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Kannur, India - December 25, 2011: A close-up photo of a Theyyam performer holding a ceremonial sword. He has elaborate face make-up and is wearing equally elaborate head costume all in brilliant red. In costume he is a Hindu God personified. The shot was taken at Thottada village, 10km south of Kannur in Kerala, south India.
Theyyam (also spelt Teyyam, or even Theyyem) is an ancient religious/ritual/dance/ form unique to northern Kerala, in south India. Performers adorn colourful, elaborate costumes, face make-up, and they recite prayers to transform themselves during a performance into a Hindu god. Toddy (the local brew) is also used as an incentive. Performances are always accompanied by a heavy percussion line-up playing complex rhythms as depicted in this photograph.