India // Kerala //


The only place you can be almost guaranteed a glimpse of theyyem is the village of PARASSINIKADAVU, 20km north of Kannur, beside the River Valapatanam, where the head priest, or madayan, of the Parassini Madammpura temple performs twice a day during winter (6.30–8.30am & 5.45–8.30pm) before assembled worshippers. Elaborately dressed and accompanied by a traditional drum group, he becomes possessed by the temple’s presiding deity – Lord Muthappan, Shiva, in the form of a kiratha, or hunter – and enacts a series of complex offerings. The two-hour ceremony culminates when the priest/deity dances forward to bless individual members of the congregation. Even by Keralan standards, it is an extraordinary spectacle, and well worth taking time out of a journey along the coast for.

Regular local buses leave Kannur for Parassinikadavu from around 7am, dropping passengers at the top of the village. If you want to get here in time for the earliest theyyem, however, you’ll have to splash out on one of the Ambassador taxis that line up outside Kannur bus stand (around Rs400 return). Cabbies sleep in their cars, so you can arrange the trip on the spot by waking one up; taxis may also be arranged through most hotels. Either way, you’ll have to leave around 4.30am. Alternatively, stay in the conveniently located Thai Resort (t 0497/278 4242; Rs1201–2000) 80m from the temple. Shaded by coconut trees, seven circular stone cottages are dotted around a well-kept garden, with cool, comfortable rooms.