Theeyattu ; a fiery ritualistic dance form of Kerala to please the Goddess

Kerala is a land of myriad traditional rituals and cultures. Theeyattu is one in that long list of ancient celebrations. Performed by the members of the Theeyaattunni or Thiyaadi Nambiar community in Kerala, this ritual can be seen in two types – Bhadrakali Theeyattu and Ayyappan Theeyattu.

Kalamezhuthu, the ritualistic drawing in colorful powders is a main attraction of Theeyattu. Rich with flamboyant costumes, vibrantly decked headgears, and face paintings, the dance narrates the tale of the fight between Darikan and Bhadrakali.

Bhadrakali Tiyyattu is a ritualistic dance usually performed in Bhadrakali temples, mostly in the Pathanamthitta, Alappuzha, Kottayam, and Ernakulam districts of south-central Kerala. Pallippurathu Kavu at Kottayam, Thrikkariyoor Mahadeva Temple, Panachimangalath Bhadrakali temple near Kothamangalam, Vanarkavu at Madakkathanam, near Thodupuzha, Puthukulangara Devi Kshetram near Thiruvalla are some of the places where tiyyattu is performed during annual festivals. It is also performed as an offering at temples and houses.

The Bhadrakali Theeyattu dance depicts the war of goddess Bhadrakali with Darikasura where finally goddess Bhadrakali emerges as the winner.

The performance has many parts of which – preparation of the ritual art known as kalam (Kalamezhuthu), singing songs in praise of Bhadrakali, and the performance of the dance are a few. Kalamezhuthu is done during the day using natural colored powders on the floor. An elaborate picture of Bhadrakali is normally made. The singing of the songs takes place after the Kalamezhuthu is finished in front of it and may last up to three hours. For the dance, a male member dresses up as Bhadrakali, a creation of Shiva. In the performance, she is just back from killing Darika and is telling the events to Shiva who is symbolized by the lighted lamp. As she was affected by smallpox and has pockmarks on her face she has her back to the lamp almost throughout the performance.

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