Saturday, August 14, 2010

panchayat election in Kerala 2010

Elections are regularly held to fill government officials at all levels of government in both Kerala and India as a whole. These range from national elections to regional local body or panchayat elections. The Assembly of Kerala creates laws regarding the conduct of local body elections unilaterally while any changes by the state legislature to the conduct of state level elections need to be approved by the Parliament of India.Panchayat Elections is a term widely used in Kerala, India, for the polls that are held to select the Local Self-government Representatives. There are three branches of local self-government institutions in Kerala. They are Grama Panchayat which can be translated as Village Government, Block Panchayat and District Panchayat.There are two more wings namely Municipality which is another form of Block Panchayat that exists only in major towns and Corporations that come only in four major cities.The State has 999 Grama Panchayats, 152 Block Panchayats, 14 District Panchayats, 53 Municipalities and 5 Corporations. Consequent to the 73rd Amendment to the Constitution of India, the local self-government institutions (LSGIs) are to function as the third tier of government. In Kerala, LSGIs have been meaningfully empowered through massive transfer of resources as well as administrative powers.The last Election to the Local Self-government Institutions in Kerala (Panchayat Elections) was held on September 24 and September 26, 2005. Elections to the local bodies in Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam, Pathanamthitta, Idukki, Alappuzha, Kottayam, Ernakulam and Thrissur districts were held on September 24 and to those in Palakkad, Malappuram, Kozhikode, Wayanad, Kannur and Kasaragod districts in the second stage on September 26. Elections were held for 16,139 grama panchayat (village self-government body), 2,004 block panchayat, 339 district panchayat, 1,725 municipality and 316 municipal corporation wards.There are 1214 local self government bodies. That the State administration could effectively be transformed from centralized to decentralised administration, and importance was given to people's participation in the administration and development sectors were silent revolution, which took place in Kerala. The Government transferred about 40% of the plan outlay to the local self-government bodies.The Panchayat Raj-Municipality Act on the basis of 73 rd and 74th amendments of the Constitution came into force in the State on 23-4-1994 and 30-5-1994 respectively. As per the provisions made in the Act a number of powers and responsibilities and projects of the Government were transferred to the local self-governments with effect from October 2, 1995. Along with them, the service of the concerned officers was transferred to the local self-government bodies.
Both the LDF and UDF are ready with there political agendas for fighting the battle which is to be held on October. This time we are having a single election in kerala and there is no type of multi- election. Another thing to note is that as per the 33% reservation for women have been enacted by the Loksabha and 50% by Kerala State Legislature, many of the districts in Kerala will be ruled by Women Mayors and Secretaries. The people are waiting and even those who turned 18 years are also waiting to poll there first votes. So wwe can wait till the days to come fast for Panchayat Elections.

Monday, June 7, 2010

To create a Gender based society SAKHI comes up with new efforts

Another meaning which denotes the term woman’s friend is none other than the Social Resource Center named SAKHI, who supports and encourages women and woman’s collectives…. with gender perspective in all their activities. It is a space, for women to come together, share their pains, anxieties, pleasures and fun. The Vision of the organization is to create a society based on equality, equity and peace,

The Mission is to thrive for eliminating discrimination’s and exploitations prevailing in the present day society. It also attempt to bridge the gap between local & global events & national & international debates regarding feminist thoughts and practices. The main aim of the organization is to mainstream gender in the political discourses of Kerala. It also wishes that Men to be gender aware and join w omen’s struggle.Since last 10 years it has been one of joy, pride, anxieties and sometimes even hopelessness. But it has survived because of all the support and also because of the faith reposed in them by the many women, youth and pro-feminist men with whom they have encountered during there journey. The resource center was set up with the support of the John D and Catherine T Mac Arthur Foundation in the form of a three-year fellowship awarded to Aleyamma Vijayan in 1996, after she worked for 16 years with the marginalized communities. After three years of the fellowship, Sakhi was registered as a charitable trust. The trustees are Dr.Sundari Ravindran, Dr Manju Nair, Dr.Neena Joseph, Mercy Alexander and Aleyamma Vijayan. We also have an advisory committee to help and advise us on policy matters. They are Nalini Nayak (Sewa), Ms Mini Sukumar (Department of W omen’s Studies, Calcutta University), Mr.A.J.Vijayan (Protsahan), Prof T.A.Menon (CMD), Mr.Jagajeevan (Kudumbasree, Ms. Parvati Devi Journalist,, Anitha.S (Environmentalist Activist). The Sakhi team presently consists of Aleyamma Vijayan, Mercy Alexander, Rejitha G, Mini Rajkumar, Beenamol, Geetha.J, Sreekala T.S and Soni S.R.

Sakhi started with the idea that information is power’ and that micro level women’s groups in Kerala need to be assisted to develop a feminist perspective by disseminating information on gender, feminism and related issues. Sakhi wanted to act as bridge’ between what is happening at the International and national level on theories and actions around feminism and the micro level w omen’s groups in Kerala.The library and documentation center of Sakhi caters to this need. It has more than 7000 books , a number of journals, magazines, newspaper clippings, pamphlets, posters, audio and videocassettes and CD’s.

Sakhi’s activities involves Information and Dissemination, Capacity Building programmes,Governance Initiatives, Through Research into action, Advocacy /Violence Intervention Programmes / Campaigns, Community Outreach, Networking for movement building/Collaboration, Working with young people, Archieves of old programmes and workshops.

Sakhi’s involvement with the local self governments started with the close association with the decentralization programmes initiated by the state government in Kerala in 1996. This innovative process offered an opportunity to mainstream gender in the political discourse in Kerala and to build capacities of women who were elected to represent people. The 73rd and 74th constitutional amendments brought many women into the social and political realm. They perceived that as their opportunity and responsibility, to build the capacity of these women to critique the ongoing development from a gender perspective and be proactive to bring about a gender just society in whichever party they belong to. A special body named the Jagratha Samithis (vigilance cells) was started in Panchayats to form and strengthen as a community response to address violence against women. This is to be constituted in all Wards, Panchayats and Districts under the guidance of State Women ’s Commission. Several of our training efforts were directed to support these process as it would lead to wider gender sensitization of the community, especially of men. Another important activity of the resource center is to give some Legal support, Anti-Sexual Harassment committees at working places, Campaigns which include International campaign on violence against women.Legal support means that the official statistics from State Police of national Crime Records Bureau says that violence against women in Kerala is increasing. The numerous complaints received by State Women ’s Commission and Women ’s organizations on domestic violence, sexual violence, dowry deaths; workplace harassment’s, child sexual abuse etc provide enough proof for this.In this context Sakhi within the scope of limited resource, started a legal cell in 2002. We lend free legal aid and counseling to those women from poor families who approach us with cases of any forms of violence. We also believe that it is important to prevent violence against women rather than intervene after it happens. Therefore through network of community based organizations and Self help group’s awareness programmes and campaigns are conducted. Anti Sexual Harassment Committees at Workplaces means in accordance with the Supreme Court guidelines, many government offices and public sector units have set up anti harassment committees and Sakhi staffs are members of many such committees. They use this opportunity to conduct gender awareness programmes.Campaigns means the resource center believes that it is more important to prevent violence against women than intervene when it happens and for this awareness programmes and attitudinal changes are needed. Besides, men need to know that there is someone to support the women, if they harass them. So through the network of Self Help groups (SHG) and other community based organizations, awareness programmes and campaigns are conducted. Leaflets, posters and other visual materials are used.

Community Outreach programmes were done by the resource center. All the activities of the resource center are moulded and shaped by their interaction at the grass root level, like the interactions at the many Panchayats we work and also in some coastal villages through the women and children. The work with the Local governments further strengthened there interactions as they were able to interact with women from agricultural communities and women in other traditional occupations.A major thrust of the community work was at Karimkulam panchayat, which is a coastal panchayat in Trivandrum. They collaborated with a network of local women ’s group called Stree Aikyavedi (Women ’s United Front) and conduct meetings, workshops, seminars and other programmes. Another focus area was Alappad, the tsunami affected coastal village in Kollam district. Here too, many supporting activities, demanded by the local government was undertaken like capacity building programmes, camps for adolescent children, exposure visits, assistance in project preparation for livelihood activities etc. The library cum Anganwadi center at Alappad was built with our support and is functioning well.They also identified strategic groups from among the most disadvantaged groups (fishing and tribal) and supported them to develop their leadership capabilities and to identify issues which needed urgent action. This work was done to a large extent in Pulluvilla and Vellarad Panchayat.

Networking for movement building/ Collaboration with other institutions have also been done by the Resource center.As a resource center, they feel it as there responsibility to collaborate with other organizations and institutions in further advancing the cause of women. They have collaborated with various programmes and campaigns organized by different organizations and institutions.Various organizations have associated with them by sending their staff for the training programmes organized by them or by joining the campaigns and other activities. Sewa, Trivandrum, Anweshi, Calcutta, Protsahan etc are few of the many organizations who closely interact with them.Besides these, a major focus of there activities is helping the emergence of a movement of women, capable of taking up issues and exercising women ’s agency. They are part of the network of women’s groups in Kerala called Kerala Stree Vedi (Kerala women ’s forum). They actively take part in the struggles and campaigns organized as part of the forum.That community involvement strengthens there other activities and in this besides the work in all the different panchayats, women ’s groups of Vizhinjam and Pulluvilla deserve our special thanks. They actively participated in all the activities and struggles and were keen to get them involved in the adolescent programmes in the village, besides offering constant support to victims of violence in spite of so many negative pressures.At the national level, there are a member of the national network of autonomous women ’s organizations (NNWAG), national co ordination committee (NCC) etc and take part in the joint programmes.

They also have conducted a study about Gender based Violence in Kerala.The study on Gender based Violence in Kerala is intended to assess the needs of survivors of gender based violence (GBV) as a first step towards strengthening the efforts of the health system in Kerala, to effectively advocate and coordinate various initiatives to address gender based violence as a public health issue. A range of data collection tools were used to understand the prevalence and nature of gender based violence and women ’s health seeking behaviour. Observations of health facilities and interview of Service providers at various levels including health care providers, counselors and police were conducted.The study brings out important aspects of gender based violence in a society like Kerala, which claims to have achieved very high levels of development and where women are far ahead of their counterparts elsewhere in India. It also brings out the lacuna in terms of lack of support services for survivors of gender based violence and points out the need to initiate policy and programmatic interventions which are gender sensitive at the health care settings . Support services at different levels in society are urgently required. The Declaration on Elimination of Violence Against Women adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1993, defines Violence Against Women as “any act of gender based violence against women that results in or is likely to result in physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivations of liberty, whether occurring in public or private spaces”.Gender based violence is a common reality in the lives of women and girls in many parts of the world, developing and industrialized countries alike. It has been recognized as a violation of basic human rights of women and of their exercise of fundamental freedom.Gender-based violence against women has also now been acknowledged as a major public health issue. According to a WHO report, among women aged 15-44 years, gender violence accounts for more deaths and disability than, cancer, malaria, traffic injuries or war put together. Different types of gender based violence include physical violence,sexual violence,Threat of physical or sexual violence and Psychological or emotional abuse.

To conclude that almost 40% of women have ever experienced any type of domestic violence during their lifetime. Physical violence and psychological violence are the most common types of violence experienced. The majority of perpetrators are husbands. The violence resulted in significant psychological distress in about 50% of the women, about 8% experienced suicidal idealization and 10% incurred serious injury warranting medical attention. Reporting of violence in public places and in workplaces was relatively low, probably due to the high representation of non-working women in the study sample.

Women experienced domestic violence across all educational strata almost equally, and in fact women with a university degree reported a slightly higher level of violence than others with any education. A greater proportion of women working as casual labourers had experienced any violence in their lifetime than other workers and even homemakers. There was not a perceptible difference across age groups in lifetime experience of violence, suggesting that for those experiencing violence, this experience may start early in their lives. Having been subjected to dowry demand before and after marriage, and having no say in matters related to contraception and sex within marriage emerged as factors most significantly associated with lifetime experience of violence. The association of lifetime experience of violence with decision-making power within the household shows that overall, a smaller proportion of those who were part of the decision-making process experienced violence as compared to those who were the sole decision-makers, as well as those who were never consulted for any major household decision.

In the context of Kerala, as mentioned earlier though women are highly literate when compared to other states their decision making, autonomy, public participation, work participation and mobility are still severely restricted. In such a situation it is not fair to assume that women in Kerala will be vocal and come out in the open about the violence they face in the public or private spheres. The stigma of violence against women within homes especially from husbands, the unwillingness to relive the experiences, no guarantee for benefit, the possibility of re victimization and the shame and blame prevents them from disclosing the information to outsiders and particularly the health system that they do not see as a potential source of help. It is also because they do not relate the reason for their ill health to the violence they face.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

metre gauge in kerala memorable for ever.

The Kollam-Shencottah railway line – the first one in erstwhile Travancore – is more than a century old.The 50-km journey from Punalur to Shencottah is perhaps the best portion on this route in terms of nature's lushness and architectural marvels.

The train chugs through the Shendurni wild life sanctuary and picturesque stations such as Kazhuthurutty, Thenmala, Ottakkallu and Bhagavathipuram, passing by verdant mountains and many a cascade. The Palaruvi and Kazhuthurutti waterfalls and the Thenmala eco-tourism centre are on the fringes of this line, and the majestic Courtallam waterfalls at the destination make this route perfect for nature lovers.

The railway line was constructed by the British on the foothills of the Western Ghats to transport forest products, spices and cashew from Kollam to Chennai, their southern headquarters. The longest tunnel on this route (built in 1901) is here. The picturesque Aryankavu viaduct, where the road, river and rail run parallel, is also part of this route.

This railway line is an architecture marvel. “It was built jointly by South Indian Railway Company, Travancore State and Madras Presidency. After the survey in 1888, the work started in 1900 and completed by 1903 and the total expenditure was Rs. 1,12,65,637. according to records, the Punalur to Shencottah stretch was the most difficult one to construct as it lies around 2,800 metres above sea level and it took almost two years to complete the Aryankavu tunnel. One can notice the conch symbol of the erstwhile Travancore regime at both ends of the tunnel and the year of construction on the nearby pillars.The 102.72-m bridge at Kazhuthurutti with 13 arches is so strong that not even a crack has developed so far. The railway engineering department has decided not to demolish this 5.18m height bridge. Instead they will strengthen and widen it. In 1904, the first train was flagged off from Kollam by Moolam Tirunal Ramavarma, the then King of erstwhile Travancore with a 21-gun salute.

I had got an opportunity to travel through the meter gauge which stretches from Punalur to Shencotta and which is going to be memorable for ever in every keralites.It took only two hours from punalur to reach shencotta. The train passed through so many ways which brings to every ones life about an incredible journey where there was about 4 tunnels and around 8 bridges which includes the famous 13 arched bridge which is a photographer’s delight. Another thing is that before reaching the Aryankavu station there is a tunnel which is around 1km in length. That was very much exciting for me.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

story about parassinikadavu muthappan

Sree Muthappan is a Hindu deity worshipped commonly in Kannur district of north Kerala state, South India. Muthappan and Thiruvappan, are considered to be a manifestation of Shiva and Vishnu, and hence Muthappan wholly represents the idea of Brahman, the unity of God, as expressed in the Vedas.

Worship of Muthappan is unique, in that it does not follow the Sattvic (Brahminical) form of worship, as in other Hindu temples. The main mode of worship is not via idol worship, but via a ritual enactment of Muthappan, performed daily at the Parassinikadavu temple. Fish is used as an offering to Muthappan, and people of all castes, religions and nationalities are permitted to enter the temple and take part in the worship.

Muthappan is also the principal deity in the ritualistic Theyyam dance (Muthappan Theyyam) performed in the famous Parassinikkadavu temple. The ritual performers of Muthappan Theyyam belong to the tribal community of Kerala. It is unique because in Kerala both the upper-caste Brahmins, and the lower-caste tribals, both have a significant contribution to the major forms of worship.

The traditional story of Parassinikkadavu Muthappan describes the background of the deity.

The Naduvazhi (landlord) Ayyankara Illath Vazhunnavar (a Nambudiri Brahmin) was unhappy, as he had no child. His wife Padikutty Antharjanam was a devotee of Lord Shiva. She made a sacrifice to Shiva for children. One day in her dream she saw the Lord. The very next day, while she was returning after a bath from a near by river, she saw a pretty child lying on a flower bed. She took the child home and she and her husband brought Him up as their own son.

The boy used to visit the jungle near their house (mana) for hunting with His bow and arrows. He would then take food to the poor and to the backward communities with Him. As these acts were against the Namboothiri way of life, His parents earnestly requested Him to stop this practice, but the boy turned a deaf ear to their warnings. Ayyankara Vazhunavar became very disappointed.

One day the boy revealed His divine form (Visvaroopam or Viswaroopa or Cosmic All-Pervading form) to His parents. They then realized that the boy was not an ordinary child but God. They prostrated themselves in front of Him and He blessed them.

He then started a journey from Ayyankara. The natural beauty of Kunnathoor detained Him. He was attracted by the toddy of palm trees.

Chandan (an illiterate and uncivilized toddy tapper) knew that his toddy was being stolen from his palm trees, so he decided to guard his palm trees. While he was keeping guard at night, he caught an old man stealing toddy from his palms. He got very angry and tried to shoot the old man using his bow and arrows but fell unconscious before he could let loose even an arrow.

Chandan's wife came searching for her husband. She cried brokenheartedly when she found him unconscious at the base of the tree. She saw an old man at the top of the palm tree, and called out to Him as "MUTHAPPAN" ("Muthappan" means grandfather in the local Malayalam language). She earnestly prayed to the God to save her husband. Before long, Chandan regained consciousness.

She offered boiled grams, slices of coconut, burnt fish and toddy to the Muthappan (Even today in Sree Muthappan temples the devotees are offered boiled grams and slices of coconut). She sought a blessing from Him. Muthappan chose Kunnathoor as His residence at the request of Chandan. This is the famous Kunnathoor Padi.

After spending some years at Kunnathoor, Sree Muthappan decided to look for a more favorable residence so that He could achieve His objective of His avataram. He shot an arrow upward from Kunnathoor. The shaft reached Parassini where the famous Parassini Temple stands today. The arrow, when it was found, was glowing in the Theertha (sacred water) near the temple. The arrow was placed on the altar of the temple. Since then, Lord Sree Muthappan has been thought to reside at Parassinikkadavu. As a boy, Muthappan was rebellious. He was a great hunter and would skin the animals that He killed and wear their skins as clothes. One day, He came across a coconut tree that was being tapped for toddy, the liquor fermented from coconut sap. He climbed the tree and emptied the jar that was holding the toddy. When the toddy tapper returned and saw Muthappan, he immediately challenged Him. Muthappan turned the man to stone for daring to address such a powerful God as Himself in such a manner. During performances of Muthappan Theyyam, the performer consumes the toddy liquor and passes it around to the spectators. In this act, Muthappan “breaks” the temple rules by allowing alcohol into temple grounds.

Sree Muthappan is always accompanied by a dog. Dogs are considered sacred here and one can see dogs in large numbers in and around the temple.

One can see two carved bronze dogs at the entrance of the temple that are believed to symbolize the bodyguards of the God. When the Prasad is ready it is first served to a dog that is always ready inside the temple complex.

Local legends enhance the importance of dogs to Sree Muthappan, such as the story that follows:

A few years ago, temple authorities decided to reduce the number of dogs inside the temple; so they took some dogs and puppies away. From that very day, the performer of the Sree Muthappan Theyyam was unable to perform; it is said that the spirit of Sree Muthappan enters the performer's body for the duration of the ceremony. But He probably refused to enter the Theyyam performer's body because the dogs had been removed. Realizing their mistake, the dogs were brought back to the temple by the temple authorities. From that day onwards, Theyyam performances returned to normal.

Several Muthappan Temples are seen in different parts of Kannur and Kasaragod districts. This signifies the popularity of the God in the minds of the people of this region of Kerala. Each Madappura has its own tradition. One interesting story relating to God Muthappan is about the Nileshwar Muthappan Madappura. The Sree Muthappan temple near National Highway No 17 in Nileshwar has a rich heritage. It conveys the philosophical, devotional and educational importance of Nileshwar. There is an interesting story regarding the construction of this Sree Muthappan Temple. An elder member of the Koroth family regularly visited the place now known as the Muthappan temple and drank madhu (Toddy), the liquor fermented from coconut sap, a kind of intoxicating drink. He was a famous scholar and got the title Ezhuthachan for his commendable achievement as a teacher. Before drinking madhu, he poured a few drops of madhu on the nearby jackfruit tree as an offering for the God Muthappan. He regularly repeated the practice. Several years after the death of the above mentioned scholar the natives experienced various kinds of serious problems and called upon an astrologer for assistance in finding out the cause behind all this. The astrologer concluded that as a result of the regular practice of giving madhu to God Muthappan, the God had started residing there. After the death of the scholar, He no longer got madhu, and in a fit of pique, began creating disturbances. Then the natives erected a Muthappan temple there. The Koroth Family then got the right of Koymma [patron] in the temple.

As a result of the formation of a committee and the work done by the members of the committee the temple has developed as a famous centre of pilgrimage and hundreds of people visited it daily. There is a strong belief that the God will cure all diseases and will bestow prosperity on His devotees. The devotees get Payakutti from the temple; and it continues to develop as a great centre of pilgrimage like the Sree Muthappan temple at Parassinikadavu.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Theyyam or Theyyattam is a popular Hindu ritual of worship in North Kerala state, India, predominant in the Kolathunadu area (consisting of present-day Kannur and Kasargod districts). As a living cult with several thousand-year-old traditions, rituals and customs, it embraces almost all the castes and classes of the Hindu religion in this region. The performers of Theyyam belong to the indigenous tribal community, and have an important position in Theyyam. This is unique, since only in Kerala, do both the upper-caste Brahmins and lower-caste tribals share an important position in a major form of worship. The term Theyyam is a corrupt form of Devam or God. People of these districts consider Theyyam itself as a God and they seek blessings from this Theyyam.A similar custom is followed in the Tulu Nadu region of neighbouring Karnataka known as Bhuta Kola.

Theyyam or Theyattam is a ritual art performed in the Malabar region i.e. in North Kerala. Kolathunaad (Kannur and Kasargod Districts) is famous for this dance. Theyyam or Theyatam derives is name from Deyvam meaning ‘God’ and Attam meaning 'Dance'. It is hence an awe-inspiring dance of the Gods. It is also known as Thira or Thirayattam in the southern Malabar region. Theyyam is one of the profound ritual arts performed in Kerala with utmost fervor and supreme ardor. Religious reverence runs high and the artist himself is said to experience a oneness with the Divine in the course of performing this dance. Theyyam is also known as Kaliyattam.

The Occasion: Theyyam is performed in the Kavus and Kottams during the festivals. Usually these festivals are held between November and May. Theyyam and these festivals are held in shrines and temples. For example, the Muthappan Theyyam is performed in the courtyard of the Parassinikkadavu temple near Kannur town. This Muthappan Theyyam is performed round the year. Karivalloor, Nileswaram, Kurumathoor, Parassini, Cherukunnu, Ezhom and Kunnathoorpadi are other shrines where Theyyams are performed during the Theyyam season. The most prominent Theyyams of Kerala are those of Raktha Chamundi, Kari Chamundi, Muchilottu Bhagavathi, Wayanadu Kulaveni, Gulikan and Pottan.

The Theme: There are more than 400 Theyyams performed in Kerala. Since it is performed by the lower clans of the Hindu social sructure, the main deity of worship or whose dance is performed is Shakti in her various forms such as Bhadrakali, Bhagavathy etc. Theyyams are often performed to appease the spirits and ghosts of the heros and forefathers. Their praises and glory are sung. Deities such as Naga (Serpent) and other spirits like the forest deities or animal deities etc. are also propitiated. As mentioned earlier, the presence of above 400 Theyyams in the state testifies to the worship of these wispy spirits and the fierce yet benevolent guardian deities such as Mari Amman, Vishnumoorthi, Pottan, Chaamundi, Rakteshwari, Karrupan Swamy, Ayyapan etc. When the Theyyams are in praise of the Goddess it recalls her battles against evil and her victories over the Asuras (demons). Theyyam represents the common man's spiritual and metaphysical beliefs as it encompasses the opportunity where the performer identifies with the gods/goddesses or the spirits of the ancestors or bygone heroes and guides the society even in matters of contemporary interest. However aggression is a common trait among all the deities or spirits worshipped in a Theyyam. As the dancer transcends to the divine realm his words are heeded as the deities will and his touch is regarded therapeutic. However the fiery natures of the deities, disregard to the word of prophecies is seldom shown as fear of their wrath exists in every heart.

The Artist: In a staunch Brahmin based society, Theyyam comes as an alleviating counterbalance. Theyyam is performed by some of the lowest castes of the hierarchy. The performers are essentially from the Velan, Malayan and Vannan communities. The dance performed by these communities is essentially with regard to the established deities such as Bhagavathy Amman, Vishu or Shiva. Other communities from which performers perform Theyyam are Mavilan, Vettuvan, Pulayan and Koppalan but their Theyyams are dedicated to their ancestors and spirit gods. The Theyyam dancers are always men from these tribes and the female characters are also played by them in appropriate costume and demeanor. However it is not an occupation that can be adopted at will. The rights of performing the Theyyam are reserved to these tribes and the right may only be acquired by virtue of birth through the maternal lineage or through marriage to a woman of the reserved clan. Strict observance of tradition in every aspect is imperative. The dancers are well versed in the history, stories and characteristic traits of the deity they play. Great emphasis is laid on the rigorous training and tradition shared by the dancers as it grooms them not only physically but spiritually as well to approach the divine trance in which the Theyyam is performed. The artist is taught all the nuances of the performance- from applying the make up to the songs; from playing the percussion to the legends and beliefs behind the deity’s worship. The artist is prepared not to be possessed as in case of the Oracle but to gain union with the deity. Ironically, these dancers’ words are venerated as the Divine Will while in the Theyyam state but even as the performance ends, they resume their mundane roles in the lowermost strata of society with no special distinction.

The Costume: The most striking feature of the Theyyam is its costume and make up. The face and body paintings are of supreme significance. In no dance form is the eye make up so emphatic. To represent the fierce deities, the eyes are blackened with mashi; thick bold strokes highlight the eyes and the face painting of a Theyyam dancer is extolled. The artist ties a headband and allows the painters to paint his face and body. Colors commonly used are red, orange, yellow, black and white as these help in playing up the aggressive features of the deity worshipped. The different patterns of face-painting for Theyyam are viradelam, kattaram, kozhipuspam, kotumpurikam, and prakkezhuthu. The face painter is at liberty to try some variety or experiment in his art but in case of the body painting is strictly dictates of tradition are adhered to. A bold colored base is painted and intricate designs made on it. The different styles of these designs depend on the Theyyam being performed. Parunthuvaal Ezhuthu (eagle’s tail) and Anchupulli Ezhuthu (five dots) are some of the styles. The head-dress, known as Muti is made out of bamboo splicings and coconut bark. This head-dress differs according to the Theyyam performed. Some such Mutis are Pookkatti, Ponmuti, Vattamuti, Chattamuti, Valiyamuti, Kondalmuti, Puthachamuti, Onkaramuti and Peelimuti. The head gear is decorated with cloth, flowers, coconut bird feathers and palm leaves. In some Theyyams very lo Mutis (50-60 feet) are also used. It is then quite a balancing act for the artist. Other jewellery worn by are ornaments such as bracelets, bangles and anklets, flower garlands and female characters are provided a breast plate fashioned out of coconut shell called mularu. The skirts are made of bamboo splices and coconut sheaths painted red and black or from red cloth tied around bamboo sticks. A red waistband is usually worn. Painted wooden masks are worn in some Theyyams.

The Performance: Theyyam is generally performed in the festival occasions in the various shrines and temples in Kerala. Both, the Thandava (aggressive) and Lasya (graceful) modes of dance are adopted in the Theyyam. The religious fervor lends vitality to the performance. The footwork is striking as the accompanying percussions such as Chenda, Veekuchenda, Elathalam and Kuzhal provide beats. Chekor Kalasam, Onnaam Kalasam, Eduthu Kalasam, Chavitti Thullal, Parakkam and Thiriyal are the various stages of the dance. Thudangal and Thottam are the beginning and the invocation. The dances may be slow moving (Pathiniyattom) or fast paced (Elakiyattom) as per the song chosen. A display of martial arts such as swordplay is not uncommon. Other props used are swords, shields, bows, arrows and other weapons. Lighted torches are held during the nightly performance to highlight the dramatic effect and to maintain a fiery ambience.

Theyyam, the ritual performance is almost 2000 year old. The attraction of the art lies in the reverence it holds in the hearts of the devotees. This is probably also the reason that such an ancient and difficult art form survives till date. The presence of the divine in the artist while he performs the Theyyam is indicated by the many miracles associated with the ritual and also the outstanding feats performed by the artist. Dancing with a head-dress as tall as about 50 feet or walking through live embers or dancing with lighted wicks stuck to the waist are indeed dangerous feats but what evokes awe is that the artists come out unscathed. Therein maybe one realizes the presence on the supernatural among us mortals.

Theyyam Kerala's important culture.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

I was able to watch 10 films in the 14th International Film Festival of Kerala. It was a good opportunity for me to watch films from different languages. From this 10 films I had seen, 7 of them remains in my mind as good films.

Films that I liked the most:

1. Treeless Mountain:

1. "Treeless Mountain"- A film directed by So Yong Kim. This story tells us a relationship between two sisters who were left alone by all. The Director had given special care to make the film a perfect life. In the middle section of the film Bin and Jin are almost always seen wearing the same clothing – a princess play dress for Bin, remnants of her old school uniform for Jin. The little girls also learns how to grill and eat grasshoppers (on a stick) for making money and also to fed themselves. This shows how the big aunt cares for them. The film is very slow moving in its story telling.

2. True Noon :

"True Noon" - A film directed by Nosir Saidov. The film tells us about the problems created by a fence which seperates two friendly villages. It creates anxiety in the minds of characters as well as in the viwers.
The army personnel put a barbed wire fence right across the village. Schools, hospitals, and many other institutions are on one side and many people are stranded on the other. It leads to some funny scenes, where a teacher stands and teaches on the one side of the fence and students sit and learn the other side. Thus the life of people, who have thus far enjoyed peace falls into a severe chaos.

3. "The Moment of Truth" -A film directed by Fancesco Rosi. This film explains about the changes happened in the life of a farmer, who wanted to earn money for better life. But the change- at last leads to his death. The bullfights helps to save money but not life, I think this is what the moral in the story. I like the film for its good moral and also the story.
A farm boy arrives in Barcelona with dreams of becoming a bullfighter, succeeds to the top of his sport, and then faces tragic end. Its quite natural that human beings run behind luck and if luck helps him for atleast one time he will start chasing for it again and again.
4. Shirin :

"Shirin" - A film directed by Abbas Kiorostami. This film was taken on an experiment basis. We had seen the film through the expression of women who were watching a Persian love story of 12th century.
We can say this film as a dramatic essay on specatorship which draws on the endless expressive potential of the human face.Here the director allows us to make reasonable guesses ourselves by observing the women’s reactions or examining their surroundings. We are introduced to the film -in the film indirectly. It is a different way of approching a film by the director for sake of the viewers. I like this way of approching the film very much even though many felt it as boring.

5. About Elly :

"About Elly" - Asghar Farhadi's Iranian film. Its one of the most remarkable Iranian films. The director had won to attain a technical perfection.
This film tells how web of lies can destroy innocent lives. Its human nature that we goes on telling lying to hide a single lie we said before, a woman’s disappearance gives rise to all sorts of issues of morality. Its common all around world. The same is the case in this film. The film continues in a comic mode until Elly’s disappearance. After Elly is found missing the story changes from the joyful context in to a very serious context.

Films I :

1."Be Calm and Count to seven" - Directed by Ramtin Lavafipour. This film tells us about the story of a boy who is struggling to brought up his mother and sister. There are many missing links in this film that the film didnot reveal to the audience like - who put the smuggled bag in front of the house of Motu, a smuggler? Its all unrevealed events presented in the film that made me to dislike the film. In my opinion a film should be something that clearly communicates to its audience.There were several lengthy dialogue scenes between boy and man . I feel it as boring. Towards the end of the film I feel unclear about what happened to Motu.
I think that this film resembles the condition in Somalia .

2. "Nothing Personal"- Directed by Urszula Antoniak.Nothing Personal might have been more focused had it concentrated on fewer individuals, the film is intensely personal tale of a independent young woman's involvement with a widower in a remote area. It's about the personal conflict. Nothing Personal is resolved, there's also something about the ending that seems inevitable, obligatory, and more than a little manipulative.

3. The Fish Child:

3. Film: "The fish child" is directed and written by Lucia Puenzo. This film is an exploration of the nature and importance of familial and romantic love. The love affair of the two women leds to the murder of a man (who is the father of one of the lady) and an escaping from the the cruel control of the moneyed upper class . At the middle of the film there are hidden and unexpected depths to events going on nearer the surface, something as if in myth and this i don't feel it as unclear to understand and so i dislike this film.