777 | Theyyam Kannur

I’m Dinesh writing review for Theyyam Travel walk .

I have been planning (only planning) to go for a travel walk for the last few months but this time I made it. And finally this my First Travel walk. Thanks Jenith for letting me know about this walk. Initally we planned to go there by car from Chennai, but at last we ended up going by different modes of transport. 

30-01-2020 (Day 0)


Me and Vilvesh have started to Kannur in Train at 5.00 PM, while Saravanan and Raj Kumar started from Banglore by car, finally Aravindan and Ananda Prasad started by flight from Chennai. They have reached the hotel by night and those were the only people at that Hotel. 
31-01-2020 (Day 1)


People from Banglore reached the hotel by 3.30 AM and started along with the people already in hotel to experience “Gulikan Theyyam, Vayanattu Kulavan theyyam” but they were a bit late, while we are still in train expecting to reach kannur soon. We reached Payyanur by 6.30 AM and took a auto to reach the hotel which was around 15Kms from station. We reached the hotel by 7.15 AM, took a rest and were waiting for them to arrive at the hotel. They came by 10’o clock and then we had breakfast, then we went to a pond in that resort which was quite good and spent some time there. We came back and they were sharing about their experience of their morning theyyam. We had Lunch by 2.00 PM in hotel and were planning about the evening theyyam.
Our next temple location was around 25Kms from the hotel. So we started at 4.45 PM, had tea on the way and reached there by 6.00 PM. They were setting up the temple for theyyam and doing makeups. We took a couple of pictures and were waiting for the vellatam of (preview of the next day’s early morning theyyam)“Kanda Karnan Theyyam”  to start. The temple was quite big and the crowd was huge. After sometime the photographers count started increasing. The event started at around 7.15 PM and it was quite tough to take photos as the crowd was heavy, but anyhow we took some pictures. We started from there to the hotel by 8.30 PM, had dinner and ended the day in the hotel.
01-02-2020 (Day 2)


We started around 2.30 AM in the morning to witness the intense of “Kanda Karnan Theyyam”  and reached there by 3.30 AM. Now the crowd of both people and photographers was huge like we could find a place to stand. Makeup is being done on one side where the rituals are on the other side. Around 5.00 AM the started the main event by saying us to step back. The person who was going to perform theyyam was fully covered with fire balls (தீ பந்தம்) over his hip and a very long crown about 10 to 15 feet with fire balls set at some intervals. He started performing by doing the rituals and then revolved around the temple a couple of times. It was quite tough to travel along with them and take photos, but we did manage to do it. We left the temple around 8.00 AM and planned to visit Madayi Para which was on the way to our hotel. We spent some time and took a group picture there, had team some where in the middle on the way back to hotel. We had breakfast, charged our cameras came back to our room and took a small nap to prepare for the next temple. We had lunch at around 2.00 PM and went back to the pond in the resort to take photos. We took a group picture there, some portraits of our self then came back to room took our gears and started to Ariviruthi Tharavadu Temple.
We reached there around 5.00 PM and found backwaters parallel to the temple. We had a great welcome at the temple and enquired them about the timings of the vellatam. There were preview three theyyam’s planned for the night. We had some time, so we went to the backwaters and took some photos of the sunset and enjoyed the place. We went back to the temple. The temple was next to a house whom were the people conducting the theyyam. We heard a voice asking us to have tea and we said yes. They took us inside their home, bought us some sweets, banana and tea. We were totally overwhelmed and felt grateful for their hospitality, then we came out and were waiting for the theyyam to start. The first one was the preview of “Kandanar Kelan Theyyam”. We were told that during the preview the intensity of the fire will be less. There was a sufficient place to stand around to take photos. We took some photos and were curious to witness the full intensity of the “Kandanar Kelan Theyyam” in Morning. They asked us to have food but we did not as we already ordered food in the hotel. We started back to the hotel but there was heavy traffic as another festival was happening on the way. Completed dinner in the hotel and took rest as we need to get up early.
02-02-2020 (Day 3)


We left the hotel by 2.45 AM and reached at 3.30 AM. “Kudiveeran theyyam” was completed before we reach. Then “Mamballi Bhagavathi Theyyam” started while others were setting up fire bed for the next theyyam. We clicked some pictures, took a safe place to witness and capture “Kandanar Kelan theyyam”. The fire bed was ready, the most awaited moment being there. Theyyam started by kicking of the fire bed and the fire was intense and they started walking and jumping across the fire bed. It was very challenging to capture those moments, and hope we got some good shots. Later we got to talk with the person who organized the Theyyam, had a good talk, got his number for further use. Then we suddenly planned to experience sunrise at a beach, so we started to Choottad Beach, Kannur. Spent around an hour there, took some photos and started back to the hotel. 
Post breakfast Ananda, Raj and Aravind started by 9.30 AM at hotel to Kannur Airport, Saravanan, Vilvesh and Me started by 12.00 PM in Saravanan’s car back to Banglore. Saravanan dropped us in Bangalore around 10.15 PM and were waiting for the bus to Chennai. Me and Vilvesh got bus by 11.40PM and reached Chennai safely by 4.15 AM. 

This was my first time ever to Kerala, had a great experience, and is one of the memorable trip.

Thanks for organizing the trip Raj, hope everyone got good pictures and great memories!

Group Photograph

Theyyam - CWC Walk 777

Vilvesh Swaminthan Says

All the CWC walks exciter’s me & I was very excited for this walk, as I was not able to join a travel walk for a very long time & recent Theyyam walk pictures by our fellow CWC’ians were all very inspiring. Some how Rajkumar came up with Theyyam Trip idea & we all finalized a date to go. Raj & SD came in Car from Banagalore, Aravind & AP came in Flight & Dinesh & myself in Train. Aravind & AP earlier evening itself, while SD & Raj join them in early hours. Unfortunately they went to Theyyam late by few minutes & missed it by whisker. By the time, myself, dinesh reached Payyanur next day morning. While we straightaway went to the place we were staying Yamunatheera. On the way to the place, we witnessed beautiful canals, sunrise, backwaters, big trees, silent town which was yet to wake up. We settled in our room, took a 1hr power nap before other guys from experiencing there first Theyyam. 
We both were very eager to see the picture & listen to their stories of Theyyam – Gulikan Theyyam, Vayanattu Kulavan Theyyam. By 10 am all came & What we saw was disappointing faces. Raj said ‘they missed main event by whicker’. Main event in Fire Theyyam was over as they just reached the place. They still were able to capture relatively another Theyyam which happens in Day time, where the Person who puts the Mask plays around with Kids & goes around nearby houses to tell their fortune.
As the next Theyyam was in evening, we thought of taking our breakfast & see the place where we were staying. From hotel we had a very scenic view of the mountains. After a good breakfast, we went to see the place behind out hotel. It has nice pathway, with lawns on both side & a Pond with lots of steps surrounded with lots of Rubber Trees. During our stay, regularly we used come to Pond & be there for some time. We retrieved to our room to take rest before the event in Evening as Raj &SD went to Theyyam as soon as they reached the hotel in early hours.

Theyyam - Behind the Scenes

All got up after a good sleep, had good bath with good lunch as we were the only people staying the whole hotel, we were served food of our choice & taste was good. After lunch, Raj was telling us about what kind of pictures we can expect, what kind of lens will be suitable as the events of Theyyam happen majorly after evening when the light is not much, telling about the event name we were going to, history about Theyyam, showed us pictures he saved for reference, local photographers who have captured Theyyam extensively & how each Theyyam is different from one other. Myself & Dinesh got tired by taking rest from morning & were very eager to witness the Theyyam.

Theyyam - Behind the Scenes

Around 4:30pm, we were all on our way to Vellatam of (preview of the next day’s early morning theyyam)”Kanda Karnan Theyyam” to start. Theyyam, Google Maps didn’t disappoint with showing us correct location. This time around we reached the place well on time. It was not much crowded as the event just started. One Theyyam artist was doing prayers in front of Temple; another one was putting on his make-up. There were few photographers from France, who were also capturing the Theyyam. The transformation of the Artist from normal person to see him after putting whole make-up, dress was stunning, soon after he started the performance. The Energy of the Theyyam artists was is mind blowing. With all the make-ups, the Dress, the ornaments they wear, the dance they do, unbelievable to see how they were able to keep up their energy levels throughout for nearly 2-3 hrs. Soon, more crowds came in to watch the Theyyam. It was really tough for us to capture, as the movements of the Theyyam performer was very fast. After sometime, the one was performed prayer before the start of the event came & both of them started dancing together. Then they light small portion of dry coconut leaves & both of them danced on it. People were very cooperating, they knew we have come here to experience & capture the event; they did not complaint much even though we were hiding them of the view. Around 11 pm, we went back to our rooms to back come again by early morning 4 am to capture the main event. 

We started the place, had tea on the way & reached the place on time. This time there was more crowd, we knew it is going to be very challenging to capture the Kanda Karnan Theyyam. 50mm was our only way to savior. It got too much crowded, even the Theyyam artists did not had place to perform the dance. We somehow got upfront to capture the Theyyam. After sometime, another Theyyam performer came in a totally different getup. We could not even get near him, too much all people & all taking pictures with their phones. They had out a huge Fire for the Night, it was too hot. One side we had sea of crowd, another side this Hot Fire. All of us were have no idea about how we are going to capture the event. What we next witnesses for stunning. The person had put a altogether different costume, with 10 big fire sticks popping out & above all had huge tall big fire sticks on his head for over 6-8 feet. With all this Fire, make-up, costume he came around the Temple 3 times. After that, he stopped in front of temple deity & was telling fortune for the people & after sometime all the fires were removed & he got into state of. After this, it was almost 6 am, another performance started which was full of dance & it was almost for 1 hr. The sound of Chanda mela & dance was such a visual to eyes & ears to witness. At this end of this performance, the Theyyam artist bit the Head of a Cock & threw the body away separately. That was absolutely raw, I never witnessed such. He was having the Head of the cock in his mouth for around 1 min. It was almost 8 am & Theyyam came to end. Our first Theyyam experience on day 1 was mind-blowing, stunning & raw. After that we were on our way to room & then decided to go to madayipara. We were not able to go to actual location, as some road works were going on. We decided to take Group pic there. We went back to our room, had breakfast & had good sleep.

Theyyam - Behind the Scenes

Again like previous day, started to another place to witness Theyyam. The place was very scenic, it was located near backwaters & we were the only photographers to reach their. The owner of the house, received us, asked about from where we were coming & shared the kind of Theyyam going to happen there, timings until next morning. He invited all of us to his house to have tea & snacks. He was very happy that we came to see the Theyyam which was happening in his place. Theyyam artist were putting on their make-up for the evening event. The Fire for this Theyyam was quite big; the performance of the artist was fantastic. It was a intense performance. As we were finding tough to find place to take picture, Dinesh found perfect vantage point among audience to take the pictures & they were really happy to have him among them. After that, we had another performance by a Theyyam artist who did dance movements very slowly which was complete contrast to what we witnessed earlier. After that, we called it off for the day around 8:30 pm as we have to come back as early as 3am. After we reached room, had dinner & raj was again sharing his thoughts about Theyyam. He told not to take any risk & take pictures in 50mm as it would be too dark at that time.

Theyyam - Behind the Scenes

We were on time in the place, this time the place was crowded with more people & photographers. Dinesh was recognized by the audience who gave him space yesterday evening. First performance was Pudhiya Bhagavathi Theyyam similar to previous day, where the Theyyam artist would put Fire sticks around his body & also around his head with big hat kind of thing. The make-up, dress overall look look ferocious. The performance was very intense & fierce. The person ran around the place with fire around his body instead as previous day the person circled the temple. By the time we came in the morning, huge fire was put for the main Theyyam event. Now after the first event, for the second event fire was split by people. Everybody was asked to move away as they may get hit by fire. The performer & his troupe of people jumped on the fire to let it split it around all over, people unaware of what was coming run all over. Then it was collected by their troupe, dry coconut leaves were put & huge fire was created. The Theyyam Artist ran & Jump over it again & again several times. At that time, all lights are switched off & the light from the Fire is the only source of light. It was fierce, intense, extremely hot situation. We were confused whether to take photos or just witness what was going on. Photographers had very little chance of capturing what was happening, as it dark, fire was the only source of light, very crowded, artist jumped, ran very fastly, camera tries its best level to be faster as the Artist. It was absolute madness for around 5-10 mins. The artist would also dance around & throw the fire upwards. Nobody would be able to stand there due to extreme heat. After a while, we took breathe for ourselves, thinking what we just witnessed. We thought whatever picture we got is our luck. Theyyam is event where as photographer has to be fast & have to assume what the Artist is going to do next. After seeing our pics, we were not satisfied with our pictures but event like Theyyam is not easy to cover & made up our mind with whatever pic we got. After that, we left the place to nearby beach for Sunrise. The place was total contrast to place where it was complete chaos. We witnessed a beautiful Sunrise, with fishermen around fishing, sounds of water, white sand. Headed towards our room & our trip came to end. 

Anand, AP & Raj early to catch the Flight, Myself, Dinesh & SD started towards Bangalore in car after a couple of hours.

There are different types of Theyyam, somewhere around 1000 types. Chenda Melam music plays a major role in Theyyam, the music which keeps the Theyyam artist energy level up & they too maintain the composure throughout. Whatever we witnessed is among the popular ones. The experience was very much cherishing. People were very cooperative, they were very happy to know that we came all the way to experience & capture the Theyyam and Hospitality was top notch.

Mamballi Bhagavathi Theyyam

30 Jan 2020 – 02 Feb 2020


Friday – Monday

Meeting Point

Chennai Central

Contact Person

Rajkumar Pandiyan


1. Rajkumar Pandiyan
2. Saravanan Dhandapani
3. Aravindan Ganesan
4. Ananda Prasath
5. Vilvesh Swaminathan
6. Dinesh Rajendran