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Thookkam – A Traditional Ritual Art of Kerala

Thookkam – A Traditional ritual art of Kerala

Thookkam (Malayalam : തൂക്കം ) is a Hindu ritual art form usually performing in the shrine of Goddess Kali. This ritual art performance is conducted in connection with the annual festival of the temple. The preparations for the Thookkam offering (vazhipadu) reminiscing the human sacrifice. The venue of this traditional ritual art is mostly in Kali temples or Shrines in the areas around Travancore and Kochi in Kerala.


Garudan Thookkam performer enters the temple

Garudan Thookkam

The performers dressed up as bird eagle of God (Garuda), the mount of Lord Vishnu and participate in the ritual. It is performed in the midnight of the festival time and ends in the morning.


Thookkam performer is brought to the shrine of Goddess in the light of the flaming torch according to custom


The story behind the ritual art is related to the angry of Goddess Kali. When the demons (Asuras) become powerful and started conquering the world, they began to attack the innocent peoples and saints. While hearing the prayers of innocent devotees, lord Shiva created the angry and powerful goddess, named Bhadrakali.


Garudan Thookkam performing before the shrine of Goddess

Goddess Kali went to challenge demons started the battle. All the demons were killed by goddess in the end of the war and was so very angry that the god feared her anger might destroy the world. Then lord Shiva decided to dance in front of Kali to reduce her anger.

Lord Shiva himself lay down in front of her so the goddess could dance on his chest, so that the world would not shatter when she stamped her feet. Then the Goddess calmed a bit, but was still thirsty. Then Lord Vishnu pricked a hook at the back of his vehicle, the eagle god (Garuda). A dancing and bleeding Garuda was taken to Kali and she was offered three drops of blood which quenched the thirst.


Thookkam performer preparing to hang on the thookkam stand


Performer of this ritual art, wearing crowns, beaks and wings like an eagle (Garuda).  In many houses in villages of Kerala, it is performed as a devotional offering to the Goddess. After the ritual performance in houses dancers will moving to temple after the mid night. A number of such Garudas gather in the temple from many villages. Later they are performing dance in the temple.


Thookkam performer hang on the stand like bird Garudan

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