A Trip To Witness The Soul of Kannur - Theyyam

In this blog, I'll be sharing my experiential journey to the land of gods, Kannur. where i witnessed the outstanding beauty of theyyam. A heartfelt thank you to Pranav and the people of Kannur for their warm hospitality and for introducing me to the soul of Kannur through Theyyam

A Trip To Witness The Soul of Kannur - Theyyam


Like every typical Kannur guy, my friend Pranav never stops talking about his homeland, Kannur, especially Theyyam. Being a history student with a keen interest in culture and art, I always lend my ears to his stories of Theyyam and his hometown, Irinav. I really enjoy his narrations of his native land. When our friend Farzah, also a Kannur Kaari, returns from home, she brings delicious homemade Kannur food like unnakaya, kallumakkaya, or beef and pidi, all of which steal my heart. Even though I may be on a diet, I always make them my cheat meal.

So, one day, our office management suddenly decided to give us a

work-from-home option to all SEO employees working in the office. Until then, we had been like a family, a close-knit group of about 20 people, not just colleagues but friends. The first few WFH days were manageable; I started to enjoy my cozy bed and home-cooked meals. But later, we all started to feel something missing—a sudden blankness. Slowly, the work-from-home boon turned into a curse.

Continuing that WFH journey, one day I received a message from Pranav, "Da, Theyyam und varundundo?" which roughly translates to, "Hey man, Theyyam happening Are you coming or not?" We had discussed earlier this year that there would be a Theyyam ceremony at a nearby temple, and I should come to Kannur.

Amidst the hectic WFH schedule, seeing his message, my inner history and cultural geek woke up. I canceled all my plans for the weekend and took a train to Kannur, where I also consulted my train expert, none other than Pranav himself.

Off to Kannur it is.

I dropped an email to my manager stating that I would not be available for two days as I was on a trip to attend a cultural festival in Kannur. I shut down the PC and left home, heading to the Thrissur railway station, which is around 30 km away from my hometown, Kodungallur.

The train was scheduled for 12:30 pm, but as you know with Indian railways, it arrived an hour late. Finally, by 1 pm, the train arrived, and I boarded it; luckily, I had confirmed tickets for an upper berth on a sleeper coach. In this scorching summer, boarding an upper berth was hectic.

Luckily, I found good company on the train; three policemen from Thrissur jail were going to attend a colleague's marriage in Kozhikode. We spent some time chatting about various subjects, including politics. They were very interested in my job in digital marketing; one of them didn't even know that people from Kerala were advertising on Facebook and other platforms.

Time passed, and when we reached Kozhikode station, they left the train. Pranav, being a committee member of the temple, was very busy sending updates about the happenings in the temple prior to Theyyam to our WhatsApp group. When the train was about to reach Kannur, I called Pranav, and he told me he would come to pick me up. Finally, the train reached Kannur; by that time, it was already 6:30.

Being in the sweltering summer heat and on a non-AC coach, I was already fed up. I went directly to the AC comfort station and freshened up myself. At the correct time, Pranav's call came, asking me, in his native style "nee evda ulle?" which means, "Where are you, man?"

Me With my friend Pranav
Me With my friend Pranav

I said I had reached the station, and he came to pick me up with his bike. Being a typical Malabar guy with amazing hospitality, he directly took me to a famous juice shop called Juice Center, where they served a Kannur special cocktail made with papaya and other nuts, which was a great relief from the summer heat. Then he took me directly to his home, where I met his family.

Then, we went directly to the main place, the temple called Irinav Thekke Kalari, where there would be many Theyyams such as Puthiya Bhagavathi, Bhairava, Vishnu Moorthi, Gulikan, and others, those being the names I remember.

When I reached there, the Theyyam had already started, and the first Theyyam I saw was Uchitta Bhagavathy, then Vishnu Moorthy Theyyam, Puthiya Bhagavathy, Bhairava Theyyam, and many more.

I will try to explain the stories and beliefs behind some of these theyyam which i learned from random uncles in Kannur and various internet resources

(pls dont mind the quality of videos and photos, i never thought of a blog post while taking them )

Uchitta Bagavathy:

One belief is that Uchitta was the goddess who was about to be killed by Kamsa instead of Krishna. It is said that when Kamsa tried to kill her, she called out loudly that Kamsa's killer (Krishna) was born on earth. Another legend says that Uchitta was born to Agni, the god of fire. An ember that fell from the body of Agni fell on the lotus, which is the seat of the god Brahma, and from it, a beautiful goddess with a divine lighted body was born. Brahma offered her to the god Shiva through the god Kamadeva, and later, upon the request of the earth-goddess Bhumi, she came to earth in the form of a human being for the maintenance of the world. It is also said that because she is the daughter of Agni, Uchitta Theyyam lies on the fire and plays with the ember. It is also believed that Uchitta is another form of Goddess Parvati. Another legend says that Uchitta is the daughter of Shiva.

Vishnu Moorthy Theyyam:

The Theyyam in question is a divine representation of Palanthai Kannan, a follower of Lord Vishnu and a member of the lower caste, performed by individuals belonging to the Malaya clan. The story of Palanthai Kannan traces back to his childhood in Neeleswaram, where he tended to cattle and ate mangoes from a tree owned by Kuruvat Nair, a member of the upper caste. Kuruvat Nair's servants brutally beat the boy, leading him to flee the village and seek refuge in a Vishnu temple in Mangalore, where he lived for 12 years. Eventually, Lord Vishnu instructed Palanthai Kannan to return to Neeleswaram. Upon his return, he bathed in a pond reserved for the upper caste, which angered Kuruvat Nair and his followers. They subsequently murdered Palanthai Kannan, and as a result, Kuruvat Nair faced numerous problems. An astrologer declared that Lord Vishnu was displeased with the death of his devotee and ordered a kolam to be performed. Additionally, a temple was to be constructed in honor of the Vishnumoorthi who had accompanied Palanthai Kannan from Mangalore, and the deity was to be worshipped.

Puthiya Bhagavathy:

Puthiya Bhagavathi Theyyam is a Goddess who cures diseases. In ancient times, diseases were considered to occur because the Gods were angry. And in Theyyams, there are Gods who cure diseases and who cause diseases. Among them, Puthiya Bhagavathy is a Goddess who cures diseases. She first cured the disease of Mahadeva and other Devas and then went to earth to cure the diseases of the people. On earth, she had to fight with an Asura named Kerthya Veera, and in that battle, she lost all her 6 children. The angry Goddess burned the Asura in fire and also burned the Vilvapuram kotta. She left the place, destroying everything she saw on the way. On her way, she got a seat near to Mathothathu Veerarkali. She also got a seat in the Moolacheri homes. Bhagavathy then came in the dreams of Kolathiri King. To commemorate the divine power of the deity, the then Chieftain of Kalathnadu, ‘Chirakkal Raja,’ ordered to perform this Theyyam. Puthiya Bhagavathy was happy, and she protected her people from all diseases.

Bhairava Theyyam:

Bhairavan Theyyam is a deity belonging to the Panchamoorthy (a group of 5 Theyyams). The deity is the ‘Bhairava rupa’ of Lord Shiva. Brahma once lied to Lord Shiva, claiming he had seen the Virat form of Devadidevanam Maheshwaran (Lord Shiva himself). But when Brahma said he had seen the universal form of Lord Shiva, which no one had seen before, Parameswara could not bear it.

Thee Chamundi

Chamundi is a myth of blood and spear known to all of India, but in the Theyyam performance this Goddess wields power. Chamundi, the incarnation of Adi Para Shakti, was born from the brow of Goddess Durga who was fighting with the demons Chanda and Munda. The goddess was impressed with Kali and called her Chamundi. The goddess blesses the devotees who throng around her after the scintillating performance and trance.

My trip to Kannur was a journey back to the roots of tradition, culture, and divine energy. The Theyyam performances I witnessed were nothing short of mesmerizing, each with its own rich stories and legends. I felt a deep connection to the history and spirituality that these rituals embody.

A heartfelt thank you to Pranav and the people of Kannur for their warm hospitality and for introducing me to the soul of Kannur through Theyyam. The vibrant colors, the fervent dances, and the powerful stories will stay with me forever. Kannur and its Theyyam have carved a special place in my heart, and I look forward to returning and experiencing more of this

Bye Bye Kannur, paakalam


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