Thottam Pattukal [songs sung for theyyam festival]

The ritualistic songs appropriate for Theyyam is known as “Thottam Pattukal”. They describe the origin of the deities, their beauty and grandeur , their journey ,power and boldness.

Thottam Pattu or Vaytharu are performed for each Theyyam. Thottam Pattu is nothing but explaining the story in the form of a song which includes the origin, reason of originating, duties to be performed, ways it went through and at last the farewell. Thottam Pattu will always be performed before the Theyyam.

A distinguishing component of Theyyam performance is that of Thottam. These are songs through which the deities are invoked. With few exceptions, Thottam invoke goddesses Kali and Parvathi and the sons of Lord Siva. A Thottam eulogizes the deity and narrate legends for about five hours at a stretch. Towards the end the deity is believed to have entered the body of the Thottam singer. Two men encircle him with their hands interlocked with each other so as to guard the spirit, which has just gained entry.

Thottam Pattukal are mainly to praise the deities and contain myth or legend of deities. They describe the origin of the deities their beauty and grandeur, their journey, power and bravado.
Thottam songs help us to understand a lot about the social, cultural and linguistic characters of North Kerala. They expose the cruel and bestial treatment of the old rulers in Malabar. Some describes the dictatorship and evils of misrule. Some questions the futility of perverted casteism and untouchability. “Pottan Theyyam” is a good example. The dialogue between Sri Sankara and Siva, disguised as Chandala (Pottan), is famous and noteworthy.

Thottam Songs generate pretty belief and divine knowledge among the common folk. In some songs the philosophy is that God is the power found in all the phenomena of the world. The self- dedication of the ardent devotee can be found in some songs.
Some songs have much touching effect. Some give elaborate description of the delightful sight of the Theyyam. Some Thottam songs give picturesque description of war and hunting. Many are heroic worship. Another feature is the representation of the myth with a spiritual tint.

Tamil writings and Sangam (BC 500- AD 500) epoch and historical evidences indicate that a form like today’s Theyyam emerged about 1500 years ago, and passed through several stages of evolution. A key landmark in this process was the emergence of Malayalam as a literary language. Thottam Songs, lauding the divinities relevant to Theyyam came to be composed only after Malayalam became a mature form of literary expression. These songs were transmitted orally from generation to generation, though their authorship remain unknown.