Murals of the Dancing Gods

Mar 01, 2016 | Vol 8, Issue 1
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Six Theyyam characters were made pictures in traditional Kerala style on the walls of Thekkumbad Vallarkulangara Bhagavathi Kottam during a ten day artists' camp held from 21 -30 Jan 2016 at Kunjhimangalam in Kannur district (Kerala).

The ten day long Mural workshop was unique and productive in terms of its participation and the outcome of the workshop. The workshop was jointly organized by the Southern Regional Centre of IGRMS (Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Manav Sangrahalay), Mysore in association with Folk Land, Thrikkarippur based on Folklore research and promotion and the temple management of Thekkumbad Vallarkulangara Bhagavathi Kottam, Kunjhimangalam.

The core theme of the mural workshop was Theyyam, the dancing gods of North Kerala. Six Theyyam deities, Vallarkulangara Bgavathi, Vishnumoorthy, Kurathi, Veluthabhootham, Madayil Chamundi and Kundor Chamundi, which is performed annually at this temple are now depicted in traditional Kerala mural style on the walls of Bhandarappura of the temple complex . The Managing trustee of the temple management Mr. K Padmanabhan has  said “These Theyyams are performed only once a year at the temple. But now, the devotees and other art lovers can see the figure of the deities as murals at any time, during the whole year. More over we are lucky to be part of this workshop whereby we could give an opportunity to many local artists”. 

The murals are drawn in accordance with the traditional Kerala style of murals, but using acrylic paints. Apart from six main artists, K R Babu, Renjith, Pratheesh, Sabari, Nijeesh and Priya Gopal, about 25 local artists also got the opportunity to be the part of this noble venture. According to K R Babu, the head of the artists team and an experienced and known mural artist from Kozhikode “ this must be the first time that Theyyams become the subject of mural art and definitely this work will give more opportunity and scope for drawing many other Theyyam deities in the numerous Theyyam shrines in North Kerala”.

About 500 sq ft area of the walls is now adorning with murals which is drawn by using acrylic colours. As per tradition, they used only five colours Saffron Red, Saffron Yellow, Green, black and white (as surface). Apart from the six Theyyam characters, some elements of traditional murals like Mayil Maala (peacock design), Veeralipattu (a tantric design used in holy cloths), the sacred grove, sanctum sanctorum etc. are also depicted on these walls.

The temple authorities provided accommodation and food for the entire team, who even worked during late night. Seminars were also been conducted during these days to get an awareness about murals and other cultural aspects.

According to Dr. Jayarajan, Chairman of Folk Land the whole ten days were very encouraging for the artists and the local people and many noted personalities like Prof Sarith Kumar Chowdhari , Director , IGRMS, Artist Surendran Nair, Artist Muthukoya from Lakshadweep, Art Historian Jayaram Poduval, KK Marar, a scholar in Mural tradition of Kerala, students from the local school, art lovers from far and near  visited the venue.

Location/access: Vallarkulangara Bhagavathi Temple is at Kunjhimangalam, about 6km from Payyannur in Kannur Dt (Kerala, India);  On Payyannur- Pilathara road(NH), 3km from Ezhilodu. 

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Such workshops will help to revive the tradition of wall paintings. IGRMS has published my book on wall paintings of North and Central Gujarat in 2014.

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