60-year-old Portuguese returns to Kerala to fulfil his promise to Muthappan

Felipe and his wife Madina are theyyam enthusiasts who have conducted intensive research on the dance forms. Their tryst with theyyam began 10 years ago on a visit to India.

Published: 14th January 2023 07:06 AM  |   Last Updated: 14th January 2023 01:27 PM   |  A+A-

Jose Felipe Pereira and wife Madina Ziganshina | Express+

Express News Service

KANNUR: As he leaves for Goa after taking a break from his research work on ‘theyyams’ in Kerala, Jose Felipe Pereira, 60, a native of Aveiro, Portugal, is content. Though it took him a little over three years, Felipe has finally been able to keep a promise he made on his last visit, that of conducting a Vellattam as an offering to Muthappan for helping him recover from a lung infection.

Felipe had been down with the infection when he visited Kerala in December 2019 for his research on theyyams, the ritualistic dance forms practised in northern Kerala. The sexagenarian had a tough time dealing with it.

Vellattam being conducted at Santhosh’s house at Vengara

That was when Santhosh Vengara, a tour operator and Felipe’s long-time friend, suggested the idea of offering vellattam should his health improve. Despite being a non-believer, Felipe agreed to do so on his next visit. He then returned to Portugal.

Felipe gradually recovered. Following this, he returned to Kerala with his Russian wife, Madina Ziganshina, on December 19 and conducted Vellattam at Santhosh’s house at Vengara near Vadukunda Siva Temple on January 8. “Though I am not religious, I feel happy to have fulfilled my offering,” said Felilpe.

Both Felipe and Madina are theyyam enthusiasts have conducted intensive research on the dance forms. Their tryst with theyyam began 10 years ago on a visit to India. Santhosh brought the couple to Kannur to let them have a taste of the unique north Malabar ritual. They fell in love instantly. This is their sixth visit to Kannur during the theyyam season.

During one of their previous visits, Madina had conducted a painting exhibition on theyyams in Kannur. Santhosh said it was appreciated by art and theyyam connoisseurs alike. “They missed two theyyam seasons due to Covid curbs. They had been eager to return and were ecstatic to be in the thick of action again,” said Santhosh, who has been providing them all the support for the past 10 years.

Talking about the theyyams, Felipe, a traditionalist, said he feels uncomfortable when the dance forms are conducted in modern surroundings. “They should be held in the traditional manner, surrounded by sacred groves,” he said. Felipe and Madina left for Goa on Wednesday night. They will return to Kannur to watch a few more theyyam performances before heading back to Portugal on January 31.

India Matters


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