Teyyam, the spectacular ritual dance widely performed in north Kerala, has his distinct forms of visual and verbal expression. However, what was once expressed through the distinctly indigenous forms of this religious "other" no longer remains the same, as the specificities of meaning and messages as encoded in the whole structure of its ritual performance were leveled out and superceded by the ideological laundering of caste Hinduism. RITUAL AS IDEOLOGY looks into the specific cultural formation of teyyam-it re-frames and interprets various myths of the situating them in the historical conditions in which they originated.
Based on a study of the myths at a micro-structural level, the book explores from a sociological perspective how the ritual functions as ideology, apart from its cultic or religious significance. The study also unfolds and explains the gender disparity between the archetypal Female Devourer and her Male Victims, the recurrent motifs in the myths related to various manifestations of the Terrible Mother in teyyam. The study thus acquires contemporary significance in the face of cultural authoritarianism that in the face of cultural authoritarianism that in its design of appropriation attributes the village pantheon of every "little tradition" to canonical Hinduism, a process that has been so rife in today's cultural politics.
Chandran T. V. is Lecturer in Art History in the Government College of fine Arts, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala. He obtained his Masters in Art History and Aesthetics from the MS University of Baroda, Gujarat. He has been doing research on teyyam since 1992. This book is part of his on-going research for which he received a fellowship from the (IGNCA), New Delhi in 1997. He has presented papers in national and international seminars on art and folklore and has been contributing to periodicals on related issues. He also regularly writes on work in progress is Adhunika Chitrakala: Avasthyum Akhyanvum (in Malayalam).
To put it simply, this book is about the tradition of teyyam -a ritual pageantry with multiple forms of visual and verbal manipulation, widely performed in north Kerala. Leaving aside the performative, ritualistic, cultic or religions aspects, the study looks 'into' the specific cultural formation of teyyam which has, to paraphrase Victor Turner, a dominant from of cultural-aesthetic 'mirror' in which it achieves a certain degree of self-reflexivity. Over the time, the 'mirror' has turned out to be less self-reflexive, finally obscuring and distorting what it reflects. Perhaps, holding 'mirror' back into history in it right context, one can still (be) hold what it once reflected. This view should, in come sense, help decode the meaning and message that were encrusted in the collective mind of the community. As such, this study was first undertaken in 1996 as a project with a grant from the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA), New Delhi, which was entitled The Tradition of Teyyam: An art Historical Interpretation. However, it took a different direction to become less art historical in orientation as, for instance, in the matter of addressing formal aspects of teyyam as ritual art. This explains the change in its to the present from. Except that, the overall content substantially remains the same only with a marginal revision. The first chapter of introduction is considerably revised. Chapter five in the book is newly added. It is a conflation of some of the ideas put forth in the two papers presented, one at the International Congress on Kerala Studies, held by the centre for Development studies and AKG Research and study centre, Trivandrum in 1994, and the other, at the pictorial Tradition of Kerala, held by Kerala, Lalitha Kala Akademy and International Center for Kerala studies, University of Kerala in 1997.
Due to some practical constrains I was forced to leave out many issues which otherwise could have been integrated in the whole discussion in this book. For the some reason I was able to use only limited resources, especially various theoretical studies in the related disciplines. In spite of this fact, I would like to say that the study has led me to explore some remarkable ideas in the direction of though-how ritual function as ideology.
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