The veteran Theyyam exponent Kanna Peruvannan passed away on Wednesday evening. Theyyam is the most popular ritual dance in northern Kerala. Peruvannan was a legendary figure among the folk artists of northern Kerala.
Kanna Peruvannan was born at Kodakkad, a small village near Karivellur. He started performing Theyyam at a very young age of six and he got a chance to perform the most brilliant Theyyam of Kathivannur Veeran when he was 14 years old. From then he had performed the same Theyyam of Kathivannur Veeran for more than six hundred times which is a record in this field. The rituals and Thottam songs of almost all the Theyyams are by heart for this veteran artiste. [from www.theyyam.com.]
I got this short note on Theyyam by Pepita Seth via Google. She has researched this topic for almost thirty years, and is the author of the book "Reflections of the Spirit - The Theyyams of Malabar". A quote from that note:
Although acquiring divinity can be seen as an extraordinary honor, Theyyam's great irony is that its practitioners belong to one of the dozen or so communities at the bottom of Kerala's complicated caste structure. In the not so distant past their presence, within a prescribed distance, was believed to be so polluting as to ritually contaminate high caste Hindus. Even now, though they are venerated and honored when 'divine', they still receive no special attention or recognition in their everyday lives.