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Kannur, India - December 11, 2011: Musicians provided the music and complex percussion rhythms during a traditional Theyyam performance in a village near Kannur, Kerala, India.
Theyyam is a living cult with several thousand-year-old traditions, rituals and customs. The performers of Theyyam belong to the lower class community, and have an important position in Theyyam. This is unique, since only in Kerala do both the upper-caste Brahmins and lower-caste tribals share an important position in a major form of worship. The term Theyyam is a corrupt form of Devam or God. People of these districts consider Theyyam itself as a God and they seek blessings from this Theyyam.
The principle deity is Muthappan and during a performance Muthappan is accompanied by two or three other gods. The performers of Theyyam are in fact the Gods personified. The Gods thus personified may be any number of Gods in the Hindu pantheon, such as Shiva or Vishnu. This photograph is of one such god entering the performance arena at the local village Hindu temple.