Muslim priests appointed in Hindu temples in Kerala
Mappila Theyyam performance from Kasaragod, Kerala, which features Muslim characters
A video, purportedly showing a person sounding the Islamic call to prayer (adhan) during a temple ritual, is doing the rounds of social media. According to several users, “This is happening in Kerala as they deployed Christian & Muslim priest in Hindu temples.”
Newschecker noticed that the 1:30-seconds video was of a Theyyam performance, a ritualistic dance usually seen in north Kerala.
Taking a cue from this, we ran a keyword search for “Theyyam adhan”, which led us to this Times Now report, dated January 16, 2023, featuring a thumbnail of the viral video. According to the report, the video was first posted on the popular Twitter account @AbbakkaHypatia on January 11, with the caption: ” Kerala Theyyam with Islamic prayer said first. Our unity is centuries old.”
“Mainly performed by males, about 456 types of Theyyams have been documented so far. Theyyam season starts on the tenth day of the Malayalam month of Thulam and lasts up to seven months. The main Theyyam dance is performed in front of the village shrine. It may also be performed in the houses as ancestor worship with elaborate rites and rituals,” read the report.
We then ran a relevant keyword search, which led us to this Youtube news report by Kairali News on “Mappila (Muslim) Theyyams”, featuring the viral video, dated December 24, 2022. The report stated that the viral video of “Theyyakolam starting with an Adhan” is from Kasaragod, Kerala’s northernmost district. The performance was of a Bapiriyan-Manichi theyyam, held at Kasaragod’s Madikai temple. Similar news reports can be seen here and here, stating that the performance was an example of communal harmony.
According to this Indian Express report, dated January 16, 2023, “Theyyam is a Hindu ritualistic dance performed in northern Kerala and parts of Karnataka, often by people from Scheduled Castes, who are treated as God-like entities during the brief act. While most Theyyam performances depict Hindu and tribal fables, in some areas, the dance form even includes Muslim characters.”
We learnt that Manichi Theyyam and Bapiriyan (Bappooran) Theyyam belong to Muslim Theyyams, where Hindu performers play Muslim characters and perform Islamic rituals. “In north Kerala, the Muslims are generally addressed as Mappla (colloquial of Mappila). Thus, the Muslim Theyyams are generally known as Mappila Theyyam. There are about fifteen Mappila Theyyams. While most of them are deified in Kasaragod district and performed by members of the Mavilan and Koppalan communities, in Kannur district it is mainly performed by the Vannans…though Theyyam is a traditional Hindu ritualistic art form, by including Muslim characters, it has been celebrating communal harmony,” read a report published in The Hindu, dated May 23, 2019.
Video of a Theyyam performance from north Kerala falsely claimed to be evidence of Muslim priests being appointed in Hindu temples.
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