Paragraph on Teyyam Deities (411 Words)

Here is your paragraph on Teyyam Deities:

Gavin Flood gives us a brief account of ‘Possession’ an important aspect of public ritual during Hindu festivals by the deities of the temples which are the focus of celebration.


Such ‘Ritual Possession’ occurs most strikingly in festivals such as those of teyyam deities of Kerala.

These lower-caste festivals occur throughout the Malabar region at innumerables shrines which house the teyyam deities in the form of icons or swords.

During the festival the deity will possess a teyyam dancer who is beauti­fully adorned as the god, elaborately decorated with headdress and face paint who dances around the shrine compound, giving darsanam to the onlookers. There is an electric atmosphere during these festivals, as the teyyam dances accompanied by the intense, rapid drum-beats of his associates.

The festival lasts for about two days, with each deity being performed in turn by a dancer specifically designated to perform that particular deity on the occasion of the festival. He begins his dance by an altar, where chickens will be sacrificed and alcohol offered, and a mirror is held up to him.


Upon seeing his reflection he becomes possessed by the deity he is enacting. Before the teyyam shrine he sings or chants in Malayalam, a series of laudations to the deity, praising the deity first in the third person, then in the second person and finally the first person, indicating that the possession is com­plete.

The teyyam dances with swords and shields taken from the shrine, symboli­cally attacking the high-spirited crowd. The teyyam sometimes marches out of the compound through the streets of the town to the local temple, paralleling the processional march of a temple icon, where he demands the attention of the higher- caste officiant inside.

The teyyam is refused entry, though sometimes there is an exchange of ritual offerings and returns to the teyyam shrine giving darsanam to people on the way and entering some houses and so blessing them This pattern of knocking at the temple door and being refused entry expresses a hierarchical relationship between the high-caste, pan-Hindu, cool deity installed in the temple and the low-caste, local, hot teyyam.

Although there is a clear distinction between the high deity and the teyyam, the teyyam, while never losing their fierce nature, are nevertheless often identified with the high deities. For example, the teyyam Vishnumurti, at a shrine in the small town of Nileshwaram, is identified with Narasimha, the ferocious incarnation of Visnu.

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