Pottan Theyyam: A story of Social Satire | Theyyam in Kerala
Pottan Theyyam in Kerala is the idea of secularism and humane thoughts in the folklore of North Kerala. Theyyam in Kerala as such is regarded as an integral part of the cultural and traditional belonging of Northern Parts of Kerala including Kannur and Kasaragod.
Table of Contents
Theyyam in Kerala – The Divine Dance
Theyyam in Kerala can be seen as a vibrant ritualistic art is very much presented as a form of resistance, a way to uphold the spirit of the protest from the downtrodden communities of the society! Theyyam in Kerala, however, has a slight difference in certain rituals depending on regions. Theyyam in Kannur slightly different from Theyyam in Kasaragod.
Theyyam is performed by the people who happen to fall into the lower sets as fixed by the Caste Systems of the society. But when it comes to Theyyam in Kerala, the lower caste man becomes the god – equally of the high and low caste – symbolizing goodness that is strong enough to instil justice and wipe out the social evils in the community.
Amongst all the Theyyam forms performed in the Sacred Groves of Malabar, Pottan Theyyam is regarded as the one with the solid and fierce thoughts – strong enough to shatter the ugly walls of caste systems and social evils that have crept in and found a place in the society. It is one of the Theyyam that is included in Tyndis Theyyam Tour Packages in Kerala.
Pottan Theyyam is worshipped in Sacred Groves, Temple Shrines and few Ancestral Houses of Kolathunadu in Malabar in small shrines regarded as the ‘Ara’. Tyndis Theyyam Tour Packages takes tourists to Theyyam festivals and explain about the Theyyam dance and its story.
Tyndis Theyyam Tour Packages are specially curated tours. Certain Theyyam in Kannur and Kasaragod, like Kandanar Kelan, Kandakarnan, Theechamundi, Kathivanoor Veeran, etc. are ideal for Theyyam Photography Tours. Tyndis Theyyam Photography Tours are ideal for tourists passionate about photography. One can experience all about Theyyam with Tyndis Theyyam Tour Packages.
Who is Pottan Theyyam?
‘Pottan’ in Malayalam means ‘Idiot’. Some believe that Pottan Theyyam or the Pottan Daivam earns the tag of ‘Pottan’ from the way the godliness is portrayed by the performer or the ‘Koladhari’ with a mixture of sarcasm and weird funny yet intense playfulness. But, according to legends, Pottan Daivam was manifested by Lord Shiva as ‘Pulapottan’ and hence the name.
Pottan Theyyam, according to the legends, is regarded as the manifestation of Lord Shiva. Though the performance of Pottan Theyyam is well backed up by an element of unplanned playfulness and entertainment, it is never a display of a comedian character to engage the spectators. It is but the simplest manifestation of the all-knowing Lord Shiva from the Hindu Mythology to impart the simple idea of secularism and justice to the society.
The Pottan Theyyam in Kerala is worshipped as one of the most powerful and favourite forms of Theyyam in Kannur. Pottan Theyyam is performed in temple shrines and sacred groves throughout the land of North Kerala.
Proving the upholding of the downtrodden of the society, Pottan Theyyam in Kerala is largely worshipped by the ‘Pulaya’ and the ‘Malaya’ castes who according to the legends of the deity have an integral tale of bonding with Pottan Theyyam.
Before the performance of the Theyyam, the Koladhari recites the legends of the ‘Pottan Daivam‘. The recitation known as the Pottan Daivam Thottam is one of the most inspirational and emotional aspects which has equal attractiveness as that of the performance itself.
The myth and legends of the Theyyam are verbally chanted and the folks are reminded of the lord’s manifestation to eradicate the social evils and plant the idea of Secularism and Equality in the society long back.
Legend of Pottan Theyyam in Kerala
Pottan Theyyam is regarded as the manifestation of Lord Shiva. It is believed that Lord Shiva manifested himself in the form of a Chandalan – a lower caste untouchable to test the integrity and spiritual powers of Sree Sankaracharya – the Saint and Scholar who propagated the Advaita Vedanta in India.
The myth goes like this – When Sree Sankaracharya was on his journey towards the pinnacle of wisdom known as the `Sarvajna Peetham’, Lord Siva approached him in the disguise of a Chandalan (Dalit or Untouchable). It was Lord Shiva’s test for Sankaran with regard to his integrity in knowledge and wisdom. A gang of three Dalits approached Sankaracharya with all confidence. One being Shiva himself as ‘Pulapottan’ and the other two Chandalans being Goddess Parvathy as ‘Pulachamundi’ and Nandikeshan in the disguise of ‘Pulamaruthan’.
Upon sighting the untouchables across his way, Sankaracharya – the scholar trained in Vedas and Brahminical Ideologies ordered them to move out of his way. It was believed according to the Varna System or the Caste System that the presence of the Lower Caste Members in the proximity of the Higher Castes will create distress and pollute the sanctity of the Higher Castes. This thought accounted to most of the Social Evils that persisted in the society as well.
The order from Sankaracharya was disobeyed by the group and soon ‘Pulapottan’, who was Lord Siva in disguise, engaged Sankaracharya in a series of arguments in which the former exposes the insignificance of the caste system which divides the humanity and civilization into ridiculous fragments. These arguments constitute as the major parts of the `Thottam’ and contain great social messages.
“Naankale Kothiyalum Choralle Chovvare…Neenkale Kothiyalum Choralle Chovvare…” – this was a key question raised by Pulapottan during his argument with Sankaracharya. The question was presented as a great thought before the scholar as it translated to “It is blood – red blood that flows out of you and me when cutting open! And this blood is the same in colour – isn’t it master? “. It was a bang on the social evils like racism and casteism that was discussed in the simplest language by Pulapottan.
The depth in the arguments and the strong ideas of Pulapottan made Sankaracharya realize that he was something more than a mere untouchable man. The insights of Sankaracharya then understood that it was Lord Shiva himself in front of him in the disguise of Pulapottan to test his knowledge and kindness towards humanity.
On his way to the supreme knowledge of Sarvajna Peetham, Lord Shiva showered upon him the light of the prime knowledge of humanity – that all the human beings are same – they’ve all got the red blood running through their veins – not matter which caste, creed, gender or religion they belong to! This is one of the strongest secular ideas to be discussed in the folklores of Kerala.
To this date, during the Pottan Theyyam performance, the performer chants the intense teachings that Lord Shiva gifted to Sankaracharya to spread the message of humanity.
The Ritualistic Performance of Theyyam in Kerala
The Koladharis or the Performers of the Pottan Theyyam are people who belong to the Pulaya and Malaya communities. Communities like Panan, Mavilan, Munnoottan, etc. are others who have their own take on the performance of Pottan Theyyam.
Pottan Theyyam performance is a sight to watch – with regard to its social values as well the vigorous dance and highly risky rituals the performer does. The Koladhari has a frenzied spell, dressed in strands of tender coconut leaves tied around the body, the anklets jingle in an alarming rhythm.
While performing, as part of the ‘Agnipravesham’ the Theyyam carelessly throws himself into the pyre lit with wooden logs. Lying upright on the pyre, the Pottan Theyyam laughs and howls making fun of the social evils. The Theyyam also indulge in doing friendly pranks with the spectators adding to the entertainment.
It is a major attraction during the performance wherein the Theyyam announces “Enikku Kulirunne” while lying on the hot pyre, meaning “I’m shivering with coldness”. Infact, The Theyyam re-enacts in ritualistic expressions the life of those personalities who had laid down their life for a social cause and is interpreted as a social/spiritual satire that is characteristic of Pulapottan’s personality.
In Kannur and Kasaragod Districts, the performance of Pottan Theyyam is organized annually in temple shrines and certain ancestral homes. Pottan Theyyam is performed in temples during Theyyam Season as per the Theyyam Calendar. It is still celebrated as a religious ritual regarded to bring prosperity to the village. Tyndis provides Theyyam Calendar with a list of Pottan Theyyam performances.
The Theyyattam of Pottan Daivam is believed to wipe out troubles and bring health and wealth. Pottan Theyyam is beyond caste and religions and is worshipped by all. After the performance and customs, the locals may approach and speak with Pottan Theyyam and receive his teachings and blessings for a better life.
Explore the best of Theyyam in Kerala with Tyndis Theyyam Tour Packages. Special Theyyam Tour Packages include accommodation, transportation, storyteller service, etc. Get in Touch with us for details about Tyndis Theyyaym Tour Packages and Theyyam Photography Tours in Kannur.