Street in Bath


A street in Bath, a bus in Medellín, a gesture in Gyeongju –
A yellow fragrance in Oaxaca, Oleanders on the isle of Skopelos –
Memories distort geography.
But how did the Mayas learn about elephants, about Ganesh, and the precise shape of his ears?

Finding India in Unexpected Places
Poems from the Underground
by Sujata Bhatt


Agni Khandakarnan

Theyyam is a popular ritual form of worship of North Malabar in Kerala, India. Agni Kandakarnan (Agni Fire, Ghanta bell, Karna Ear) is a theyyam having heavy torches around the waist of the Kolam. In this Theyyam the head gear stands tall some as tall as 50 feet.

The Agni Khantakarnan theyyam being readied for performance
The Agni Khantakarnan theyyam being readied for performance

The costume is made from coconut fronds, palm leaves, bamboo etc. This Theyyam dances on fire embers with lighted torches tied to the waist. Thick paste made of turmeric powder is kept just below the place where the torch is lit to avoid possible casualties. The head gear also has lighted torches. There is no stage or curtain or other such arrangements for the performance. The devotees would be standing or some of them would be sitting on a sacred tree in front of the shrine. In short, it is an open theatre. Here you see the theyyam being prepared, just short of head gear.