names. She is a kuladevata (family deity) for most ruling families of Kerala. 

Teyyattam or the dance is performed to propitiate these goddesses; important goddesses receive several hours of dance in their honor.  Some of the goddesses are Patakkatti Bhagavati she is worshipped as a hermaphrodite or as the ardhanari form of Shiva Pumala, Aryakkara Bahgavati, Kuratti, Rekta Chamundi, Kundor Chamundi, Kollapuri Amma, Huskur Amma, Punnanur Amma, and Hosur Amnia. Many of these village goddess (gramadevatas) are now identified as Mahishasura-mardini of the Sakti-cult, under Brahminical influence.  The Brahmins also have introduced Vishnu-cult in Teyyam. Vishnu is propitiated in all Teyyam cults today;  Teyyattam-vishnu is Vishnumurti or the Narasimha  (man-lion) avatara (incarnation) of the God.

Teyyam celebrates not only Aryan gods, Dravidian Mother-Goddess, and ancient Munda gods and goddesses, but also Kutti Chattan. (a primitive god of black magic now unpopular among all Orthodox Hindus) and heroes like Tacholi Otenan, Mandappan, Muttappan, Pumarutan, and Pataviran.  Spirits, animals, serpents, and trees also figure in  Teyyam worship. Teyyam is an important, complex cultural institution of Malabar, which deserves careful study on the part of historians and anthropologists.




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