The Theyyams of Malabar: Photographs by Pepita Seth. (Via Mysterium)

There are a number of dance / storytelling forms in Kerala involving elaborate make-up or masks, and tall headdresses. Someone told me that this is because the dancers represent the gods. They should not look like you and me. And in fact, when you see these dances in their traditional setting -- they go on for hours, sometimes all night, and the flickering oil lamps cast huge shadows behind them -- you can begin to sense the awe they are meant to inspire.

THEYYAM: A ritual dance performed in temples by appointed people in fulfillment of vows of devotees. Theyyam is the corrupted form of the word Daivam meaning the God. It is purported to be the dance by the Goddess Herself. The dancers are men in feminine attire wearing colourful costumes made usually of palm leaves, cloth and brass jewellery, ferocious masks and big head gear, often extending up to forty feet in height. The pace of the dance is set to the beating of Chenda (drum). The artiste invested by the goddess in his person falls in a trance, dances deliriously to the mounting tempo and conveys, as an oracle, the goddess's acceptance of the vow and blessings or otherwise.
An article about Theyyam by Pepita Seth. More about Theyyam here, here, and here.

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