The living Gods of Teyyam

In the north of Kerala, the Teyyam, a deformation of Devam meaning God, is without doubt the most extraordinary and the least known of the dance dramas of south India. From December to May, during the dry season, the divinity will manifest itself in many differing forms in the numerous ‘kavu’, small forest sanctuaries built in the enormous coconut plantations along the Malabar coast. The performers are all untouchables, belonging to the lowest caste. But many hours of make-up, the recitation of the chosen divinity’s myth, the rhythmic trance of the drums, the use of fabulous costumes and head-dresses, will slowly transform them into gods of a terrifying aspect. This archaic religion, whose origin is lost to the depths of time, will allow an entire community to overcome its fears and to appropriate a protective and consoling divinity.