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June 28, 2008

Incredible Keralam


Welcome to the tropical paradise of India - Incredible Kerala and take up a relaxing backwater travel ride or take a tour of Incredible Kerala's palm-fringed wide sandy beaches. Visit the lush green tea gardens or wildlife sanctuaries and rediscover the true wonder built by nature in Incredible India - Kerala. One more aspect of travel in Incredible Kerala is Ayurveda; indulge in some of Kerala's renowned natural therapy treatments and rejuvenate yourself. Incredible Kerala is amoung the most explored tourist destination in India, other being Rajasthan and Goa. Visit:

June 12, 2008

Kerala Travel

Welcome to Keralatravels.com!

Kerala is a microcosm of the Indian sub continent. With all the major religions, languages, cuisine, varied cultures, ancient systems of medicine, undulating topography and a chequered history of spice trade and colonialism , Kerala is India in a small package.

A multicultural society that boasts of a social health index comparable to western nations, indigenous, colourful art and ritual dances from Kathakali to Kalaripayattu and Theyyam, the ancient system of medicine, Ayurveda, its unique, winding waterways known as `backwaters’, its damp paddy fields lower than sea level, its forests home to some of the rarest wildlife and plant species and verdant, clean beaches has earned Kerala the sobriquet, `God’s own country’. for more...

KALA KERALAM

'WHY, IS TAJ MAHAL BEING AUCTIONED?' Can You guess? Can you count?

The above questions, at the first sight, look innocent. But when you are asked to count 4 crores(40 millions) of broom sticks (Central stick-part of coconut palm leaves),and to guess... MORE...

Amazing work on teak root
This is an amazing work done by Mr. Sunil Kumar, Chengannur, Kerala, using root of a teak wood. He took 4 years to finish the work.This work is 5.5 feet radius. It contains 41 creatures like birds, animals, snakes etc. The work has concealed wiring through the wood and provision for lighting... MORE... WWW.KALAKERALAM.COM

May 20, 2008

TRICHUR DISTRICT - KERALA'S CULTURAL CAPITAL

AT A GLANCE (MUST SEEN PLACES IN TRICHUR)

ATHIRAPILLY - WATER FALL STATION
KERALA KALA MANDALAM - TRADITIONAL DANCE,KATHAKALI
GURUVAYOOR TEMPLE - FAMOUS HINDUS TEMPLE IN KERALA
AZHIKODE MARTHOMA CENTRE - CHRISTIAN FAMOUS CHURCH
CHERAMAN MASJID - KODUNGALLOOR (THE FIRST INDIAN MASJID IN INDIA/KERALA)
CHIMMNEY DAM- WILD LIFE CENTRE
PEECHI DAM - DAM
VAZAANI DAM -
PUNNATHOOR KOTTA
VILANGAN KUNNU
TRICHUR ZOO

May 07, 2008

Continuation from last posted blog

Balance contd. from last posted content

It is so much simpler, so much more peaceful, to order what is required and sit back and talk or go on visits or even just wander about the town. Martyrdom is surely too great a price topay to keep nostalgia alive.

Even in earlier times, celebrating onam was a financial burden on the families which were not as affluent as they pretended they were. Hence the saying ‘kanam vittum onam unnananm’ or you can even sell your land to celebrate Onam. The expenses are still there though channeled elsewhere. The average salaried person takes festival advances, borrows, charges it to credit cards and then works the whole year to clear those debts. The difference is probably that now the money is spent on clothes rather than food.

Once in a while the crass commercialization of the festival does bring on bouts of nostalgia for those days when onam was a festival celebrated by the family and had not emerged into the public domain. The elder women in the family had worked very hard but one had been too young to have much responsibility. Like all memories of childhood, the darked days vanish from one’s mind and one remembers the sunlit days when the family got together and there was a lot of laughter in the air. And the competition was only with the children next door to see who had more colours in their floral pattern.

Probably it is these memories which stir the Malayalis come Onam time, to make an effort and celebrate this festival however far from home they are.

Anything in a houseboat is made from nature

Imagine this: Stare at the starry sky and sleep with the lullaby of the waves in the background. Wake up to the chirping of the birds and watch the sun rise. Feel the fish nibbling at your fingertips, and lift them up with your own hand. Well, all this and more are in store for the one choosing to stay in a kettuvallam (house boat) in the lap of the vembanad lake, kerala’s largest water body. When the ‘national Geographic Traveler’ declared the south Indian state of kerala as one of the 50 ‘must see’ destinations in the world a few years ago, was charted the tourist route to the south coastal districts of Alappuzha and Kollam. Since then no tourist visiting kerala has missed the backwaters of these two districts.

Nothing appears to have caught the tourists’ imagination so much as the network of the endless backwaters, lakes, canals and the delts of several rivers in these places. Once called the Venice of the East’ where navigations of almost 900km of the winding waterways was possible, alapuzha district is a delight to the water lover. And to enjoy both the modern comforts and the bounty of nature is the kettuvallam (houseboat) a concept that has earned acclaim in a short span of time.

Kettuvallam or houseboat was a layman’s vehicle till 1950’s and 60’s when it was used as a cargo vessel to carry paddy and spices from Alappuzha to Kochi port. It was also home to farmer families which braved the torrential rainy nights in the protection of its curved roof. Floating majestically with cargo as much as 30 tonnes, these barges went out of use once the rail and road transport in Central Kerala became stronger.

The kettuvallam literally means a barge made of knots. The entire baot was held together using coir knots alone. Pieces of jack-wood were tied together with coir. Cashew kernels were boiled to bring out a black resin which was used to coat this. Part of the houseboat had a bamboo covering which served as kitchen and resting place. Rice was stocked for cooking and fish caught fresh from the backwaters formed the accomplishment. The houseboats, decades old, were in fact resurrected when the tourism industry suddenly realized its immense possibilities. Though commercialized, the houseboats are still full of nature. Anything you see in a houseboat is made from nature. Roofing is with the help of bamboo mats, sticks and wood of the aracanut tree. Coir mats and wooden planks are used for flooring. Even the beds have coconut fibe in them. If kashmir’s once famous Dal Lake and its houseboats floated into the minds of those looking for a unique getaway, kerala’s kettuvalloms sail a step further. They take you around quite a few ‘seeable’ spots, stop where yo want to, serve you food as you like it after an overnight stay in the backwaters and get you off at where you started. If you want to touch the rural life of kerala, and at the same time enjoy yourself, this is the place to be in. now, there are about 220 houseboats dotting the Vembanad lake.

With more than 60,000 visitors holidaying throughout a calendar year, these 80ft long, 20ft. wide baby ships have no time for play. There is no off-season and the operators and owners of the 150odd houseboats plying in Alappuzha are engaged throughout the year.

The smallest of the houseboats will have a bedroom, with attached toilet facilities, living room, dining area, a deck, a kitchen and a staff of three to run the boat and manage the kitchen. Comprising two types, overnight cruised and conducted tours, the sail is enjoyable with a host of places to see in interior kerala. Be it agriculture, fishing or cottage industry.

The district tourism promotion council (DTPC) Organizes an eight hour conducted tour from Alappuzha to kollam starting at 10.30 am. The route covers karumadikuttan Buddha idol, kumarakody, matha amrithanandamayi madom and alumkadavu. Then there is the five hour day service from Alappuzha to kumarakom, which starts at 11 a.m. for those interested in taxiing in the backwaters motorboats, speedboats and luxury boats are available. If bookings are done earlier, DTPC arranges for pickup from airport or railway station. Though rates vary from off-season to peak-season, most top houseboat owners have customers all through the year with the international tourists coming during the peak season, while Indian nationals visit during vacations.

However, if you are looking for picturesque locations and breathtaking backwaters, check out the overnight cruises. The package is a 24 hour stay on board. You could book for 24 hours or any number of days and sail to kollam, kumarakom, if you start from alappuzha. The houseboats now cater even to business men looking to hold a conference or workshop on board, depending on demand, he will get one to four bedroom houseboats, which are air conditioned and are solar electrified too which use lanterns.

Four bedroom houseboats can hold a conference consisting of 30 -40 people. Tomy j pulickattil of pulickattil houseboats says his company will soon launch an A/c five bedroom houseboat, which can hold 150 people for a conference. Many a renowned public figure including the late Jacqueline kennedy has stayed in his houseboat “ But we don’t know of them until they leave,” he shrugs. Bollywood superstars Aishwarya Rai and Kamal Hassan are among those who have stayed in his boats. Film shootings have become a regular feature on the houseboats. Tourism houseboats have made a name and formed a shape after the initial slow start. In the last couple of years, more and more importance is being laid on the nature of the houseboats. The focus is on eco-friendly tourism with emphasis on modernized septic tanks for waste disposal, marine plywood flooring, solar power for electricity, usage of locally available ethnic furniture etc., most of the earlier houseboats were reconverted rice boats. “but today we have to build a whole boat, since almost all the old ones have been used up. A two – bedroom houseboat costs no less than Rs 15 lakh after meeting all the criteria”, says Biju Vilsan General Manager, Rainbow Cruises. The coming up of houseboat tourism has generated employment to almost 1000 people in this southern district town of Alappuzha alone. With the State government focusing on promoting tourism as an industry, several steps are being taken to maintain international levels. The department of tourism has set up several safety and service standards to classify houseboats by awarding them the status of Gold Star and Silver star. Those houseboats satisfying the essential conditions and adhering to eco-friendly measures are being awarded the green palm certificate.

Kerala Gears Up In Major Ways To Attract New Investment

MELODIOUS ONAM (The onam song market is tastier this year.)

Maveli naadu vanidum kaalam
Maanusharellavarum onnu pole
Aamodathode vaskikkum kalam
Kallavumilla chathiyumilla
Ellolamilla polivachanam
Kallamparayum cherunazhiyum
Kallatharangal mattonnumilla….,

The most popular onam song ever, explaining the legend of Mahabali. So much that the song has become part of the onam folklore. But then, songs have always been part and parcel of Onam. In olden days, men, women and children singing onam songs, while rocking each other on swings ws an integral prt of the onam is the festival season brings a fresh bouquet of memories of his native land decked up in all its bountiful beauty to welcome the legendary emperor Mahabali. Vast stretches of green paddy fields, gurgling rivers lined on each sides with swaying coconut trees. Ubiquitous floral designs in every compound, the ever satisfying Onam sadya, the gravity-defying rocking on a swing, blushing maidens in Kasavu mundu dancing to the traditional tune of the festival song, the enthusiasm and spirit of vallamkali are all sweet memories from this festive season. And who can forget the smell and taste of freshly fried banana chips to be munched to one’s heart’s content while playing. So as Onam is here again, it is time to polish the onam songs. Though traditional musical forms are now heard more during cultural programmes rather than sung by the present generation, it is never too late to learn some of these. But if you are too busy for the or would rather listen to some modern songs, then you have got a variety of choices from the onam song market. The onam song market offers beautiful songs… sweet, melodious and sung by some of the illustrious voices of our time. Llike every year, Onam songs of Yesudas and Chitra are in the market this time too. With meaningful lyrics penned by well known writers like girish puthenjeri set to soft and harmonious tunes, these song find many takers. Apart from this, many other onam songs also hit the market during the festive season every year with novel themes and ideas. These are also well received as many people find it befittingtheir taste. However, the treat from the onam song market is said to be tastier every year include those like ‘Kudamullappoo’ featuring yesudas along with chitra. Vijay yesudas also sings with them. The lyrics are written by Girish Puthencheri and set to music by M jayachandran.

Festival songs with a traditional touch are featured, probably with the intention of marketing it even after the festival season. According to jayachandran “the music is a fusion of the ethnic and western.” to lend authentic touch to ethnic music the collection features backing vocals by people like kalamandalam Haridas, noted Kathakali vocalist. Another onam song collection worth mentioning is Maveli Naadu Vanidum Kaalam from East-coast Entertainment. This is not just a collection of songs but rather two long songs. It is rather like a musical conversation about onam. There is one long song on each side and each is set to a different tune. Sang by praveena, rajalakshmi and baby aswathy, the songs promise a sweet change from the usual fare of Onam songs. If you are a die – hard fan of Yesudas or Chitra, you can get some of their old collections as well, as some of these are still available in the market. Last some years , another set of songs doing brisk business during onam are parady songs. The tenth edition of ‘De Maveli kombath’ featuring popular actor Dileep, Nadirshah and Salim Kumar is already selling like hot cakes. It features paradies of songs like ‘Onnam kili’ from kilichundan Mampazham and ‘sare Sare Saambaare’ from thilakkam. It is interesting to note that even the parady of the ‘sare sare saambare’ song is sung by Dileep who had earlier sang the original version. One song is devoted to introducing the artistes singing in the cassette. And another song contains a message against chewing pan massala. Another major offering in this section is the thirteenth edition of ‘Onathinidakku pootukachavadam’ which is compered by actor ‘ innocent’. Interestingly innocent is the Maveli in both these cassettes. Though onam songs come out with both audio and video, only the audio version is available in the parady section. And if you want to get the lyrics to some Onam songs search the net as there are some sites offering Onam songs. However, listening to some of the best onam songs collections in the market will definitely help you create an instant ambience of onam in the midst of our busy lives, wherever we may be.
(Continue later other onam reports by this blog site)
Balance contd. from last posted content

It is so much simpler, so much more peaceful, to order what is required and sit back and talk or go on visits or even just wander about the town. Martyrdom is surely too great a price topay to keep nostalgia alive.

Even in earlier times, celebrating onam was a financial burden on the families which were not as affluent as they pretended they were. Hence the saying ‘kanam vittum onam unnananm’ or you can even sell your land to celebrate Onam. The expenses are still there though channeled elsewhere. The average salaried person takes festival advances, borrows, charges it to credit cards and then works the whole year to clear those debts. The difference is probably that now the money is spent on clothes rather than food.

Once in a while the crass commercialization of the festival does bring on bouts of nostalgia for those days when onam was a festival celebrated by the family and had not emerged into the public domain. The elder women in the family had worked very hard but one had been too young to have much responsibility. Like all memories of childhood, the darked days vanish from one’s mind and one remembers the sunlit days when the family got together and there was a lot of laughter in the air. And the competition was only with the children next door to see who had more colours in their floral pattern.

Probably it is these memories which stir the Malayalis come Onam time, to make an effort and celebrate this festival however far from home they are.

Anything in a houseboat is made from nature

Imagine this: Stare at the starry sky and sleep with the lullaby of the waves in the background. Wake up to the chirping of the birds and watch the sun rise. Feel the fish nibbling at your fingertips, and lift them up with your own hand. Well, all this and more are in store for the one choosing to stay in a kettuvallam (house boat) in the lap of the vembanad lake, kerala’s largest water body. When the ‘national Geographic Traveler’ declared the south Indian state of kerala as one of the 50 ‘must see’ destinations in the world a few years ago, was charted the tourist route to the south coastal districts of Alappuzha and Kollam. Since then no tourist visiting kerala has missed the backwaters of these two districts.

Nothing appears to have caught the tourists’ imagination so much as the network of the endless backwaters, lakes, canals and the delts of several rivers in these places. Once called the Venice of the East’ where navigations of almost 900km of the winding waterways was possible, alapuzha district is a delight to the water lover. And to enjoy both the modern comforts and the bounty of nature is the kettuvallam (houseboat) a concept that has earned acclaim in a short span of time.

Kettuvallam or houseboat was a layman’s vehicle till 1950’s and 60’s when it was used as a cargo vessel to carry paddy and spices from Alappuzha to Kochi port. It was also home to farmer families which braved the torrential rainy nights in the protection of its curved roof. Floating majestically with cargo as much as 30 tonnes, these barges went out of use once the rail and road transport in Central Kerala became stronger.

The kettuvallam literally means a barge made of knots. The entire baot was held together using coir knots alone. Pieces of jack-wood were tied together with coir. Cashew kernels were boiled to bring out a black resin which was used to coat this. Part of the houseboat had a bamboo covering which served as kitchen and resting place. Rice was stocked for cooking and fish caught fresh from the backwaters formed the accomplishment. The houseboats, decades old, were in fact resurrected when the tourism industry suddenly realized its immense possibilities. Though commercialized, the houseboats are still full of nature. Anything you see in a houseboat is made from nature. Roofing is with the help of bamboo mats, sticks and wood of the aracanut tree. Coir mats and wooden planks are used for flooring. Even the beds have coconut fibe in them. If kashmir’s once famous Dal Lake and its houseboats floated into the minds of those looking for a unique getaway, kerala’s kettuvalloms sail a step further. They take you around quite a few ‘seeable’ spots, stop where yo want to, serve you food as you like it after an overnight stay in the backwaters and get you off at where you started. If you want to touch the rural life of kerala, and at the same time enjoy yourself, this is the place to be in. now, there are about 220 houseboats dotting the Vembanad lake.

With more than 60,000 visitors holidaying throughout a calendar year, these 80ft long, 20ft. wide baby ships have no time for play. There is no off-season and the operators and owners of the 150odd houseboats plying in Alappuzha are engaged throughout the year.

The smallest of the houseboats will have a bedroom, with attached toilet facilities, living room, dining area, a deck, a kitchen and a staff of three to run the boat and manage the kitchen. Comprising two types, overnight cruised and conducted tours, the sail is enjoyable with a host of places to see in interior kerala. Be it agriculture, fishing or cottage industry.

The district tourism promotion council (DTPC) Organizes an eight hour conducted tour from
Alappuzha to kollam starting at 10.30 am. The route covers karumadikuttan Buddha idol, kumarakody, matha amrithanandamayi madom and alumkadavu. Then there is the five hour day service from Alappuzha to kumarakom, which starts at 11 a.m. for those interested in taxiing in the backwaters motorboats, speedboats and luxury boats are available. If bookings are done earlier, DTPC arranges for pickup from airport or railway station. Though rates vary from off-season to peak-season, most top houseboat owners have customers all through the year with the international tourists coming during the peak season, while Indian nationals visit during vacations.

However, if you are looking for picturesque locations and breathtaking backwaters, check out the overnight cruises. The package is a 24 hour stay on board. You could book for 24 hours or any number of days and sail to kollam, kumarakom, if you start from alappuzha. The houseboats now cater even to business men looking to hold a conference or workshop on board, depending on demand, he will get one to four bedroom houseboats, which are air conditioned and are solar electrified too which use lanterns.

Four bedroom houseboats can hold a conference consisting of 30 -40 people. Tomy j pulickattil of pulickattil houseboats says his company will soon launch an A/c five bedroom houseboat, which can hold 150 people for a conference. Many a renowned public figure including the late Jacqueline kennedy has stayed in his houseboat “ But we don’t know of them until they leave,” he shrugs. Bollywood superstars Aishwarya Rai and Kamal Hassan are among those who have stayed in his boats. Film shootings have become a regular feature on the houseboats. Tourism houseboats have made a name and formed a shape after the initial slow start. In the last couple of years, more and more importance is being laid on the nature of the houseboats. The focus is on eco-friendly tourism with emphasis on modernized septic tanks for waste disposal, marine plywood flooring, solar power for electricity, usage of locally available ethnic furniture etc., most of the earlier houseboats were reconverted rice boats. “but today we have to build a whole boat, since almost all the old ones have been used up. A two – bedroom houseboat costs no less than Rs 15 lakh after meeting all the criteria”, says Biju Vilsan General Manager, Rainbow Cruises. The coming up of houseboat tourism has generated employment to almost 1000 people in this southern district town of Alappuzha alone. With the State government focusing on promoting tourism as an industry, several steps are being taken to maintain international levels. The department of tourism has set up several safety and service standards to classify houseboats by awarding them the status of Gold Star and Silver star. Those houseboats satisfying the essential conditions and adhering to eco-friendly measures are being awarded the green palm certificate.

Kerala Gears Up In Major Ways To Attract New Investment


MELODIOUS ONAM (The onam song market is tastier this year.)
Maveli naadu vanidum kaalam
Maanusharellavarum onnu pole
Aamodathode vaskikkum kalam
Kallavumilla chathiyumilla
Ellolamilla polivachanam
Kallamparayum cherunazhiyum
Kallatharangal mattonnumilla….,

The most popular onam song ever, explaining the legend of Mahabali. So much that the song has become part of the onam folklore. But then, songs have always been part and parcel of Onam. In olden days, men, women and children singing onam songs, while rocking each other on swings ws an integral prt of the onam is the festival season brings a fresh bouquet of memories of his native land decked up in all its bountiful beauty to welcome the legendary emperor Mahabali. Vast stretches of green paddy fields, gurgling rivers lined on each sides with swaying coconut trees. Ubiquitous floral designs in every compound, the ever satisfying Onam sadya, the gravity-defying rocking on a swing, blushing maidens in Kasavu mundu dancing to the traditional tune of the festival song, the enthusiasm and spirit of vallamkali are all sweet memories from this festive season. And who can forget the smell and taste of freshly fried banana chips to be munched to one’s heart’s content while playing. So as Onam is here again, it is time to polish the onam songs. Though traditional musical forms are now heard more during cultural programmes rather than sung by the present generation, it is never too late to learn some of these. But if you are too busy for the or would rather listen to some modern songs, then you have got a variety of choices from the onam song market. The onam song market offers beautiful songs… sweet, melodious and sung by some of the illustrious voices of our time. Llike every year, Onam songs of Yesudas and Chitra are in the market this time too. With meaningful lyrics penned by well known writers like girish puthenjeri set to soft and harmonious tunes, these song find many takers. Apart from this, many other onam songs also hit the market during the festive season every year with novel themes and ideas. These are also well received as many people find it befittingtheir taste. However, the treat from the onam song market is said to be tastier every year include those like ‘Kudamullappoo’ featuring yesudas along with chitra. Vijay yesudas also sings with them. The lyrics are written by Girish Puthencheri and set to music by M jayachandran.

Festival songs with a traditional touch are featured, probably with the intention of marketing it even after the festival season. According to jayachandran “the music is a fusion of the ethnic and western.” to lend authentic touch to ethnic music the collection features backing vocals by people like kalamandalam Haridas, noted Kathakali vocalist. Another onam song collection worth mentioning is Maveli Naadu Vanidum Kaalam from East-coast Entertainment. This is not just a collection of songs but rather two long songs. It is rather like a musical conversation about onam. There is one long song on each side and each is set to a different tune. Sang by praveena, rajalakshmi and baby aswathy, the songs promise a sweet change from the usual fare of Onam songs. If you are a die – hard fan of Yesudas or Chitra, you can get some of their old collections as well, as some of these are still available in the market. Last some years , another set of songs doing brisk business during onam are parady songs. The tenth edition of ‘De Maveli kombath’ featuring popular actor Dileep, Nadirshah and Salim Kumar is already selling like hot cakes. It features paradies of songs like ‘Onnam kili’ from kilichundan Mampazham and ‘sare Sare Saambaare’ from thilakkam. It is interesting to note that even the parady of the ‘sare sare saambare’ song is sung by Dileep who had earlier sang the original version. One song is devoted to introducing the artistes singing in the cassette. And another song contains a message against chewing pan massala. Another major offering in this section is the thirteenth edition of ‘Onathinidakku pootukachavadam’ which is compered by actor ‘ innocent’. Interestingly innocent is the Maveli in both these cassettes. Though onam songs come out with both audio and video, only the audio version is available in the parady section. And if you want to get the lyrics to some Onam songs search the net as there are some sites offering Onam songs. However, listening to some of the best onam songs collections in the market will definitely help you create an instant ambience of onam in the midst of our busy lives, wherever we may be.
(Continue later other onam reports by this blog site)

April 03, 2008

KERALA AT A GLANCE (GOD'S OWN COUNTRY)

Incredible Kerala’s

Kerala At a Glance

Population : 4 Crore (Approximate)
Total area : 38,863 sq km which is 1.18 per cent of the area of Indian Union
Population density : 819/sq km
Forest area : 9,400 sq km
Average annual rainfall : 3,107mm
Length of coastal line : 580 km
Literacy rate : 90.2 percent
Sex ratio : 1058females per 1000 males
No of revenue villages : 1,452
State GDP : (2001-2002): Rs. 69,602 crore
Gdp growth : 4.7 percent
Per capita income : Rs. 11,046 (at constant prices)
Life expectancy : 72 years
Birth rate : 18.3 per 1000(National: 29.2)
Infant mortality rate : 16 per 1000(National: 68)Power production in the state(2002-2003)
hydel power : 4868.85 million units
thermal power : 2559 million units
diesel power : 644million units
wind power : 2.24 million units
from central grid : 4338.97 million units
no of Airports : 3 + the naval airports in Kochi
No. of Int. airports : 3
No of major ports : 1
No of small ports : 16
Total length of national
Highway : 1560.1 Km.
No of rivers : 44
No of lakes : 34
No of dams : 39
Length of inland waterways : 440 Km
No of national parks : 2 (Iravikulam, silent valley)
No of wild life sanctuaries : 12

HAPPY ONAM (Onam pageants)


(Take a trip back to the legend and rituals of the annual celebration.)

Onam, regarded as the chide festival of Kerala. Celebrated by one and all, irrespective of caste and community, has now become an occasion for togetherness. The festival of flowers, bountiful harvest and prosperity, now pulls far a way families into the fold of the tharavdu (ancestral home), albeit for a brief time. Under these circumstances it is worthwhile to take a trip back to the legend and rituals of this annual celebration.

Onam comes in the first month of the Malayalam year ‘Chingam’ coming soon after the bitter and sullen sobriety of ‘Karkitakam’ ‘Chingam’ heralded the advent of a new harvest season, bidding adieu to miseries of the hygone year. Traditionally the festival is celebrated in memory and in honour of the legendary king of Kerala, Mahabali. The legend has it that Mahabali who was an asura (a race which had negative divinity) king, contrary to his race inclinations was a just ruler and during his regime people enjoyed parity, affection and tranquility. There was neither corruption, betrayal nor thieves and, there were only haves and no have-nots. He in turn was loved and respected by his people, so much so that it evoked the jealousy of the Devas, a divine race close to Lord Mahavishnu. The Devas finally approached Lord Vishnu to get rid of Mahabali. In disguise as ‘Vamana’, Mahavishnu appeared in front of Mahabali and asked for three feet of land to stay. The kind agreed to give him land anywhere he wished and Vamana a suddenly grew into a giant, measuring the whole earth with one foot and with other, the sky. When he asked for the remaining promised land, realizing that the person standing in front of him is not an ordinary person, the king bent down and requested him to ploace the third foot on his head. Vishnu kept his feet on the king’s head and pushed him down to pathala (earth) the underworld. As the kind was a just ruler, the lord was kind enough to allow him to visit his kingdom once a year and it is believed that the king visits his people on the thiruvonam day.

Another legend is that in the olden times of poverty and famine, harvest season was much looked forward to by all. This was the time when people got to eat sumptuously and bought new clothes and thanked God for the harvest. People immersed themselves in merry-making palying various games, knowing that they had to keep these memories till the next harvest came about.

Onam is celebrated as a 10 day festival starting on Atham day and culminating on Thiruvonam day. To welcome the erstwhile king, flower carpets are displayed on these ten days using flowers specific to the land and season. Flowers like jasmine, rose, shoe-flower, thumba and green leaves are arranged in a circular manner with thrikkakaraappan (clay statue of Lord Vishnu) occupying the centre. ‘atham’ carnival is an important event people look out for. Tableaux depicting puranic characters and incidents are the usual fare. Of late, thee also reflect political satires. Temples will have special performances of kathakali. In thrissur district of the state, a procession of caparisoned elephants is taken out and the festival ends here with fireworks. Boat races are conducted at Aranmula where the famous parthasarathy temple is located, on the fifth day after thiruvonam day and is known as ‘Uthatadi Vallamkali’ raes are conducted in honour of the lord parthasarathy, the deity of the temple boats belonging to the villages situated along the banks of river pampa participate in this race. Oarsmen, all barefooted men wearing white dhotis and headgears, steer these boats for about forty kilometers, singing traditional boat songs known as vanjippattu. These oarsmen will be a representation of the different castes and will be seated in a particular order. The boats racing past each other with golden lace at the head and the ornamental umbrella at the centre make a terrific show.

On the Thiruvonam day, after an early bath, men and women wear traditional clothes. Women wear an off-white cotton saree or mundu(dhoti) with a woven gold border and a matching breast cloth, draped across a tight blouse in a contrasting colour. Men wear kasavu mundu and shirt. As is common to all festivals, sumptuous feast known as sadya is the catch of the celebration. The sadya displayed on a banana leaf is a slice of the exotic kerala itself. It consists of various delicious curries culminating in a range of sweet concoctions known as ‘Payasam’. After the meal, it’s time for sports and entertainment. While the men would engage in games like ‘Pulikali’ (dressed as tigers they sing songs and prance around to the beats of drums) and ‘Vadamvali’ (tug of war).
Women perform ‘Kaikottukali’ (a group dance int the traditional two-piece dhoti around the traditional brass lamp). Young girls enjoy themselves by swinging on the ‘Oonjal’ (swing) set up on tall branches of the ‘Pulimaram’ (Tamarind tree) or other tree branches.

Much of the socio-cultural activity of the state revolved around this festival. It had a profound influence on the art and literature of the state. This was a time no one could miss whether rich or poor. In fact there is a proverb saying one should not hesitate to sell his land in order to celebrate Onam well. Onam and its celebrations have stirred many a creative mind and enriched the literature of the land immensely. Songs sung on the occasion of onam known as ‘Onapattu’ have traveled by word of mouth over generations. By Smitha p kesavan, Khaleej times, September 6, 2003

No Nostalgia, Please….,
What stirs Malayalis (Keralites) to celebrate Onam wherever they are ?

The story of Mahabali’s great yaga and the gift of land he granted Vamana, which led to his being banished to the netherworld or patala is a familiar one. Each onam, when this great ruler is supposed to come up to the earth to meet his favourite subjects , this story is regurgitated in various forms. However, there is a less told story which narrates an incident that occurred after he had been in patala for a while. Eons had passed and mahavishnu had been incarnated many times over. He was now Sri Krishna and Kurukshetra war was over. The pandavas who were victorious had performed the appropriate yagas and were reigning over a peaceful and bounteous land. Sri Krishna felt that Yudhishtira was getting a little too smug in his goodness and decided to show him that there were other kings and emperors who were greater. He told Yudhishtira that Mahabali who one ruled over the same land still lived in patala and would be delighted to meet so worthy a successor.

Yudhishtira, Arjuna and Krishna set out and reached patala. Mahabali was delighted to see Krishna and his companions. Krishna introduces them. “this is Yudhishtira who rules over the kingdom you left behind. He defeated Kauravas in the name of dharma and now peace and plenty reign in the land. He has performed the Aswamedha and the Rajasuya. With him is his brother arjuna who has been his right hand in all these endeavours”.

Mahabali was impressed and once more welcomed his great successor. He told him how happy he was to hear that his land was under a great and noble king and that his people still enjoyed peace and prosperity. Krishna continued, “ besides all the yagas he has performed, he also gives a lot in charity. Everyday five hundred Brahmins are fed from his kitchens.”

Mahabali jerked upright, closed his eyes with his hand and shouted, “please take this tgerribel king away from my sight. Why did you bring such a sinner before me?” Krishna asked innocently, “But, I’m telling you of his great generosity and charity. Why do you call him a sinner? ”

“What else can I call a king who has five hundred Brahmins willing to accept charity every day ? they don’t have food at home or they wouldn’t come in search of charity. In my time, whenever I performed a yaga I had to plead with someone to come and eata at the yagasala so that I could complete the rituals. All had plenty in their own homes and didn’t need anyone’s charity. Take this terrible kind away whose people lack even food before I am forced to curse him.”

Krishna apologetically drew away his friends from the sight of the great mahabali even as he smiled quietly to himself. It goes without saying that yudhishtira and arjuna were rather silent on the way back. So what the king thought were good deeds and what was celebrated by the world as good deeds were actually a symptom of his bad rule. His people accepted charity because they needed it.

Onam usually brings up a severe attack of ‘those were the days’ how simple the pleasures were, what fun everyone had, how good the food was and what togetherness the family shared. Whenever people compare the old family onam with the modern instand onam I think of how blind nostalgia has made them. Do you remember what onam was like a few decades back? Before the readymade payasams and caterer’s onasadya were available? There were the floral decorations which started ten days before onam. And on onam day, the thrikkakaraappan had to be welcomed and placed in front of the house. The preparation of the spot involved cleaning the area, spreading it with cowdung, decorating it with rice paste. And once the deity was installed he had to be fed three times a day with delicacies like appam and ada. This for about a week.

Preparations for the onam feast would start days before. The women of the household hardly sleep for weeks on end. There are the plantains to be arranged for and then cut for frying. They have to be cut in two ways, the thicker pieces for the sarkarapuratti and the thinner ones for the banana chips. Then, the various pickles had to be prepared. The mango pickle and lime pickle and the one made of chillies, tamarind and jaggery. Even if there was plenty of help in the kitchen, pickles and the special dishes of the festival were the domain of the lady of the house. There was also the distribution of food on the days leading to and the days that came after the festival. The mundus or other pieces of the cloth to be distributed to various members of the family and the dependents had to be sorted out and given correctly. A mistake in the quality or quantity could mean months of resentment. The only redeeming feature was that there were plentry of women in the family, all of whom could be allotted different duties.

Imagine trying to do all that in the present unclear family. Usually, there is just one able –bodied woman in the household. Even the usual inexpert and inadequate domestic help is missing during festivals. While theoretically, the whole family is to do the work together, given exams and the exigencies of office and school, if anything is to be done at all, the woman of the house will have to do it on her own. Right from the purchase of the vegetables to the final serving on the plantain leaves which had to be bought from some special store or the other.

(Contd.on next Post)

Have Feet, Will Travel

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