21 Dec 2021   |   10 min Read

ChudalaBhadrakaliTheyyam. (One of the Female versionsdepictions/rendering of a Ritual Art Form known as "Theyyam").

The aggressive God,(comma not needed)fierce deity which performsis presented/ performed in the house of Brahmin's (Upper caste) known as "Illam" (reframe the sentence as the subject is God)
The fierce deity which is performed in the household of upper caste Brahmins (Illam)
When the Theyyam performs, the audiences (wrong word)audience stand around and hold their hands to build a fence fort for the Theyyam, this process is known as "Kottakettuka" in Malayalam.
This Theyyam needs a fort. When the enact starts, the audience make a fort around the Theyyam, holding their hands which is called as Kottakettal. The enact includes the Theyyam trying to break the fort with all its might to enter the Illam.

Theyyam try to get out of the fence by breaking it. And if it's broken, it seems that the Theyyam will run inside to the homes of Brahmin's (Illam).

"Have you ever broken this fencefort", I asked.
"Not up to Never in my knowledge."
“Will the Theyyam enter the Illam in case the fort breaks?”
"Is there any possibility that the Theyyam might break the fence and run inside?"
"Not Yet Possible"
“That’s not possible/ No possibility”
"Why not?"“Why so?”
"There is a Restricted human being inside the Theyyam."
“Isn’t there a forbidden human inside the Theyyam!”

Given above is a briefing from a conversation with a friend from Payyannur while discussing on Theyyam and caste discrimination. Theyyam and its ritualistic-aesthetic aspects have been discussed widely over the years.

The above brief writing was taken from a conversation with a friend at Payyanur.
The topics were related to Theyyam and caste segregation.
It's been already briefly written about Theyyam and its sides of beauty-Practices.
The myths and legends are transcribed into novels and short stories.
Recitatives and narratives were raisedpraised as like an iron fencefencesto lower againstcaste repressionsinhibitory.

Theyyam was established as an ecosystem and the nature and beliefs are regarded as a 12 feet ritualistic crown of mutuality. (I am doubtful about this sentence). Though it was late discussions were initiated on the afflictions of human inside /behind the Theyyam. Nevertheless many hesitated to unveil the casteism in Theyyam.

It has been stated that Theyyam is surrounded by the interaction of natures and beliefs and is 12feet high Thirumudi (a ritual crown).

Even though it's too late, slowly the people have started to talk about the miseries of artists in Theyyam.
In Theyyam, how adequately caste discrimination is being there many of them still hesitate to show it.
Have you ever noticed a forbidden human in Theyyam; the one body who carries the God in it and performs in the courtyards of elite class daring not to the break the chains of untouchability?
Have you ever seen a banned person in Theyyam; the body that performs Theyyam as God, from outside the yard of high caste, where they still practice untouchability?

The "TheyyaKavukal", “Theyyakaavu” is adivine placetheshrine, (comma not needed)where the Theyyam performs. Though the Theyyakaavus in North Malabar are ablaze with its extensiveness in rituals, contrarily their performing grounds are confined by the boundaries of caste. You can see some of them performing inside the shrine and some outside. If Pulayan, Velan communities are subjected to such discriminations in Kannur, its Nalkathaya and Mavilan in Kasaragode. Ask him the beginning of this discrimination and he will answer “ever since I can remember”.

In North Malabar, the narrow yards of "TheyyaKavukal", are being polished with ritual broadness and lined with boundaries of caste.
You can see a few of them performing inside the yard and some of them outside the yard. This caste discrimination is faced in Kannur District, it is communities like Pulayan, Velayan, etc, and when it comes to Kasaragod, Nalkathayam, Mavilan communities.

If you ask a Theyyam Artist about the beginning of this discrimination, he would reply that from the time of immemorial. In the Nalkathaya community, one enters the "Theyyattam" (performance of theyyam) by performing KarkidaTheyyamGalinjan (one among the forms of Theyyam) at the age of 5 or 6. The legend of Galinjan is that once Lord Arjuna was on Penance for arrows, at this time Lord Shiva and Parvathi disguised themselves as hunters to test Arjuna. The Galinjan is Lord Arjuna. The Malaya community presents Lord Shiva as "Vedan" (Hunter) and the Vanniya community assumes Shri Parvathi as "Aadi" for performing. In the most popular "Tharavadu" (an old home with many customs and rituals) and "Kavu" (a place for devoting nature) within the District there is the certain occasion where, the Theyyam Artists from respective areas, forms together to perform KarkidakaTheyyam (for example; MadiyankullomKanjangad). In such situations, you can see that "Aadi" and "Vedan" perform from the temple yard and Galinjan performs from outside the temple boundaries. Even though these discriminations are not applied in homes but are strictly followed in Temples and "Tharavaadu". From here, the discrimination is being watched through the eye of the child.
In Nalkathaya community one debuts at an age of 5 or 6 to Theyyattam(The performance of Theyyam) by performing Galinjan, a KarkidakaTheyyam ((Karkidaka is one of the 12 Malayalam months)/ (Karkidaka is the 12th month of Malayalam Calendar). GalinjanTheyyam is based on legend of Arjuna being on long penance for Pasupatastra ( a destructive, irresistible weapon in the Hindu Mythology). To test Arjuna, Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvathy arrive disguised as hunters. Galinjanis Arjuna himself. Lord Shiva as Vedan (male hunter) is performed by Malaya community and Goddess Parvathy performed as Aadi (female hunter) from Vaniya community. Sometimes the Theyyam community have to come together to perform KarkidakaTheyyam in old ancestral homes and shrines of Kasaragode. Such situations show how Aadi and Vedan are performed inside the temple yards and Galinjan outside the walls. Though this distinction is not practiced in houses, these are strictly followed in ancestral homes and temples. This is the moment when a child performer observes how he is subjected to caste discrimination.

Kasaragod is a district in North Kerala, where the caste system still clearly exists. Sometimes discrimination and untouchability bring into the forehead from the past. It's mostly seen in the border villages near Karnataka and peripheral areas of Kasaragod. The readers may think that "Where? We don't even notice". The condition of Kasaragod district is that much naturally dissolved into caste and by social affairs. During the 100th Anniversary of "Mishra Bhojan" (distributing food) in 2017, the upper caste and lower caste were treated separately in the Northern sides of Kasaragod.

Kasargode is one of the districts in North Kerala where caste discrimination is exists evidently. As practiced in the past, untouchability and unapproachability are sometimes brought back to the frontline here, especially in the border states near Karnataka and in the peripheral regions of Kasaragode. You may wonder “Where? We haven’t noticed!”. Such is the extend of normalization of caste discrimination in the social affairs of Kasaragode. In 2017, when the 100 year anniversary of MisraBhojanwas celebrated with a community meal, the Savarnas(upper caste) and Avarnas (lower caste) were seated separately. The separated seating of upper and lower caste in the 3 days temple festival of BellurMaha Deva Temple was discussed in the media during then. While remembering the history of Kodakkad, where the biggest community meal (Pantibhojana) of Malabar was held, one should assume that the rural areas of Kasaragode where untouchability is served in separated seatings, have a long way to go. The present day misery is the fact that a place of so called high intellects, where the space of a Dalit’s existence is evidently discriminated and purified with sacred water once he/she leaves, doesn’t even perceive those as a malpractices or amorality.

In 3 days of Utsav (festival) at Belloor Mahadev Temple, when high class and low class are treated separately was a piece of news. When the Malabar's greatest PanthiBhojana was held at Kasaragod when we remember the history of Kodakad, where they had the lunch of untouchability separately and rural areas haven't yet received its smell. The misery of the present time is that when the Dalit seated area was Purified with water is not an amorality according to the higher thinkers and to say without any hesitation that "You must be seated over there not here".

There still exist the Temples in Kasaragod district, where non-brahmins are not allowed to pray in front of the "Sreekovil" (major shrine or temple). Many families of Brahmins who immigrated from Karnataka had to pay close attention to locating temples so as not to lose their superiority. The discrimination towards non-brahmins is severe among Dalits.When we come down, after the superiority of Brahmins there is no decrease in discrimination of caste. The high-class show discrimination towards the scheduled castes like Nayar, Maniyani, Theeyar, etc. When it comes to lower levels it gets mild, the discriminated ones knowingly or unknowingly will share the bitterness to the lower levels. If the society is being knocked in the duality of Brahmins and non-brahmins in the boundaries of Karnataka and when we move out of North to the area of the majority of Keralites, it influences forward castes including Nayar and echelon, that generates the resistance of backward castes. A few days before one of my friends posted on Facebook about the women who includes in Theyya, Nayar castes, when they came for National Rural Employment near Kadamkuzhi hesitates to have tea made up by a woman in Mavila Category and only have the bakeries made by someone. The post ends with an act of sweet revenge, "For tomorrow it is Ada (dish) made at home".

There are temples still in existence in Kasaragode where non Brahmins are not allowed to pray in front of the Sreekovil(Shrine of a temple). Many Brahmin families who migrated from Karnataka exercise a great deal of precaution to keep their authority intact over the family temples. The discrimination is severe when it comes to Dalits compared to non-Brahmins. Speaking about non-brahmins, the caste discrimination does not end with Brahmins or ease off when traveled down the caste ladder from Brahmin superiority. Communities such as Nair, Maniyani, Thiyya and scheduled castes discriminate other castes discreetly, whom they assume as lower in social stature. Though the severity of discrimination tones down the level, those subjected to injustice share the bitterness to the inferior whether knowingly or unknowingly. In the borderline of Karnataka, if the society is strung in the dichotomy of brahmins and non-brahmins, down North where Malayalis dominate, the society merges with the sovereignty of forward castes including Nair and the resistance of backward castes who favors Savarna orthodox domination. A few days back one of my friends wrote a post on Facebook about how women belonging to Thiyya, Nair communities had not have tea and snacks from a Mavila family near Kundamkuzhi where they came to work for National Rural Employment program. He ends the post with a sweet revenge, “We are making Ada (a popular sweet snack made of rice and coconut) tomorrow for snacks”.

I remember that when forward communities visit the home of backward communities for any functions as a marriage they are treated with special soft drinks and packs of bakeries. During the evening they have Colas and bakeries without having the food made by us and with our innocence, we named this arrangement "Tea Party". The process continues in many places even now. Some of them have started to serve food prepared by approved cooks and stopped "Tea Party". I define caste as the pathetic condition where the high caste is invited for the wedding by adding "The food is prepared by him". They call casteless people for their generosity by saying that, "We don't have any hesitation, we used to have food prepared by them".

I remember how forward communities were treated with special soft drinks and snacks bought from a bakery when they visited the houses of lower communities. We called this arrangement innocently asa ‘Tea Party” where basically visitors do not eat food cooked by lower caste families. This setting is still followed in some areas. Some substituted such Tea Parties with a Feast where so called “recognized” cooks are invited to prepare food. The desperate plight of an inferior caste member when he invites a higher caste member for a wedding with an addendum of remark on who cooks food for the function, is what we call the ‘caste system’. And the generosity behind “we don’t mind having food prepared by them’ is what we call non-discrimination!
Theyyam performs around this social condition. Even though Theyyam is an art form of God, the media where Theyyam forms are the life and body of Dalits. In the case of superiors, the contradiction is to accept divinity and not to touch God. During the first times, instead of "Arya Daiva" (God of Aryan's) Theyyam was born in soil, tree, death, and chance to step outside the wall and become alienated. When the acceptance and possibility of Theyyam, was tied up to "Arya Daiva" due to coveting in later times and the body with Theyyam rituals was given a space to stand outside chromatic boundaries of systems. Will Theyyam leave this? They add more fire to the receptive and narratives and keep on rubbing to the surface caste fireworks. The ash of caste is not formed even then.
Theyyam is performed here, in this social surroundings. Even though Theyyam represents the God and the Mother, it is delivered through the medium of a Dalit life and body. The Savarna contradiction of acceptance of the divinity but untouchability of divine body exist in the case of Theyyam. It is possible that the Theyyam, an alternative of “Aryan Gods’ , which originated from the soil, the trees, the demise and the sorcery must have been estranged in the early times. Even though later Arya gods were strung to Theyyam making use of the possibilities of its gradual acceptance in the society and it ritualistic prospects, the performing human body was never allowed to cross the borders of color and race. But Theyyam never gave up! Theyyam adds more fire to its narratives and chafe it persistently against the walls of casteism made out of gun powder. Even then casteism survives. Indubitably, casteism keeps on marking its indelible borders of discrimination in Theyyam arenas unprecedentedly. Beyond those borders, we, the Nalkadayas burned and burst in the brutal heat of casteism. Our Theyyam is estranged. We were banned from the yards. The green rooms became sequestered. When weapons provided for the performance are taken back, they were chastened with holy water.

Our Theyyam entirely became us.
They continued drawing the boundaries of the pane with Everclear named as "TheyyaKalanangal" and that can never be erased.

More than that, our community 'Nalkathayam' splits out of the sear of cruel fire.
Our Theyyam was alienated. The yards are prohibited for us.
The stage was far away from us. The weapons that were given to Theyyam are purified using water.
We became our Theyyam.
(To Be Continued)

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