Help pours in for Kerala Muslim woman as her meet with Muthappan Theyyam goes viral
M T Ramlath, clutching a Rs 20 note in her sweaty hand, was hesitantly standing in a crowd of devotees before the Muthappan Theyyam.
KASARAGOD: MT Ramlath, clutching a Rs 20 note in her sweaty hand, was hesitantly standing in a crowd of devotees before the Muthappan Theyyam. Balakrishnan PV, her next-door neighbour at Padna Kadappuram in Valiyaparamba panchayat, organised the Theyyam ritual in his house as part of a commitment he made to the deity.
The homemaker, who barely made ends meet, just wanted to offer the Rs 20 to the deity and scoot. But seeing the woman in the black abaya and hijab, the Muthappan Theyyam called her to the front. The next two-and-a-half minutes changed her life as the interaction between the Theyyam and the woman was recorded and shared on social media by KV Shaju, an electrician and relative of Balakrishnan. “I did not know that I was being recorded,” said Ramlath.
Shaju said he shared the video because it showed the syncretic culture of his village. The Muthappan Theyyam, considered the personification of Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva, is one of the most liberal deities in Malabar. His shrines, called Madappura, are open to people from all cultures and castes. In the Muthappan Madappura in Kannur’s Parassinikadavu —the most important of all Muthappan shrines — one can see dogs lazing inside along with devotees.
When the Muthappan Theyyam at Balakrishnan’s house saw Ramlath, he said: “You are not an outsider. Come here. Did you think you are different because of your religion or caste?” Ramlath can be seen shaking her head to say no. “Are you happy? What do you have to tell Muthappan?” Ramlath broke down while she whispered her troubles to the Theyyam. The empathetic Theyyam held her hands and asked her not to cry. “You must be wondering you pray five times a day and follow the tenets of Islam and yet why you are not getting lasting happiness in this world. Hold tight to your faith,” said Theyyam.
Ramlath’s husband Abdul Kareem lost his job as a cook in a restaurant in Mumbai two years ago. They have a son and two daughters in classes 9, 7, and 4. “After the video went viral, many people have come forward to help us. They also appreciate me. But a few narrow-minded people criticise me, too,” she said. “But I am not bothered,” she said.
Sani Peruvannan, a member of the Vannan Scheduled Caste community who incarnated as Muthappan Theyyam, said people from all faiths came to the deity. “But this is the first time my video was shot. And since then, my phone has not stopped ringing,” he said. He used to teach drawing in Chinmaya Vidyalaya in Nileshwar before he followed in his father’s footsteps to become a full-time theyyam artist.
Anil Kumar K, Nileshwar block panchayat member from Valiyaparamba division, said festivals in the temples in his island panchayat are organised and funded by both Muslims and Hindus. “For example, Muslims are part of the festival organising committee of Vishnumoorthy temple at Oriyakav in Mavilakarapuram,” he said.
In February 2017, committee members of Sree Padna Mundya Temple razed a part of the temple’s compound wall to make space for Jamaat-e-Islami Hind to organise its district meet. “The interaction between people of both faiths is high here and so is the trust between them,” said Anil Kumar.