Theyyam is the corruption of the word ‘Daivam’ that means God in Malayalam, Kerala’s state language. An incredibly vibrant tradition that has been in practice for the last 1500 years, Theyyam is a deep rooted folk religion of Malabar, the northern region of Kerala. Where the Theyyam practitioner or the Oracle, in a state of exalted trance, becomes the physical manifestation of a deity. He is believed to be possessed with divine powers to heal, foretell the future and confer blessings on devotees. A Theyyam practitioner traditionally hails from scheduled castes, who are socially disadvantaged communities in Kerala where caste divisions are still very strong. But interestingly, during Theyyam, the oracle is worshipped as a living deity by all classes of people, even by the Brahmins, the community at the helm of the social system.

A visually rich cult with explosive colours of face and body painting of the practitioner, Theyyam is also a religious art with its dense layers of imagery and symbolism, where ancient chants are employed in conjunction with the ritual use of music, richly coloured fabrics and dance to visualize and invoke the deity.
Gods and goddesses are believed to be invoked in flesh in the religious cult of TheyyamLong makeup sessions involves painting the face and body of oracle with vegetable dyesPost make up, the oracle ceremonially gazes into a mirror as the incarnate deityWorkers preparing the god's costume using richly coloured fabricsA Fire Theyyam  with 16 fire torch around the waist upon a sheath of  coconut leaves.Another fire Theyyam where the performer jumps repeatedly through the bonfireThe oracle struts, pirouettes and jabs frenetically and talks in a different voice toneDance by the oracle in a huge red-gilt, mirrored headdress accompanied with drumbeatsAs a  Living God, the oracle is worshipped by all classes of people, even by the BrahminsAn oracle struts through the crowd, chanting blessings as the devotees gather around himTwo kamerans, or the servants of the God, hold the oracle  as he dances on a stoolOnce out of the trance, eyes of the oracle are nursed with cold waterA Theyyam practitioner removes  his make up. He is a well-digger by profession