DER Documentary

Teyyam: The Annual Visit of the God Vishnumurti

by Erik de Maaker
with support of Institute of Cultural and Social Studies Department of Visual Ethnography Leiden University
color, 57 min, 1998




Non-profit and K-12 pricing also available
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In Northern Kerala, Hindus revere numerous Gods through Teyyam rituals. Each Teyyam is dedicated to a specific God. In Teyyam worship a ritual specialist, a teyyam performer, takes the shape of the God and becomes transformed. The rituals are performed at yearly festival held at small temples devoted to Teyyam Gods which offer devotees the opportunity to communicate directly with them, asking for support to deal with problems such as illness and theft. The Gods worshipped are violent, demanding offerings like chicken sacrifices and palm wine. The ritual specialists work in small groups of male relatives, all of whom belong to the lower castes. Each group holds rights to the annual performance of rituals at dozens of Teyyam temples. During the Teyyam season, December through March, the work at the festivals is a major source of income for the performers. The rest of the year most of them labor as poorly-payed "beedi" (cigarette) rollers. This program shows one teyyam ritual for the popular God Vishnumurti, it is a visually dazzling event which is one of the few occasions that brings both the higher and the lower castes of the different Hindu communities together. The performers are shown in the preparations and also after the festival. We have an opportunity to experience the entire socio-cultural context within which this event takes place. A study guide is being prepared by the producers of the film.


Film Festivals, Screenings, Awards
Festival, Amsterdam
Film South Asia, Kathmandu
International Convention of Asian Scholars, Leiden, The Netherlands
Society for Visual Anthropology Award for Excellence
Nuro Ethnographic Film Festival, Italy
Bilan du Film Ethnographique, Paris



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