A clip in which a man can be seen reciting the Adhan (Islamic call to prayer) is circulating widely on social media. It is claimed that the government in the Indian state of Kerala has appointed Muslims and Christians as priests in temples, and as a result of this policy, alcohol, and meat are being served to Hindu deities in these places of worship.

Sharing this clip on Twitter, a user wrote in Hindi, “Kerala government has appointed Muslim and Christian priests in the temples. Now the situation is such that alcohol is being served to Hanumanji’s replica, meat is being served and Allah Ho Akbar is being chanted*😡 Kerala government should be dismissed otherwise one day Hindus will vanish from the state.” (Archive)

Alt News has received multiple requests on its WhatsApp helpline (+91 7600011160) to verify this clip.

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This clip is also circulating on Facebook with the same caption.

Fact check

We broke down the video into key-frames and performed a Google reverse image search on one of the stills. This led to an article by The Indian Express published on January 16, 2023. According to this report, the performance seen in the viral clip is called ‘Theyyam’. It is a “Hindu ritualistic dance performed in northern Kerala and parts of Karnataka, often by people from scheduled castes, who are treated as God-like entities during the brief act.”

The report also adds that while most of the Theyyam performances depict Hindu tribal fables, in some regions the dance form includes Muslim characters. The article features a tweet by a user called @AbbakkaHypatia. This user mentions that the clip is circulating on WhatsApp groups with people claiming that “secularism has corrupted Theyyam”, whereas the practice has been there for ‘1000 years’. (Archive)

Additionally, we also found a TikTok video of the same posted on December 24, 2022 i.e., at least three weeks before The Indian Express article was published.

Upon translating the title of the video using Google Translate, it reads, “Aryapoonganni, the daughter of Arya Maharaja, who crossed a thousand seas from the land of Arya, was guarded by Bapirian”.

Taking note of this clue we found that the performance in this clip is called “Bappiriyan Theyyam”. According to The Hindu, despite Theyyam being a traditional Hindu ritualistic art form, it has been celebrating communal harmony by including Muslim characters. The performances with Muslim characters are commonly called ‘Mappila Theyyam’ and there are at least 15 forms of this. The readers should note that there are about 400 forms of Theyyam in total, each with its own music, style and choreography. It is reported that some forms of Theyyams also involve offerings of blood and meat.

The report by The Hindu notes that two of the highly regarded Mappila Theyyams — Kalanthan Mukri and Aali — are respectively performed in October last week (which is the beginning of the Theyyam season) and March end or first week of April.

Alt News found that the viral clip was posted on YouTube on December 22, 2022. Hence, the clip in circulation was possibly shot between October and December or it could be older than that.

No Evidence of Appointment of Muslims and Christians As priests

As for the theory that Muslims and Christians are being appointed as priests, Alt News has established in a previous fact-check that there are no reports to back such claims.

Kerala has temples that are managed by state-run temple boards, private temple boards, or by community organizations. There are five state-run autonomous Devaswom (temple) boards, which manage 3,058 temples in the state. These are Travancore Devaswom Board, Cochin Devaswom Board, Malabar Devaswom Board, Guruvayur Devaswom Board and Koodalmanikyam board.

The role of these boards includes management of temple properties and ensuring facilities and infrastructure for devotees, and appointment of the staff, including priests. The Travancore Devaswom (Temple) Recruitment Board in the past has appointed Dalit priests as well priests from the Scheduled Tribes. However, there are no news reports of any of the boards appointing a Muslim or a Christian priest.

To sum it up, a video of a Theyyam performance in Kerala is falsely being shared with the claim that Muslims and Christians are being appointed as priests in temples in the state which has led to Islamic chants in temples as well as offerings of alcohol and meat to Hindu deities.

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About the Author

Kalim is a journalist with a keen interest in tech, misinformation, culture, etc