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Theyyam Festivals October - April.

Theyyam is the trance-ritual unique to Malabar, the time when the gods, goddesses and ancestral heroes come down to earth to bless their devotees.

Theyyam, a type of shamanistic spirit possession that is the backbone of the lower castes’ religious life, involves the whole community and is performed in special temples and compounds that are separate from the normal high caste temples. Hereditary families act as the medium for the descending deity. The highly charged atmosphere and splendidly extravagant costumes and make-up that takes several hours to apply combine with the solemn music, hypnotic chanting and flickering oil lights all to make this ritual something very special.

It is a living and authentic tradition such as is increasingly hard to find nowadays. 
If you want to learn more about this ancient festival in the context of the modern world, read William Dalrymple’s recent book: Nine Lives, in which one of the chapters describes in detail the life, mind and work of a local Theyyam dancer. It is a fascinating portrait of a man who during the winter Theyyam season is heralded as a channel for the deity while in trance, yet when the season ends returns to his day job as a guard in the high-security Kannur jail!


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Conde Nast Traveller