Art and Culture
From ancient times, the deity Sastha or Ayyappan has been worshipped in Kerala. It is believed that it was Parasurama who brought Sastha and Bhadrakali for the protection of the land and the people. Hence the presence of numerous temples dedicated to Sastha and Bhadrakali.
Certain places with dense growth of trees are considered sacred, and are the domiciles of deities. Those places where deities like Naga, Sastha, Kali, Vettakkorumakan, Ganapathi etc. are present are designed as Kavus. Legend says that Parasurama has constructed 108 Sasthakavus and 108 Durga temples.
Worship of Ayyappa
Sastha, Bhoothanathan, and other names of Ayyappan are worshipped in Vedic and non-Vedic lines. Ayyan is the god of hunting. We can find references of 'Ayyan' in many folk songs. Sastha has got a place among the Saptadevas worshipped in the Thanthric system. There are varieties of worship connected
with the rituals and performance of Ayyappan. The Sasthampattu of Kallatta Kurups and Theyyampadi Nambiars are the ritualistic performances for the propitiation of Sastha.
The Ayyappan pattu and Ayyappan Vilakku performed by devotees are also a form of worship of Ayyappa. Ayyappan Theeyattu is an entirely different form of ritualistic performance. It is performed by Theeyati Nambiars. Normally it is prevalent in the Malabar area. But these performing arts have wider range.
The deity meant for Ayyappan Theeyattu is Sastha, the son of Hari and Hara. The main item of Kalampattu/Thottampattu and the acting of the story of the origin and bravado of Ayyappan are the basis for this ritualistic performance. From the Thottam, we get the information that Sastha, the deity who is in the acme of knowledge in heaven came down to the earth to be the god of Malanadu under the instruction of Siva. Together with Sastha, it is said that deities like Andimahakalan, Kokkot Bhrandan, Neelan, Neelakattari, Arayilamme, Bhadrakali, Maladevatas and twelve thousand Bhoothas also came here.
Ayyappan is adored as a hunting god in the Theeyattu Pattu. Songs in which he is designated as the General of Pandi Raja is also sung in Theeyattu. In several places Ayyappan is called Ayyan, which is a word older than the other one.
In Theeyattu, a lot of separate performances like decoration of pandal, Uchapattu, Kalamezhuthu, Sandhyakkottu, Ezhunnallippu, Kalampooja, Kalampattu, Kalathilattam, Theeyattu and Thirayuzhichil. A few differences in the order are the differences in the varieties of Ayyappan Theeyattu.
In Ayyappan Kaavus there are permanent places in front of the Sreekovil for Theeyattu. Otherwise temporary sheds are to be made for drawing the kalam and enacting the Theeyattu. The place should also be cleaned by cow dung. Ceiling of the pandal is decorated before Poojas. After performing pooja in favour of Sastha and Ganapathi the Theeyadi Nambiar begins to sing the song with the accompaniment of instruments like Para and Kuzhithalam. It is called Uchappattu. For Theeyattu, preparation of Kalam is very important. After this function drawing of Roopakkalam is begun. For this five colours are used - red, black, yellow, white and green. Different figures of Sastha are illustrated. After preparing the Kalam, pooja will be conducted by the Brahmin. After that Theeyati Nambiars themselves sing the KaIampattu sitting beside the Kalam. All these songs are extolling the life and bravado of Ayyappa. Similarly songs praising the huntings of Ayyappa are also sung.
Theeyattu (Way of Ayyappan Koothu) In certain areas Ayyappan Theeyattu is called Ayyappan Koothu. The name is given, taking into consideration the dominance of the acting part of it. Theeyati Nambiar decorates himself sitting in front of the sanctum. In Ayyappan Theeyattu, the face will not be decorated.
A costume (most often red) similar to Kathakali is put on. A small crown called pathiyam is also worn. There will be a pleated white dress and additional clothes bound round the waist. While dressing and wearing the jewels, the Nambiars sing songs in praise of Ayyappan. Then he turns to the sanctum and begins his acting. This is really Ayyappankoothu. The dress of Ayyappankoothu is representative and symbolic of Nandikeswara dialogue. It is in the model of a storytelling by Nandikeswara to Ayyappa, the story of Ayyappa Kalathilattam An important rite associated with Ayyappan Theeyattu is Kalathilattam.
Theeyati Nambiars come to the kalam in a dress suitable for the komaram. Wearing white cloth, tying red cloth around his waist, covering his body and hand with sandal paste, putting on the garland that he gets from the sanctum, and getting the sword, he moves about as komaram. It is a type of sword dance. During his dance he completely destroys the kalam. This is perhaps the most interesting, dramatic, and spectacular scene in the Theeyattu.
When the komaram dances in the kalam, other Theeyati Nambiars sing songs. During Kalathilattam, komaram speaks in an oracular manner. These words are believed to be the words of God; people present their sorrows and desires in front of komaram; komaram proclaim solutions for their problems.The end of the scene is the return of the sword to the sanctum. Ayyappan Theeyattu is a performing ritual that has not yet lost its originality.
A lot of people gather together in the worship of this village god. Some believe that the performance will keep away the worries, troubles and diseases prevalent in the community. In the perspective of performing theory of Ayyappan Theeyattu, undoubtedly it is an excellent art form of supreme quality.