Kerala Folk Dances


Theyyam or Theyattam derives its name from Deyvam meaning ‘God’ and Attam meaning 'Dance'. This ritual art is almost 2000 year old which is performed in the Malabar region mainly at Kolathunaad (Kannur and Kasargod Districts) in North Kerala with utmost passion and devotion. It is hence an awe-inspiring dance of the Gods. Theyyam is also known as Kaliyattam, which means a scared ritual dance performed to glorify the goddess Kaali

. It is also known as Thira or Thirayattam in the southern Malabar region. Religious reverence runs high and the artist himself is said to experience a oneness with the Divine in the course of performing this dance.


Theyyam is performed in the Kavus and Kottams during the festivals. Usually these festivals are held between November and May. Theyyam and these festivals are held in shrines and temples.

The Theme

There are more than 400 Theyyams performed in Kerala. Since it is performed by the lower clans of the Hindu social sructure, the main deity of worship or whose dance is performed is Shakti in her various forms such as Bhadrakali, Bhagavathy etc.

Theyyams are often performed to appease the spirits and ghosts of the heros and forefathers guardian deities such as Naga (Serpent) Mari Amman, Vishnumoorthi, Shiva, Chaamundi, Rakteshwari, Ayyapan etc.. Their praises and glory are sung. When the Theyyams are in praise of the Goddess it recalls her battles against evil and her victories over the Asuras (demons).

Theyyam represents the common man's spiritual and metaphysical beliefs as it encompasses the opportunity where the performer identifies with the gods/goddesses or the spirits of the ancestors or bygone heroes and guides the society even in matters of contemporary interest. However aggression is a common trait among all the deities or spirits worshipped in a Theyyam. As the dancer transcends to the divine realm his words are heeded as the deities will and his touch is regarded therapeutic.