Gulikan Theyyam

This was the only Theyyam that did not have the traditional colours of red, orange and black, but was covered in white, almost the colour of ash.  Stripes of black lines ran through his bare body and he wore a waist adornment made of nimble palm strands.  His eyes were covered in patches of black colour which seemed to speak with wrath and anger.

After the ritualistic dance for a few minutes, the Theyyam was decorated with a long headgear, at least three times his size and his face was covered with a mask representing the deity.  Balancing the long headgear made of areca nut leaves and branches, the Theyyam got up on stilts and performed several manoeuvres with aplomb before settling down in the grove to offer blessings to the gathered crowd.

Legend/Story: An old traditional Dravidian god, Gulikan, is a fierce form of Lord Shiva.  The story goes that one of Lord’s most arduous devotees – Markandeya – when faced with the Yamapasham (the ropes of death) that Yama, the God of Death, threw over him, clung to a Shivalinga to save himself.  Seeing his devotion, Lord Shiva’s fury at Lord Yama came out of his thumb and he assumed the form of Gulikan to defeat Lord Yama.  This frightening form was high as the Himalayas, wide as the Earth with fiery eyes and chiselled teeth.  The pantheon of Gods when they saw this fearsome form, pleaded Shiva for Yama’s redemption, to maintain the balance of life and death.  This protector of devotees, even from the jaws of death, is today personified as Gulikan, for long life and warding off negative energies.

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