A video of Mappila Theyyam, a dance form and ritual in Kerala is going viral online with the false claim that temples in Kerala have been taken over by Muslims.
BOOM found that this claim is misleading, and the video shows a common ritual practiced in several districts of Kerala that draws from both Hindu and Muslim characters.
The video shows people dressed in traditional attire with headgears and heavy makeup reciting some Islamic verses. It is being shared with the caption, "Kerala government appointed Muslim and Christian priests in temples, now the situation is that Hanuman ji's image is being offered alcohol and meat is being served and Allah Ho Akbar is being proclaimed"
(Original text in Hindi: "केरला सरकार ने मन्दिरों में मुस्लिम और क्रिश्चियन पुजारी नियुक्त कर दिए, अब हालात ये हैं कि हनुमान जी के प्रतिरूप को शराब पिलाई जा रही है मांस परोसा जा रहा है और अल्लाह हो अकबर का उद्घोष हो रहा है.")
BOOM found that the video shows Mappila Theyyam, a variant of Theyyam, a popular dance form practised in various towns and villages in the Kasargod district of Kerala.
A reverse image search of a key frame from the video on Google using the keyword 'Kasargod' in Malayalam led us to a video uploaded by Mediaone TV on December 23, 2022.
The title of the video in Malayalam translates to, "The video of Theyyam performing the azaan is going viral.. Footage from Kasaragod..." The description reads, "The scene of Theiyam doing azaan is going viral.. The footage of Bapirian Theiyam and Manichi doing the azaan from Sri Komaraya Devasthanam at Kasaragod Madikkai Kanjirapo," indicating that the video is from the Sri Komaraya temple in Kasargod.
The Hindu, in an article about this ritual, talks about how Mappila Theyyam is a symbol of communal harmony because of how it includes Islamic rituals followed by a Hindu dance form.
"As a prelude to their appearance, some of the Muslim Theyyams perform the Namaz," explained the report by The Hindu, which is also what we can see in our viral video.
According to The Indian Express, Mappila Theyyam is based on the legend of Kalanthan and Chamundi. Kalanthan, an Imam at the Pulingom mosque was fishing in the Kollada river when he saw a bright source of light on the other side of the bank. He swam across, and when he tried to look for it, he found that the light was now on the opposite side again. He began swimming again, but was pulled into the river by a force that most people believe was Chamundi. It is also believed that Chamundi was the one who then propagated that since Kalanthan merged into the divine, the two of them need to be worshipped together.
The enactment of this fable in the form of dance is how Theyyam became famous for its Hindu-Muslim unity.