Cultural History of North Malabar

Kerala has a rich tradition of Folklore. Folklore in this region is a spontaneous expression of human behavior and thoughts. Generally speaking, Folklore could be defined as the lore of the common people who had been marginalized during the reign of feudal Kings. The Keralites have their culture and lore which were mostly part of agricultural. Sowing, planting of nharu (sidling) dearing out he weeds, harvests etc are the different stages of agriculture which have their typical rituals. Numerous songs and performing arts are accompanied with them. Kanyar Kali, Padayani, Mudiyettu, Malavayiyattam, Theyyam, Kothamooriyattam, Nira, Puthari, etc. are some of the ritual folklore of Kerala. Kerala could be divided into four cultural areas: Travancore – Cochin, Central Kerala, South Malabar and North Malabar. North Malabar has its own cultural identity. It was under the rule of Kolathiris. The Kings of Kolathunadu had codified the rituals, beliefs, taboos and Folk Performing arts. Even the dates of specific fertility rituals and Folk Performances were decided by the Kolathiris in which most of them are continuing even today.The dates of Theyyam festivals are conducted as per the dates once fixed by the King. Human fertility is an important aspect of Folklore. Magical rituals were widely performed by the Keralites to get children. Most of them are practiced for barren women for fertility. The magical rituals like 'Shadkarmas' were also practiced in this region. Black magical rituals like Maranam (slaughter), Vasyam (the trick of entice others), Uchadanam (eradication) and Sthambhanam (getting obstructed) were widely influenced by the people of North Malabar.

There was no cast distinction in the Kavus (Shrines) of North Malabar. Hindus only were permitted to enter the temples even today. But in the Kavus, the worshipping places of the castes below Brahmins were welcomed everybody irrespective of religion and caste. There are about 400 Theyyams still performed in the Kavus of North Malabar. About twenty castes perform Theyyams. All the people in the village involve in the performances of Theyyam and Poorakkali. Even muslim Theyyams are also performed. So we can definitely say that the folk culture of North Malabar is a secular one. Caste distinction is not observed during folk performances in the Kavus or open places. During British rule, Folklore is served as a vehicle for political protest. Some of the folk literature in the feudal system reflected the aspirations and protest against social oppression. The Theyyam like Pulimaranja Thondachan, Palanthayi Kannan, Chathambali Vishakandan, Thotumkara Bhagavathi etc. were the martyrs of social oppression of the local chieftains. Mappilappattu, Kolkkalippattu, Thottampattu, Poorakkalipattu, and Nattipattu, are typical examples of this kind of protest. Classical arts like Chakyarkooth, Kathakali, and semi classical art Thullal are prevalent in some places of North Malabar. But irrespective of industrialization and modernization Folk performing arts and other genres of Folklore are still alive in this are. Theyyams are performed I n the hundreds of Kavus. To an extend fertility rituals also survive here. North Kerala is still a repository of Folklores. Thousands of tourists are visiting here to witness and study the diversified culture, Folk performing arts, the simple and even the folk oriented life style and attractive folk ritual tradition.