Seepothi Theyyams of Nittoor

Jul 01, 2017 | Vol 09 | Issue 04
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Nittoor, a remote village in Kozhikode district is the known place where the ritual art Seepothi Theyyam is observed still in its traditional way

The month of Karkkidakom, the local calendar which falls mid July and extends for 30 days approximately is the peak of monsoon in Kerala with no agriculture activity. During earlier years this month was considered as the worst period due to heavy monsoon and most of the communities have their own religious rituals to vile away this month. One such ritual is Seepothi Theyyam. Nittoor, a remote village in Kozhikode district still observes this ritual in its traditional form.

Theyyam is a manifestation of God and performed as ritual to propitiate the God. The ritual Theyyam is practiced by the Hindu communities in north Kerala. Sreebhagavathi, shortly called Seepothi is the Goddess of prosperity. The Goddess appears in front of their devotees in the form of Seepothi Theyyam to bless them and to help them to tide away the struggles and illness during the month Karkkidakom and to welcome the next month Chingom (from mid of August).

The right of performing this ritual art is vested with the Malayan community. The senior performers are generally honoured with the surname Panikkar. In Nittoor, the members from the 'Vellolippil' family of Malayans residing at Vellolippu are the performers. They perform in pairs, one of them portrays the character Seepothi and the other person accompanies with Thudi, a percussion instrument.

Seepothi Theyyam along with the singer of folk songs who is also the percussionist visits all the homes in the village. The family members welcome them with a lighted Nilavilakku, the traditional oil lamp and a basin full of water mixed with shell-lime. The Theyyam performs in rhythmic manner by waving both hands according to the beats of Thudi and folk songs, which lasts for about five minutes. The water known as 'Guruthi' is then dispersed to the east side of the house.  The performers then proceeds to next house.

Unlike other Theyyam characters, Seepothi is generally performed by children, irrespective of gender, as it doesn't have much complicated rituals and performances. But the accompanying person will be an experienced performer in both drumming and folksongs. There are ceremonious costumes for Seepothi- white skirt, red top, gold-like ornaments, small headgear etc. and carry a traditional umbrella made of palm leaves.

At Nittoor, Seepothi Theyyam is performed on the last day of the Malayalam month Karkkidakom. Usually about seven pairs of performers go around the whole village since early morning to evening, visiting around 250 homes.  The senior most member of the family is Kelappan Panikkar who is 75 years old. His son Rajesh (38yrs), grand children Lalu and Shijin are also performers. 21 year old Lalu is doing this ritual performance since his childhood. Other members involved in this ritual practice are Kanaran Panikkar (Kelappan's brother), Kunjhiraman Panikkar, Kanaran Panikkar, Bhaskaran Panikkar and Chathu Panikkar (all cousins of Kelappan) who all reside in the adjacent homes in Vellolippu. The children from their family do the role of Seepothi. Kelappan Panikkar says “This is our hereditary ritual and we have been doing this for ages. Now we go for other jobs, but still we are bound to continue and uphold this tradition.”

Kalan Pattu, Vedan pattu  and Onapottan are the other ritual performed  by these family members during the same season. Kalan pattu and  Vedan pattu  are folk songs connected to the deities Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu respectively. Onapottan is another Theyyam   which is performed during the Onam celebrations in the month of Chingom.

Location/access: On Vatakara- Kuttiadi road, Nittoor or Vellolippu is accessible from Ambalakulangara bus stop. From Vatakara its about 25km. Kozhikode- Nittoor by road is about 58km.

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