It’s a warm misty morning. In the early bright hours, the sparkling environs of the sacred groves at Purakkadi in Wayanad, NorthKerala, grew even livelier with the relentless echo of Cymbals and drums, the Thira, two of them walks in briskly, towering over the mud path.
Thira brings gods to earth. Thira performers dressed up with ceremonial facial paint and loud clothing started up and down rhythmically in front of the temple. Sight of gods walking side by side with ordinary mortals was interesting. The god’s face and body painted yellow and wide eyes sunken in black pits gave them a supernatural look.
There is no stage, it is an open space, the devotees standing or sitting around the performance. Women and children gathered tightly around the space while men were dispersed in the rest of the area, changing places as the Thira performers moved from one place to the other.
Each performer represents a deity. Performers seemed to be possessed by the gods, with devotees queuing up to meet them to share woes and wishes. The gods started speaking in an alien language that could be deciphered only by a few.
Gods discuss with the tribal chieftain’s reasons for a failed crop or some unfortunate incidents in their fraternity, and readily provide a solution to their problems.
In between the god pointing the sword at the chieftain’s, complains about the absence of caparisoned elephants during the ritual and neglect and lackluster attitude of the temple authorities. They listen to the gods patiently with folded praying hands.
The ritual performed in front of the shrine is not entertainment but has important social meaning and purpose. The elaborate rituals are intended for the blessings of the supernatural. In between the ritual, people approach the living god for personal blessing. Some offered money and others coconuts as offering.
Coconuts are thrown at a stone placed in the space and they are split into pieces.Breaking of coconut has a great significance.
The coconut itself symbolizes one’s own head, specifically the person’s ego. In the process of breaking the coconut, the person let’s go of his ego and pride which he might have achieved or is going to achieve. When the ego is broken, only then you can taste the sweet milk of success, or the fruit itself.
Beating of drums and cymbals reaches a crescendo, and both the god runs in circles sometimes quickly, other times slowly as dazed. In between they shout and shriek and devotees cautiously approach him bearing crumpled rupee notes, pressing them into the god’s hands for a blessing as they continues to run.
While i was clicking the rituals from a distance, the one who looked like the main god wading away the devotees, dashed towards me. I gripped my camera firmly. To my surprise he sprinkled a handful of grains on my forehead and placed his hands above it. For a moment he closed his eyes and murmured something. Lol! I was blessed! I sigh in relief as the god quickly turned away and ran towards the devotees.
These rituals went on hours, until the gods entered a trance. I couldn’t say for how long they performed as time is nonexistent for such entrancing ritual. Finally the gods sits down at the special makeshift area just meant for them.
Slowly the crowd began to disperse. A blanket of stillness prevailed over the whole space and sun is at its zenith. Thira ritual is far from over. Maybe the ritual has only begun.