Ritual Sports in Kerala
Kerala celebrates as a host of major festivals that include religious, temple, social rituals and traditions. The bloom carpet called Onapookkalam, the rhythmic yells of joy in chorus called Aarpu vili, the Pulikkali and the mirthful pieces of music associated with it are some of the ancient customs and rituals affiliated with the impressive ten days Onam festival in Kerala.
The Vishukkai Neettam ceremonial throughout the Vishu festival wherein the elders offer gifts and cash to the children of the family is yet another significant traditional art in Kerala.
Among the brahmin or namboothiri community of Kerala, the Somayaga traditions have been so well preserved and are practiced in their pristine purity frequently throughout occasions. This yaga custom which is an impressive activity, has survived for almost 3,000 years. The melodies and dance performers of Kerala pursue their own indigenous customs and rituals, each distinct according to the heritage context within which the activity takes place.
Similarly, Kerala Syrian Christians who are often referred by the customary name Nasranis, have maintained some of the original rituals of the early Jewish Syrian Christians. One can easily find numerous Jewish Syrian rituals and customs from the Nasranis of Kerala at present. The Muslims of Kerala too have their own unique culture and traditions which they diligently pursue during their religious and wedding festivals. The famous oppana and mapillappattu are some of them. Some of the ritual sports in Kerala include:
The Art is the oldest and only ancient martial arts in existence around the world. It is believed to be the mother of all Asian martial arts and prominently in practice in the Kerala state. The Kalaripayattu is originally a kind of martial art training which includes some unique kind of training and practice which can be takes place in a Kalari or place of military service. It houses some specific and symbolic architectural building where it performs. It is highly effective and deadly martial art practice which teaches a means of both attack and defense.
Theyyam is another ancient ritual art forms of the state Kerala. Villages like Payyanur and other villages where many Bagavathu Kavus and Thraravadu are observed where theyyam is performing. The Theyyam represents the mythological and the divine character of God. In Northern Kerala, there are around 400 Theyyams are found. The art is mainly performed by the male members of the traditional caste groups. The vast dresses, costumes and body painting with trance like performances are very extraordinary and must to see performances.
This is another ritual dance performances which are done by men only during the nine festival days of Pooram in Bhagavathy temples across North Malabar region of Kerala. While performing the Poorakkali, men who are going to perform the act, decked themselves in lion costumes around a huge lit lamp. The specific dance involves masculine movements and martial arts steps.
Margomkali is a ceremonial folk art of the Syrian Christians of Kottayam and Thrissur areas. A dozen dancers vocalize and dance round a lighted wick light, dressed with simple customary white dhoti and sporting a peacock feather on the turban to add a touch of color. This is an allegorical enactment with the light representing Christ and the performers his disciples. The performance is generally held in two components and starts with songs and promenades narrating the life of St.Thomas, the apostle. It then takes a striking turn with a martial play of artificial swords and shields. The narration is stark without musical accompaniments. The pieces of music date back to a period much before the Portuguese attack. Today, Margomkali is only performed as a stage item by women.
Cockfights, one time patronized by royalty, still popular in numerous parts of Kerala. The sport has birds mauling each other often till death, as the encircling gatherings barrack and exchange money on every winning stroke. Held as a ceremonial, the cockfight is well liked in northern components of Kerala, mostly in Kasaragod district. It is accepted that offering of cock blood to the Theyyam Gods will save family members.