Ayyappan theeyattu performed at Sree Ayyappa temples is one of the two classifications of the religious ritual art called Theeyattu. The other one performed at goddess Bhadrakaali temples is called Bhadrakaali theeyattu. Theeyattu literally means 'dance of the god'.
During Theeyattu, the Kalam - a ritualistic drawing on the floor using fine powders made of natural pigments - is drawn. Images of Kaali, Ayyappan or Vettakkorumakan are drawn depending upon what form of the art is performed.
The performers wear costumes resembling those of the concerned dieties. They sing and dance, enacting stories from mythology, to the accompaniment of the Ilathalam, Veekkan Chenda and the Chenda.
Towards the end of the ritual the performers reach a state of trance just before they erase the Kalam. In this state of trance they make statements supposed to be revealed to them by the deity. The ceremony is concluded by breaking a coconut as a ritual offering.
In ancient days this ritual was performed to ward off epidemics and other evils. Theeyattu was performed by a particular community in Kerala and its practice was restricted and allowed only within the community. The Ayyappan theeyattu is performed by the Theeyadi Nambiar community and the Bhadrakaali theeyattu by Theeyadiunnis.