About Ayyappan Thiyyattu


Ritual Arts

Kerala is a land of ritual arts. Nowhere in the country, one can see such varied but highly developed art forms associated with aaraadhana. The kalam paattu assocaited with Ayyappan, Bhagavathy, Vettekkaran and Sarpam (Serpants) are some of such most age-old ritualistic art forms of Kerala, Dravidian by nature.

Ayyappan Thiyyattu, Bhadrakali Pattu and Vettekkaran Pattu are the three sisterly ritualistic art forms mainly performed inside the temple by different ambalavasi communities. These art forms are performed by families who have protected and maintained the art form through centuries.

Down the years, Ayyappan Thiyyattu has grown in the central and northern parts of Kerala. It is performed by a typical ambalavisi (semi-brahmin) community called Thiyyadi Nambiar families (8 in number) traditionally attached to Sastha temples belonging to the Thrissur, Palakkad and Malappuram Districts. All the same, thiyyattu is most elaborately performed in the temples and nambudiri illams (houses of brahmins) of northern Kerala. It is performed as an offering to propitiate Sastha intending to have off-spring, knowledge, attainment of desires and also to avoid calamities and misfortunes (sanippizha).

A vibrant demostration of thouriathrikam involving nritta, geetha and vadya and the esoteric art of Kerala painting, Ayyappan Thiyyattu is a combination of kalam, paatu, koothu and komaram (oracle dance). The art form is in praise of Lord Ayyappa and narrates the stories of his life, especially in the thottam and koothu formats. The aaharya (make up), angika (gestures) and abhinaya of the artiste performing the koothu have much in common with that of koodiyattom, which ascribes to it an antiquity older than that of some of our classical dance-theatre forms.

A Thiyyadi Nambiar has to be proficient in all the departments of the art forms. In this sense, he is unequalled by any artiste belonging to any other art form, however sophisticated it may be.

Thiyyadi Families

Unlike other ritual art forms where members of different communities take part, Ayyappan Thiyyattu is an exclusive performance of one ambalavasi community - Thiyyadi Nambiar. They perform all the departments of thiyyattu including kalamezhuthu, paattu, koothu and komaram and occasionally even kottu (vadyam) also.

Though Thiyyadi Nambiars follow the same rituals and customs as nampoothiri brahmins, they are considered as semi-brahmins. However, while performing udayasthamaya koothu (the elaborated version of the art form), the nambiar performing the koothu almost matches a nampoothiri's rights in worship of the deity.

The anscetral household of the thiyyadi nambiar is called thiyyadi. The menfolk are called thiyyadi nambiars (thiyyadi nambi) and women maruvolamma(maravilamma). Thiruvallakkavu Sastha is their kuladaivam (family diety).

Thiyyadi Nambiars are a microscopic community with only 8 families distributed in the Trichur, Palghat and Malappuram districts of Kerala. The 8 Thiyyadis are at:

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