Excerpts from December 2012 report
History of Puthusserikotta
The present settlement of Mavilan community has been the land belonging to the wife of Edakalath Kunjikannan Nambiar. The Mavilans came to this place in 1957. Edakalath Kunjikannan Nambiar was the land lord in that area. The settlement consists of 4.30 acres of land. There are 12 families in this settlement. All the families are related to each other. They came to Puthusserikotta colony from Karimbankandi, another settlement. Edakkalath Kunjikannan Nambiar wanted his tenants to remain closer to his house, so that when he calls ‘Rama’ ,Raman should respond and be at his beck and call. As they belonged to Scheduled caste they had no right to own land of their own. Now the situation has changed and they own the land.
Excerpts from January 2013 report
Visit to Kuniyampusha settlement
We decided to go to Kuniyampuzha settlement in the morning of 6th and again to go at night to shoot the Theyyam. Theyyam would be held on the 22nd and 23rd of ‘Dhanu’, the Malayalam month, i.e, the 6th and 7th of January. Theyyam is a popular ritual dance in North Malabar. This centuries’ old ritual performance is a unique combination of dance, music and religious worship. It reflects the main features of a traditional tribal culture dating back to the early days of dravidian influence. After a period of intense preparation involving abstinence, fasting, prayer and solitary confinement the performer dons the costume of the deity he is representing. During the performance he identifies himself with the deity and receives homage from the worshippers who revere him as such. in this elevated state he is presumed to have supernatural powers. He speaks, moves, heals and blesses his devotees as coming from a divine source. No two Theyyams are alike. The facial painting and make up are unique to each Theyyam.
Mavilans also have a ritual dance. My collaborator, Raman Avidath used to be a Theyyam
performer. As he is old, and it is quite expensive to perform such rituals it is not held in their
settlement. Therefore, I have visited other settlements to collect this art form.
Visit to Kuniyampuzha settlement
In the morning Gopalakrishnan informed that there would be a Theyyam at noon. So, I along with Gopalakrishnan, and the cameraman Vijesh Cherian, reached Kuniyampuzha settlement around 11.30 am. I met some of the performers and committee members and interviewed them. I collected information about the Theyyams going to be performed in that ‘ kavu’ (temple-sacred grove) During the two days Nagakanni theyyam,Veerabhadran theyyam, Padaveeran Theyyam, and Nattutheyyam will be performed. In between the Theyyam there will be thottams performed.
The Nagakanni Theyyam started at 1.30 pm. This theyyam is performed during the day. It is
performed as gratitude to favours received, specially protection from snakebite.
Nagakanyaka is also a goddess of fertility.The place where the Kavu is situated was the dwelling place of serpants. Later on it became the settlement of Mavilan community.
Nagakanyaka is the incarnation of Karippal Nagam. According to Raghu, the performer of theis
Theyyam ( I interviewed him at night when other theyyams were going on), the goddess
Nagakannyaka is looking for a direction. The song sung during the performance vividly narrates
it.if she turns to the North, she would be called Vadakkothi; and if she turns to the West, she would be afflicted with the smell of the fish as the sea is in the West. So, the ideal place is the South. A particular place in South is kept sacred for the nagakanyaka. During the second lap of the ritual the Theyyam performs around this sacred place.
In the beginning of the theyyam Sarppakettu is placed on the head of the theyyam. It resembles the hood of the snake. Towards the end of the first half of the performance, the sarppakettu is removed. Then a sacred pot is placed on the head of the theyyam.
The prasadam offered during this Theyyam is newly prepared rice and coconut. It is called ‘vithum thengem’. At the end of the ritual dance, after the decorations are removed, both the performer and Komaram eats the prasadam prepared in order to break the fast.
Kuniyampuzha Veerabhadran Theyyam
In the evening theyyam began around 7pm. The first theyyam was Veerabhadran. Veerabhadran has three forms: Puthiya daivam, Veerambinaru and Veerabhadran.
The myth behind Veerabhadran theyyam:
Dakshan, through his Thapas, has Sakti as his daughter. He and Shiva are enemies. Dakhan wants his daughter Sati to be married. Sati falls in love with Shiv. But Shiv did not reciprocate her love. Brahma wants Sati to marry Shiva as he knows that Sati or Parwati is the reincarnation of goddess Sakti. She needs to marry Shiva to complement the power of Shiv. When the swayamvar of Sati was going on Shiv reached there. And Sati garlanded him. Dakshan became furious and sent both of them away from there. So both of them went ot Kailasam. Dakshan wants to retaliate by humiliating Shiv. He wanted to conduct a grand yagam. He invited everyone else from the three worlds except Shiv and Parwati. Parwati went to the yagshala without telling her husband. As she was entering the yagashala Dakshan humiliated and sent her away. Feeling very upset Sati made a pyre and sacrificed herself. Knowing about it Shiva became ferocious. He started Shiva Thandavam. During the thandavam from his Jada Veerabhadran or Veer puthran was born. Shiva entrusted him with the mission of stopping the yagam and killing Dakshan. Veerabhadran destroyed everything at the yagshala and killed Dakshan. Mavilans believe that the Shivv Shakhi is embodied in them. According to Sri. Kannan Kavumbai, Veerabhadran entrusted this puja to the Mavilans to be carried forward.
There are three parts of Veerabhadran Theyyam. The first one, Puthiyadaivam, is considered the oldest of the three. It is Shiva Shakti or the embodiment of Lord Shiva. The second one,
Veerambinaru is the embodiment of Shiva before the Daksha yagam;and the third one,
Veerabhadran is the Veera Puthran born from the Jada of Shiva.
Padaveeran Thottam started at 4.50am.
Thottam is performed without much decorative costume or make up. The performer stands in front of the Kavu after wearing the Kanimundu or thr particular loin cloth and headdress. He has no face painting or Mukhthezhuthu. The sandal or ash given from devathastan is applied on his forehead and chest. Thattam means praise. According to Dr. Gundert, the verb ‘thottuka’ in Malayalam means to create. Both the theyyam performer and Thottam performer praises the god and also invokes the presence of god into the body of their body. Through the medium of thottam the invisible power of Theyyam becomes visible.
This ritual is performed in remembrance of a war fought between Mannnappan and the Kudaku warriors.
Mannappan was the son of Parakkayillathu Chakki and Melthaliyillathu Kumaran of Mangadu of
Thaliparamba of Kannur District. Being very naughty he left his family in anger and travelled towards Kudaku along with his friends. He had taken his bow and arrow along with him. But on the way he was betrayed by his friends. He was left alone. As he was very adventurous, he proceeded. He crossed the seven mountains all by himself and reached his uncle’s at Kathivanoor in Kudaku. He was well received in uncle’s family. He went about doing oil business. As he went around all the twelve mountains of Kudaku, where he met Chemmarathi, fell in love with her and married her. His uncle and family cooperated with him. After the marriage he stayed in Chemmarathi’s house. The haughty Chemmarathi used to quarrel with him frequently. One day, the Kudaku warriors challenged Mannappan. Chemmarathi asked him to go immediately to prove the strength of Malayathan. Mannappan left the house without even completing his food. Chemmarathi saw him off with strong words. as he was leavung his forehead hit on the front portion of the house and blood came out. It was a bad omen. Mannappan fought with the warriors of Kudaku and won successfully. When he was returning he realized that he had lost his ring. He knew that Cemmarathi would taunt him if he lost it. So he went back to the battle field. The Kudaku warriors taking advantage of this situation surrounded him and killed him. When Chemmarathi heard about it she repented.
Mannappan’s funeral rite was on. His uncle’s son Annukan lighted the pyre. Chemmarathi reached there. It was noon. She told all those who gathered there that a star has appeared in the sky at mid day. While everyone looked up she jumped into the pyre and killed herself.
When Annukan was taking bath after the funeral rights, Mannappan appeared to him. He became numb with fear. Annukan informed others that Mannappan is united with god and he has to be made into theyyam. He is known as Kathivanoor Veeran .According to Mavilans, Padaveeran is the same Theyyam as Mannappan.
Aeakura Chamundi is another name for Nattutheyyam. Arakura Chamundi Kalasam was performed after Veerabhadran Theyyam. It began at 3.20 am. Kalasam is toddy pots. Toddy pots are filled and kept decorated with tender coconut leaves. There is a Kalasa Thara specially prepared for the kalasam. The rituals are carried around this Kalasa thara. There is also Kuruthi, which is the chicken sacrifice . The performer cuts the throat of the chicken symbolically with a sacred Kathi or knife used on the occasion. This ritual is performed in commemoration of Asura Vadham.
Kuniyampuzha- Padaveeran Theyyam
The committee members informed us that it would take almost four hours to begin the next
theyyam. So we decided to go back and come. But when we were away they started the theyyam.
Nattutheyyam started at 10.33am. The thottam of this theyyam was performed earlier during the night as arakura chamundi kalasam. Nattutheyyam got over by 11.15 am. Nattutheyyam thottam by the same theyyam performer was recorded at Valliyadu.
I had planned to shoot the theyyam at Edakkulam In Chengalai Panchayath of Kannur District.
But Gopalakrishnan informed me that there won’t be much to record as the involvement of
Mavilan community is not much outstanding and instead he proposed another Mavilan settlement,Valliyattu, where theyyam would be performed on the 25th of this month.
Theyyam at Edakkulam
I along with the camera man reached Edakkulam Shree Puthiyabhagavathi kshetram- temple, at
6.40 am. Edakkulam is part of Chengalai panchayath of Kannur district of Kerala and is 13 kms away from my residence. When we reached the location Puthiyabhagavathi theyyam was going on. After some time Vishnu murthi theyyam also started. Both of them together performed the rest of the rituals. Puthiyabhagavathi theyyam is performed by Peruvannan and Vishnu murthi theyyam is performed by Malayar.The mavilans assists at the theyyam performance at Edakkulam. Traditionally, it was they who prepared the firewood, collected the chickens for sacrifice, cleaned the vessels used during theyyam, cleaned the lamps etc. This practice is carried on. It is the nephew of my collaborator, who takes the lead role. Mr. Raman Avidath, being the community elder is present during the whole ceremony.
Visit to Puthusserikotta settlement
I visited Puthusserikotta settlement around 12.15, during my break time from the college. But the elder was sleeping. So I went back and retuned around 3pm. I recorded the song Kuttithatha.
I visited to Puthusserikotta settlement again and met the community elder cum collaborator, Mr.Raman Avidath, and recorded the song Muthappankotta.
Theyyam at Valliyadu Sree Daivathar Kariyabhagavathi Devastanam
I along with Gopalakrishnan and Cameraman,Vijesh Cherian reached Valliyadu Sree Daivathar Kariyabhagavathi Devastanam by 6.45pm. It is about 5kms from my residence.By 7.40pm Daivathar theyyam started .The myth behind this theyyam performance is the commemoration of the protection experiencedby the people during the shifting cultivation. A leopard used to disturb the crops and people. So Lord Shiva incarnated as Daivathar to save people from the leopard. He appears as a hunter God.He hunted and over-powered the leopard. Though leopard is a cruel animal they address it as Pulikidavu. In the songs it is mentioned as Pulikidavu. The theyyam has bow and arrow in his hand. During the performance he blesses people with the bow and arrow. Daivathar comes from Kudaku to Paithalmala and from there to Kamblari or Valliyadu. By 8.40 another headdress was placed on the performer. and he continued the performance. It is called ‘Kolathinmel Kolam’. It got over by 9pm
Theyyam at Valliyadu
Valliyadu is under Sreekandapuram panchayath. I visited the place around 4 pm. I met Sree
Kannan Kavumpai, the performer of Nattutheyyam. He advised me to reach by 8 pm.
Kuttichathan theyyam started at 6 am.The myth behind this theyyam According to Gopi whom I interviewed: Kuttichathan reached a place called Irikkur, grazing his cattle. He was a small boy. He came to some muslim household and asked for fire to light his bidi. But the people were astonished as he was too young and they laughed at him. They threw the left-over milk on his face to tease him. They also incurred his wrath through many other actions. He was chased away from there. Kuttichathan became furious. The whole town of Irikkur started to burn. For three days and three nights it kept burning. Finally, the people called an astrologer. Their place latter asked them whether anyone had come to their place on previous days. The people told him that a boy was there and when he asked for fire to light his bidi, they chased him. Then the jyothsyan revealed that it was Kuttichathan who hadcome to their place. All the people were called and they prayed. So the town that burnt for three days and three nights stopped burning. It was restored to the normal state. Kuttichathan is placenear Mamanikkunnu Bhagavathi Khethram, near to Irikkur in Kannur District. The myth behind Kuttichathan from the book ‘Theyyam’ by Dr. M.V. Vishnunamboothiri:
When Lord Shiva and Parwati were living as Valluavar Kuttichathan was born.He had flower on his head, third eye, and white marks on his black body. Kalakadu Namboothiri though married had no children. He started Thapas. Lord Shiva appeared to him and gave him Kuttichathan who was their son. So Kuttichathan grew up in Kalikattu Illam. He started his education at the age of seven. One day when his guru went for bath he took his book and started to read. When the guru returned he caned him. Instead of crying he started to laugh. He beheaded his guru to take revenge. Later on he was entrusted with grazing the cattle. When he came back after grazing the cattle he was not given milk in the ‘kindi’. There was some dispute between both of them. the next day he killed an ox and drank its blood. Kalakattachan not seeing the ox in the stable woke up Kuttichathan who was sleeping among the grass and tied him up and thrashed him. Kuttichan realized that Kalakattamma must be behind this. So he stoned at her, when she was drawing water from the well. Kalakattachan tied him up and cut his head. Still nothing happened to Kuttichathan. He appeared in the West and shouted aloud. At the end they decided to make a yagam. He brought magicians and cut Kuttichathan into 390 pieces. From the sacrificial fire 390 Kuttichathans appeared .He started to dance and burnt 44 illams.
Kuttichathan started to going around to see the world. Later on he burnt Irikkur town.
Nattu theyyam Thottam
Before Theyyam, there is another ritual called Thottam. Nattu theyyam is also called Arakura
Kariya bhagavathi Theyyam
Kariya bhagavathi Theyyam started around 7.00am.
The myth according to Gopi ( whom I interviewed):
The people on earth were in great suffering as they were inflicted with an epidemic- vasoori. From the heavens the godde was sent to the earth along with a handful of turmeric powder , a piece of red silk, and a weapon. She came to the earth, crossing the 14 seas reached a place called Ezhimala. From there she went to Madayikkavu. In Madayikkavu is the mother of all goddesses. From there she moved on to Vadakunnil Appan, who is Lord Shiva. Then she proceeded to Kamblari, ( closer to the place where the theyyam is held), met the people, and entered an ancestral home. Then she met Erumpala Karthavu, the Janmi of Mavilans. The Mavilans are supposed to give paddy to the Janmi. But the Mavilans have Paddy and no coconut. (A particular place is kept apart by the Mavilans for the Janmi. During the performance the theyyam approaches this place to pay obeisance) As she was coming she met Theeyan, a toddy tapper, as it is his clan’s occupation. So he gives toddy for the theyyam. Then she reached Kamblari, sprinkled the turmeric powder, and got rid of the epidemic.
February 2013 report
As part of Payyavur Oottu maholsavam the Mavilans have a role in it. Mavilans take the offering to the temple of Lord Shiva before the ulsavam begins.So I decided to visit the temple during the festival. I, along with the cameraman reached Kakkattakavu Palliyara by 5.15 pm. When we reached the location preparations were going on to carry the offerings to the temple at Payyavur. It is an old structure of a Kavu in the field of some one. According to Mavilans, it was they who found the goddess in that place. Later on it was taken up by other castes like Nair, Nambyar and Namboothiri . Every year they gather at this Kavu on the day of Sankranthi. (Makaram 30th is the day of Sankramam) for taking the offering to the Temple. Mavilans from different settlements gather here. There were people from Ettupara, Vathilmada,Kattikandam, Areekamala, etc. According to them it is only after they reach the offering to the temple that the ulsavam will begin. There is a particular place kept apart for Mavilans, almost towards the outer premises of the temple.
The offerings they take (raw tender jackfruit, tender banana bunch, and tender coconuts ) will be used in preparing food in the temple.
Payyavur Ulsavam (festival)
I interviewed Sri.Kunjiraman who came to take part in the ulsavam, at Payyavur temple premises. According to him, the Idol of Shiv linga was discovered by the Mavilans when they came hunting. While the Mavilans were hunting they sat in a place to rest. Before leaving the place they wanted to sharpen their arrow and rubbed it against a stone nearby. To their surprise blood oozed out from the stone. They realized that it was the statue of Lord Shiva and it was Shiva linga. So the offering that they bring to the temple is as an expiation for this disreputable act. Therefore every year on the day of KUMBHAM sankranthi( the union of Makaram and Kumbham, – fist half of February) these offerings are brought to the Shiva Temple at the sart of the 13 day- long festval. This is a significant element of the festival. While I was talking to him another person standing by, and belonging to another community, narrated to me that the myth is that when the mavilans were doing punam kothu or shifting cultivation they sharpened their sickle against a stone which started bleeding eventually.
Accoring to the same person, the idol is not a created one, it is swayambhootham or revealed by itself.
The items taken for Kazhcha or offering are: tender coconuts, banana bunches, and raw tender jack fruit.These items would be offered at a place specially kept apart in the temple premises.
Around 6 pm the procession began from Kakattakavu palliyara. Only men are allowed to enter the sanctuary of this Kavu. All the men carrying the offerings lined up. Mavilans move in front of the procession with their Komaram and Thiyan at the back. The presence of Thiyan is must in this ritual. The procession accompanied with the beating of drums.
We accompanied the procession to a small distance and then we proceeded to the temple. The Kavu is almost 1 km away from the temple. We reached the temple and asked the Devaswam Board office permission to shoot the rituals. Permission was granted and I was denied permission to enter the inside premises of the temple. So I sent the camera man inside to cover the area. Meanwhile I interviewed the people around to gather information.
The procession reached the temple premises around 6.45 pm. The Mavilans entered the premises and kept the offerings in the space provided while the Komaram went inside. All the others went back. There was a large crowd of people.
Interview at Payyavur
I interviewed Vinesh, another devotee who had come to take part in the festival. According to him, this place was not called Payyavur. It was called Vygadur. Later on it became Payyavur. From Vayathur, when Lord Shiva had the war with Arjun he kept his foot backwards. So this is that foot here in Payyavur. The Lord here was called Vygadurappan.
Interview with Vellachi
While the preparations were on I met the wife of late komaram and interviewed her.
According to her, It is the ‘stanam’ of Pashassi bhagavathi. When the Oottultsavam of her father, Achan-Lord Shiva, begins she has to be chained and confined lest she might eat anyone who come across to her, especially women. If anything goes wrong with the rituals the goddess would be angry and she would be thirsty. So before Payyavur Ultsavam begins she is enchained in the Kavu at Kakkattukavu Palliyara, near Karimbamkandi. After the Ulsavam is over she would be set free.
I got the song of muthala theyyam recorded from my collaborator. This song is sung during the theyyam which I shall be recording on 30th March at Kamblari settlement.
Visit to Puthusserikotta settlement
I talked with my collaborator to collect information about Payyavur Oottulsavam. Both he and his wife furnished the information.
According to them when the Mavilans went for hunting they sharpened the knife on a stone and the stone tarted to bleed. When they enquired it was found that it was Vayathur karyar. So the one who found this stanam is the Komaram. vayathur karyar asked him to offer jackfruit, banana and tender coconut as offering to god. From there Koamaram went to Kudaku and asked the people to offfer rice for the festival of Vayathur Karyar. He went to Kurumathur to ask people to offer readymade leaves of coconut for making a panthal on festival days, and Koonathu for butter milk.
Thus before the festival begins on the previous day of Makaram 30th the people from Kudaku reaches with rice on the back of oxen and offers there. On the 30th the Mavilans take the offering to the temple, the abode of Vayathurappan or Lord Shiva.
According to Raman Avidath the place from where they begin the procession is the stanam of Vayathur Karyar as well. Pazhassi Bhagavathi is taken away from there and enchained on a jack tree before the ulsavam begins. If she sees fair body or women she will eat them up. After the festival would be over she would be released and brought back. Only after the chickens would be sacrificed in Kolakkara she would be set free and brought back. All these rituals are performed by a Koaram.
Excerpts from March 2013 report
I visited Puthusserikotta settlement on 09/03/2013 to record folk songs according to my calendar. I reached Puthusserikotta at 10.30 am. I spent time talking and discussing with them till 12. 15 PM .My collaborator Raman Avidath sang the song ‘Karimpuli Kannan’ .This song is sung during wedding ceremony when the members of bridegroom’s group travel to the bride’s house. After reaching the house also they sing. Marriages used to be festivals for the entire village. During the whole night they used to keep singing. This song deals with the theme of Karimpuli Kannan’s Marriage with Valliadu Devi.
I reached Puthusserikotta settlement on 11/03/2013 at 10.45 am and returned by 12.10.My collaborator sang a theyyam song that is sung during the preparation for theyyam. Before theyyam begins the performer has to get his face painted. This is called ‘Mukhathezhuthu’. The song called ‘Parashuram ‘ is sung in the aniyara as the artist gets ready.
The nest day,I recorded the song of an elephant from my collaborator. This song narrates how an elephant becomes violent and Chandu tames the elephant. He receives reward from the king. The king presents him with half of his kingdom and his daughter as wife.
I also recorded the song of Kuttithatha the same day.
I recorded the songs of Veerabhadran theyyam. There are three parts of Veerabhadran theyyam. These songs are sung when the theyyam is being performed. Veerambinar theyyam song was recorded that day.This theyyam is performed as fulfillment of the vow for getting offspring.
The song of Karanavar theyyam was recorded. This Kolam is performed after the death of a male person in the family. In this ritual, the deceased person’s figure is personified ,because the soul has left the body and is wandering in the forest and it has to be brought back. They believe that the soul is brought back through this ritual.
I recorded a song of nattutheyyam. This song is sung during the mukhathezhuthu i.e. painting of the face before the theyyam.
On 30/03/2013, I visited Kamblari, another settlement of Mavilans situated in Sreekandapuram panchayath of Kannur district.The theyyam was performed in the ancestral home of Perunchilli tharavadu and is observed every year. We obtained permission to video tape the performance beforehand.I along with the cameraman reached the location by 9 am as they had informed me that the theyyam would begin at 10am. But when we reached they had just begun the preparations. So we had to wait. Meanwhile I interviewed some people of authority and collected data. I was able to observe all the preparations right from the beginning. We were able to record thottam and theyyam. Muthala theyyam which was supposed to begin at 10 am stared at 2 pm.
We reached Kamblari by 5.30 am. Kadothi theyyam was going on. After that Alada Bhagavathi started. We recorded both and left the settlement by 8 am as it was the day of Easter.
Excerpts from April 2013 report
I, along with Mr. Amudhan and Karthik visited Puthusserikotta settlement on 2nd April. We spent time getting to know the people. While Mr. Amuthan was video recording the life of the people I collected relevant data.
We also met a man who had a musical instrument which he had made with available materials.
On the same day at night we visited Nediyanga, three kilometers away from my residence to record Velattam as Mr. amudhan wanted to see a performance live. Vellattam is the second stage of theyyam, first being thottam. If the thottam is long Vellattam is not performed before theyyam. Vellattam is almost similar to theyyam. It can be called a small theyyam. Vellattam performer has almost similar make up. It was performed in a family as an offering for the blessing received. We recorded vellattam and left by 10 pm.
On 3rd April, we reached Puthusserikotta settlement by 6 am to record house hold activities of the settlement. We saw their kottam(place of worship) and the sacred objects that they have preserved in the kottam. We also visited the kotta from where the place name originated i.e Puthusserikotta. It is no more a kotta, but a grove where some dense trees grow. It is because this kotta was there that the place got the name Puthusserikotta.
There was Muthala theyyam performed as part of their offering of Avidath ancestral houseon 7th April. Some rituals were held in their kottam. My collaborator was the one who presided over the rituals. He sang the theyyam song, while his nephew performed the muthala theyyam. It was moving to hear him pray to the god that they cannot afford to have all the theyyams and to be pleased with them with whatever they offer. There was kalasam and theyyam.
I visited Puthusserikotta settlement and recorded the folksong of Mundola; and folk tales of Edo Urakka, and other two folktales. Edo urakka, explains how the bird that chirps in the same way came to being.
I recorded the folksong of Sitakalipattu and kalakettu. In Sitakalipattu they dance while singing about Sita. Kalaket is a ritual in which the performer disguises like kala or ox and goes from house to house singing and dancing. This ritual is no more held.
I visited Puthusserikotta settlement on 30th April and recorded the folktale of Chakkarapunnan, and washer man and the folktale of Marakottum pattu. Marakkottum pattu has the theme of Paithalmala, a tourist centre nearby. This song is sung in between the theyyams when there is a Theyyam festival.