Department of Cultural Affairs, Government of Kerala

Theyyam and Thira

Theyyam and Thira are two popular ritual forms of worship of North Kerala. These are ritual dance forms where the performers act the role of deities.  Even though there are variations like Theyyam, Thira and Kolam, all these are basically the same ritual form with slight variations. The word Theyyam means ‘Daivam’, Malayalam word for God. In this ritual art form, the dancer “metamorphoses” into the particular deity and gives his blessings to the crowd. Normally ‘Theyyam and Thira’ are performed in shrines or traditional houses and these places are called ‘Sthanam’.

Sometimes, human beings lived along with us will also be invoked as Theyyam. The Theyyam of ‘Othenan’, the hero of Vadakkanpaattu (northern ballads) is an example. All these Theyyams are widely accepted irrespective of caste or creed. Various percussion instruments like Chenda, ilathalam, Veekku, Kuzhal etc. accompany Theyyam performances.

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