Circulating rapidly through WhatsApp and Facebook groups in Kerala over the past 48 hours, a certain video clip, lasting two minutes and 51 seconds, highlights how differences in faith and worship can be bridged by humanity and love.
At a time when tensions continue to simmer in neighboring Karnataka over the wearing of the hijab in educational institutions, the selfless act of a sheyam performer comforting a Muslim woman last week receives love from all shares.
In the video, captured on a mobile phone in a house in Kasaragod district, north Kerala, on February 15, a Muthappan theyyam interpreter can be seen wiping away tears and allaying the worries of a Muslim woman who was may – be reluctant to approach him. He holds her hand, comforts her and promises to soothe her suffering.
For the uninitiated, theyyam is a ritual art and dance form that encompasses aspects of tribal and primitive religion through the worship of gods, goddesses, warriors, local spirits, tribal deities and even Muslim characters from ancient fables. And among them, the Muthappan theyyam is a tribute to the deity personified by both Vishnu and Shiva, in the form of Thiruvappan and Vellatom respectively. He is a hunter god who likes boiled chickpeas and fish, and attracts his followers among the most ordinary and poor people. And unlike most temples in Kerala, which prohibit entry to non-Hindus, the gates of Parassinikadavu Muthappan Temple in Kannur are open to all.
And that is precisely the message that Sani Peruvannan conveyed when he appeared as Muthappan in front of the unidentified Muslim woman wearing a hijab. “Come here, you’re no different, are you?” Did you feel this? Did you feel that by your actions, your caste and your religion, you were different? In your life, you may feel that, but in front of Muthappan, don’t say that. Have you seen Muthappan? Are you happy? What do you want to tell Muthappan? Do you have any problems in life? Sani provides the woman in a distinct Kannur dialect.
The woman confides in Muthappan that she is facing difficulties in life and continues to break down. ” Do not Cry. You perform namaz five times a day. But you have come before me with the realization that you have not achieved lasting happiness in this lifetime. You didn’t make any mistakes or hurt anyone. You always wanted everyone, even your enemies, to be happy,” Peruvannan tells him, as Muthappan.
“For me, the mosque and the shrine are no different. I am also your master. Do you find a difference in your Nabi, the Mahadevan or the Muthappan? I will hold you tight, ”he assures her.
The video, which ends with Muthappan blessing the woman, has deservedly amassed thousands of likes, shares and comments. One user said, “Beyond all religions, the greatest prayer is to hold back those who are discouraged.” Another wrote: “There is no caste or religion here. Only Muthappan who takes care of a human.
For the past 48 hours, Sani’s phone has been inundated with calls and messages. “Honestly, I couldn’t stop for a minute,” he smiles.
He belongs to the Vannan community of the Scheduled Caste (SC), which has the traditional right to perform the Muthappan theyyam. He worked as a graphic designer and drawing teacher in school before moving into full-time representation. His father is also a Theyyam artist.
Asked about her video making waves across Kerala, Sani, 37, said: “While I was talking to the Muslim woman, I didn’t know someone was making a video or it was being shared. I took care of the performances of Theyyam the following days. Later, in a WhatsApp group, I saw the video being shared and that’s when I realized it was watched by a lot of people. This is the first time in my life that a video about me has gone viral. I am very happy. Many people called me. »
Although he has interacted with Muslims in the past during his performances, he said Muslim women are not usually seen approaching a theyyam.
“It is a situation where (we) leave the human form and attain a divine form. I am in a different mental state at that time. It is a state where they believe that I am God. Maybe that’s why I called her and talked to her and she cried,” Sani said.
He pointed out that Muthappan is a deity who transcends barriers of caste and religion. “He is a symbol of religious harmony in a state that celebrates those values,” he added.