Kathivanur Veeran Theyyam

This Theyyam was another night-time ritual that involved a play with fire, albeit without jumping into the flames.  Dressed in the traditional colours of the performance and a headgear that enhanced the presence, this Theyyam started with cooing and talking to the stack of fire in the middle of the grove, to the steady beat of the drums.  As the lights went out, the darkness was only lit with the flames of the yellow and orange flames and the Theyyam slowly increasing his tempo around it.

Sudden guttural sounds after each circle had been completed, shattered the silence of hundreds that had gathered to see the Theyyam in action.  Fire seems to be one of the main elements that the Theyyams take out their wrath upon.  The stories played out, all of them, almost have an element of fire having wronged the deity incarnate.

Legend/Story: Kathivanur Veeran was born as Mandappan with the grace of Chuzhali Bhagavathi and was a trained Kalari warrior.  His reluctance to find a meaningful way of making a living and his love for spending time with friends, saw him being expelled from his home by his father.  He took shelter in his uncle’s house at Kathivanur, a place near Coorg and started some work on his uncle’s land.  Here he met and married Chemmarathi, but even she started to slowly get suspicious of his long absences from home.  He assured her that he was not being unfaithful to her.  During this time, their village was invaded by brigands, and Mandappan, trained in martial arts went to fight them off.  He died defending the village.  When Chemmarathi received this tragic news, she rushed to the battlefield.  She collected all the fallen pieces of her husband’s body and arranged a funeral pyre, leaping into the flames and burning herself with him.  The spirit of Mandappan is worshipped in a shrine and later came to be known as Kativanur Veeran.

Author: Tanya Raj

A dreamer, a mystic and a traveller! Gallivanting through this life, I travel to understand my soul, place by place, people by people. As a constant learner, I dabble with photography, playing music, reading tarot, practicing Reiki, learning new languages, painting, and of course travelling – I feel it is this variety of life that keeps life alive and fresh. When I am not doing anything, I can be found huddled up with a book in a corner of my house, letting my imagination take flight.

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