For ethereal nights, walk with the Theyyams of Kannur

For ethereal nights, walk with the Theyyams of Kannur
For ethereal nights, walk with the Theyyams of Kannur. Photo: Onmanorama

Kannur is a land where living gods walk in your midst. And the transformation of these men to god, Theyyam as they are called, happens overnight. This is the story behind one of the most popular among all the theyyams that take the stage during this time of the year. The Kathivanoor Veeran. And his story is one of a person who travels across the mountains to Kodagu (Coorg) prospers and dies a hero. 

The story of Mannappan 

Mangad, a small village in Kannur was where Mannappan was born as the son of a local landlord and his wife. The boy was headstrong and excelled in martial arts. He dreamt of being a warrior, but his father broke his weapons, angering Mannappan who walked out of the house. He joined his friends on a journey to his uncle's house, but his friends, fearing Mannappan's father's wrath, desert him on the way.

However, a determined Mannappan traveled alone, reached his uncle's land and prospers as a good farmer. On one of his various trips he meets the beautiful Chemmarathi, a woman belonging to a lower caste. Even though his family objects to the marriage, Mannappan goes ahead and marries her. Even though they are madly in love with each other, fights were frequent - Chemmarathi being a very headstrong lass. On the fateful day, his last, he has a fight with her and she curses him. He is wounded badly in the battle and instead of returning home hurt, he fights to his death.

A distraught Chemmarathi jumps into Mannappan's funeral pyre to be united with him in death too. In the days that follow the tragedy, Mannappan's friends and family see various omens which convince them that Mannappan has now become god. This is the story behind how Kathivanoor Veeran Theyyam came to be. 

For ethereal nights, walk with the Theyyams of Kannur
This platform on which the lights are lit is the Chemmarathithara. Photo: Onmanorama

The enactment 

Mannappan's life is portrayed by the Theyyam artists in various temples around Kannur. The performance lasts for more than 24 hours and is a visual treat. The 'thottampattu' invoking the god marks the beginning of the performance. During the initial part of the performance, a special stage is constructed - this is called the Changathithara, however, as the story is played out, and the marriage happens, this becomes the Chemmarathi thara. The performance will, in its course of time take you through the various incidents of Mannappan's life. It is but normal to feel the pain, anguish, betrayal, love and bravery that made this man a god. Towards the end of the performance, Mannappan becomes Kathivanoor Veeran and he blesses the onlookers. 

For ethereal nights, walk with the Theyyams of Kannur
Theyyam is a ritual dance form. Photo: Getty Images

Where can you see this performance

For ethereal nights, walk with the Theyyams of Kannur
For ethereal nights, walk with the Theyyams of Kannur. Photo: Getty Images

February: 10, 11, 12: Vadakedathu kshethram, Aasharikootam, Pattuvam, Kannur 

February: 10, 11, 12: Olachery Kaavu , Thallapu, Kannur

February: 11, 12: Aameri Palliyara Thiramaholsavam, Aameri, Kannur

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