Do you hear it? That steady beat…the drums, the Chenda mellam, Madhalam,Idakka ,Elathallam, a cacophony in your head yet its rhythm, its beat in sync with your pounding heart.It starts off soft, slowly growing, gaining momentum, until it drowns out everything else – just the rhythm and the hammering of your heart against your chest.
Do you see it? The outlines of stone walls, half hidden in the shadows, mysterious carved figurines, in the dimly lit glow of the kal vilakku lining its walls, they almost seem to move, grotesque four armed monsters on steeds just as hideous as themselves brandishing swords dripping with blood and holding decapitated heads,wearing garlands of skulls, eternal guardians of the Gods. The gandharvas , the yakshas who seems to touch you while you search for a way out, there one second and gone the next. They are toying with you, playing games with your mind but you still spin around anyway everytime you glimpse a shadow of movement.
Can you struggle against them? The invisible chains that bind you in the centre of a pentagram surrounded by lamps.Its boundaries in white, that cant be crossed even if you somehow break free of the chains.Its colours, almost hypnotising, vivid greens, blood red, bright yellow and the darkest of black. Ancient runes and symbols made to bind the unwilling, the unworthy.
Can you feel them approaching? The painted figures decked in all their glory moving to the beats, silhouetted against the shadows and the horrors that are shrouded within.You can see them cant you? Hear the bells of the chelanga and the thalam they wear jingling with each step. Their intricate jewellery twinkling in the light of the dimly lit vilakku. their headdress elaborate beautifully painstakingly made. Their faces painted orange their tongues red, eyes elaborated painted in black the white dots lining their forehead.
When does that primal fear begin to build inside you? When can you hear the blood rushing to our ears? When does your breath start to become laboured ?
Is it when they move closer, swaying ,still in time to the beat of the drums? Or is it when they are close enough to see every detail, every line ,every curve on their painted faces? Or is it when you see the expressions on them- rage, envy, disgust, grief,greed, lust? Each lasting mere seconds but leaving no doubt as to their presence.Or is it when you recognise familiar faces beneath the masks- faces long forgotten, buried in the depths of your subconscious, faces you had never wished would see the light of day? Or does your heart thud faster only when you see that central figure, so very familiar, its features contorted in hatred, rage burning in its eyes or does your mind begin unravel only when you recognise those eyes? The same eyes that you look into every day in a mirror?
Do your tears fall? Your throat burn as you scream, your cries echoing against the stone walls? Do you plead for mercy? For someone to hear you? Do you feel the desperation , the absolute dejection settling in the pit of your stomach, when you realise that the only ones that can hear you are the Gods? Carved in stone, their hearts cold, their eyes blank and their ears deaf.Do you still hope for escape or do you resign yourself to your fate with a silent prayer to anyone who might be listening that the end be painless and swift?