This Bhuta/Theyyam breastplate - part of a costume worn during the ritual dance of coastal Karnataka and the North Kerala region is hand-carved out of a single block of wood with motifs of serpents and other tribal elements hand-painted on it. These are repainted once every few years during festivals.
Theyyam is a very popular ritualistic form of dance worship practised in North Kerala. It is a form of worship that has been around for several thousand years. People of these North Kerala districts consider Theyyam itself to be God. The performers of Theyyam are mostly from lower communities. It is also a form of ancestor worship. This custom of Theyyam is very similar to Bhuta Kola followed in Tulu Nadu districts of South Karnataka. Both have the same tribal origins where spirits are worshipped and there are priests or oracles who impersonate and moderate between the tangible and the intangible.
Theyyam is performed usually in front of the village temple and deity and is accompanied by a lot of folk instruments. Theyyam performers wear very elaborate make-up (face painting) and costumes.
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