Manas 1 (2014), 1.
Robova, Proletina. Transformation and Identification in teyyāṭṭam. – In: Manas: South Asia: Identity and Cultural Diversity, Vol. 1, 1, 2014.
This work aims to examine the ritual teyyāṭṭam which takes place in North Kerala and contiguous parts of Karnataka. The basis of this ritual is the transformation of the performer teyyakaran from a man to a local deity called teyyam, which most researchers define as a possession or a performaning art. In this article I follow up the structure of the ritual and the means of this transformation in the context of the local epic tradition, the characteristics of the teyyam deities and the sacred groves kavu which they inhabit. In the course of my analysis I investigate the metamorphosis of the performer from the preparation stage, up to painting his face and putting on the mask and ritual costume of the teyyam, as a series of mental and physical identifications between his body and that of the deity. The aim of this transformation is to make the deity visible and present in the ritual for the observing worshippers.
The present-day changes in teyyāṭṭam shed light on the sociocultural changes caused by the processes of globalization and modernization in the region. They raise some important questions on caste discrimination and preservation of the local dravidian traditions and their cultural identity as a whole.