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Updated: October 24, 2013 15:49 IST

Celebrating the art of Ayyappan Theeyyattu

K. Pradeep
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Ayyappan Theeyyattu: Kalayum Anushtanavum
The Hindu Ayyappan Theeyyattu: Kalayum Anushtanavum

Ayyappan Theeyyattu is an age old temple art form. It is a blend of ritual and folk elements that are intertwined in a complex manner, which makes it a difficult art to master. There are no training schools and it is practised and propagated by a handful of members of a few families known as Thiyyadi Nambiars, who are spread out from the central to the north of Kerala. No one from outside these families, even today, has tried to learn this art.

Raman Nambiar, who retired from Bharat Petroleum Chemicals Ltd., is one of those committed practitioners of this art.

A winner of various awards and honours for keeping this art alive, Raman Nambiar has, in this book, provided a comprehensive account of the art form, with elaborate details, photographs and a useful appendix that gives you information on the songs used, the traditional venues where this is performed and so on.

Song, dance, use of percussion instruments, abhinaya, drawing skills for the kalam, and celestial figures… are all part of this art. That is why, like a decathlete, the practitioner of this art is a complete artiste.

What makes this art form unique is that the performer has to do all this, right from the drawing of the kalam and the koothu to the transformation into the komaram, till the breaking of the coconuts with which a performance ends. He has assistants only for the accompaniment. A full Ayyappan Theeyyattu takes more than 12 hours during which the performer takes no food or water.

Divided into 10 chapters, which detail every aspect such as the kalam, song and koothu (that has a strong resemblance to Koodiyattam), to the komaram or the oracle, and the Udayasthamanakoothu, which is the performance of the art in full by a single performer that ends with breaking of 12,000 coconuts, the rituals, list and brief profiles of the early practitioners and those actively involved are elaborated. Colour photographs give the reader a visual insight into these aspects of the art.

Published by The State Institute of Languages, Kerala, this book is an invaluable addition to Kerala’s traditional arts and a complete guide to Ayyappan Theeyyattu.

Ayyappan Theeyyattu: Kalayum Anushtanavum, Mulakunnathukavu Thiyyadi Raman Nambiar , Rs. 150

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