The Ritual Art of Teyyam and Bhutaradhane - Theatrical Performance with Spirit Mediumship (An Old Book)

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Item Code: NAO827
Publisher: Indira Gandhi National Centre For The Arts
Author: Sita K. Nambiar
Language: English
Edition: 1996
ISBN: 8170131499
Pages: 163 (22 Color and 15 B/W Illustrations)
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 11.0 inch X 8.5 inch
Weight 960 gm
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Book Description
About The Book

This book contains an account of the ritual art of Tetrayal and bhutaradhane as noticed among some ethnic groups of Kerala and Karnataka. Having recognized the research potential of teyyam and bhuta traditions, an attempts has been made in this book to assemble and record authentic materials and its interpretation.

This book brings into focus metaphysical happenings in the life of the people and its reflection in folk tradition. Teyyam is enacted to gain redressal from the spirit. The author has tried to descricbe the performances. In which the performer gets engrossed, totally transformed and transcended to the world of unseen forces of nature, impressinating the gods and goddesses by way of theatrical arts and exhibiting his so-called divine power by uncanny behaviour. In this book various other manifestation of art forms connected with the ritual art of Teyyam have also been discussed. The art of ritual paintings, crafts and practices relating to the preparation of the head-gears and the performing arts are well-covered in this book. It is complete with annotated glossary of locals terms and profuse authentic illustrations.

About the Author

Dr. (Mrs) Sita Krishna Nambiar, Retired Principal of Daulat Ram College of Delhi University, completed M. A. (Sanskrit) of Kerala University in 1946 and was a Gold Medalist. She entered the educational field from 1947 onwards and worked as Sanskrit Lecturar at Theosophiracal College Sitapur, Arya Kanya Pathasala, Lakhimpur and Inderprastha College of Delhi University. Mrs Nambiar took an M. A. (Hindi) degree from Agra University (Main Campus) from 1952 to 1984. Mrs. Nambiar guided several scholars successfully for Ph. D. Degree.

She got an Award for promoting Sanskrit Studies given by the Sanskrit Academy, Delhi Administration. She compiled a dictionary of common words in Malaylam and Hindi for the Government of India and authored the book titled Probodhacandrodaya and written innumerable articles on Religion and Philosphy. Travelled for World University Service for three months in U. S. A and deliverd lectures on Indian Philosphy in various educational institutions in 1958.

Participated in the World Council of Churches in Vancouver, Canada in 1983 representing Hindu Women.

Mrs. Nambiar was twice scholar of German Academic Exchange Programme in 1957 – 1960 and in 1975.


The Janapada Sampada Division of the Indira Gandhi National Center for the Arts complements the work of the Kala Kosa Division. The latter has been concentrating on the textual traditions of India both in their dimension of fundamental texts relating to the arts and concepts terminologies, which cut across different arts and many disciplines. The former, the Janapada Sampada, focuses instead on living continuities, oral traditions, rural cultures and art expressions which are integral to life-style, life-cycle and life-function. With a view to refocusing attention on the role of the arts in establishing equilibrium in society and the intrinsic relationship of the eco-socio economic contexts and the artistic manifestation, it has launched on several programmes in different ecocultural zones of the country by adopting an alternate paradigm for particular social group but as an ever vibrant process. These programmes have been called the Lokaparampara. A complementary programme has been initiated to study the concept of region, field and the dynamics and inter – play of centripetal and centrifugal movements. The results of such projects, one in the South and the other in the North, are on the anvil.

The study of life – style in relation to nature, environmental societal structure, myth and ritual, health and medicine has assumed such complexities that challenge methodologies of research and published results. In some cases it became necessary for the Indira Gandhi National Center for the Arts to use the audio – visual medium so as to capture the dynamics of these inter- relationship. Resultantly two films have been made, one on the Lai Haroha and the other on the Wang La of the Garos.

It is hoped that during the next few years a number of monographs alongwidth audio – visual documentation and films will be ready in respect of other cultural areas in India.

In the meantime the Indira Gandhi National Center for the Arts has also focussed attention on some forms which are seminal to particular areas and which are in danger of becoming extinct sooner or later with the advent of ‘progress’ and ‘development’. These forms have been sustained by an eco-cultural ambience. They have been nurtured by their performers who have played a socio-economic, socio-cultural, and moral role in the society. They have been empowered for particular durations in consecurated space to restore balance whenever there is consciousness of imbalance or disorder.

Prima facie these forms are either dance or traditional theatre or what is commonly called ‘Ritual Theatre’. Amongst these, two in the South have received attention from art historians as also sociologists. The Teyyam of Kerala and the Bhutaradhane or Bhootam of Karnatka has fascinated urban audiences for their sheer spectacular performance, costume, head-gear and the staggeringly impressive spectacle of another worldly phenomenon. In fact the performance and the performer are a vechile and an instrumentality for fascilitating communication amongst, and between, classes and castes past, present and future. For the duration of the event pent up energies are released: Roles are reserved and the human medium is empowered to comment on as well as criticise socio – culture distortions or inequities. The number and the nature of Teyyam and Bhootams are vast. No comprehensive listing can be made because typologies evolve as and when social structure changes. The performance moves on several levels of the mythical, historical and the contemporary here and now. It is also performed as a multi – media presentation comprising ritual floor drawing (kolams), music, dance, theatre and much else. Since these forms are so fragile, IGNCA acquired a collection of slides by Shri Balan Nambiar, who has made extensive documentation of these forms. Dr. Sita Nambiar, who was drawn to the drawn to the form, has made a study of these forms from a different point of view. She looks at these forms. Examines them in their cultural context and also relates them to the textual traditions of India. As a scholar of Sanskrit she Facilitates the understanding of the phenomenon of Teyyam with parallels which can be drawn from the Sanskrit traditions normally called ‘Sastras’.

Her monograph is personal response at the level of understanding. Her approach complements the study of these forms by the late Prof. G. Sankara Pillai who observed these forms from the point of view of a pure theatre. In his book, Theatre of the Earth Never Dies, he has made a very important point of distinction between playing or impersonationg the ‘Daivam’(deity) and drama, becoming the ‘Daivam’. Elsewhere both in the context of concept of space and time and the study of great and little traditions I have drawn attention to the importance of these forms as the ground from which sophisticated classical forms have emerged. Shortly IGNCA will also he publishing more paper of late Prof. G. Sankara Pilai. Through these monographs and documentation it is hoped that a particular genere of art known to South India can be examined from different points of view. I am grateful to Dr. Sita Nambiar for having given us this opportunity to publish her text.


Teyyam and bhutaradhane are ritualistic theatrical performances associated with sprit mediumship. In this the actor protagonist impersonates gods and heroes of a bygone age who reappear in the form of splirits. The impersonater becomes the medium. It is necessary to differentiate between spirit – possession and sprit –mediumship. Though we are dealing with the physical and meta – physical aspects of this worship, here the metaphysics does not imply the supernatural. Since in Indian thought there is no action which is supernatural, as everything happens within nature (prakrti), metaphysics would only imply the incorporeal. As the spirit do not have a gross physical body, they require a medium through which they became manifest. Spirit – possession is an unexpected, unwanted intrusion of the spirit into the lives of humans, while spirit-mendiumship is voluntary action allowing the spirit to enter the impersonater’s body. This can be done only by an expert. It requires hard work, concentration and decotion. It is done for the purpose of soliciting the aid of the spirit for solving such problems, as epidemics that threaten individual and community life.


Foreword i
Preface v
Acknoledgement vii
Transliteration ix
List of Illustrations xv
1. The Art, Teyyam and Bhutaradhane 1
2. The Ritual Complex of the Theatrical Art 7
3. The Key Factors in Performances 16
4. Typicalogy 32
5. Traditions in the Ritual-way 55
Glossary 63
Biblography 106
Appendix 109
Index 121

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