Kerala is all set to celebrate the harvest festival of Vishu tomorrow, which is the first day of the month of Medam in Malayalam calendar. Hindus celebrate this festival in different names like Baisakhi, Mesadi, Bihu in different parts of India. Vishukani is the most important ritual on Vishu festival in Kerala. Temples like Sabarimala and Guruvayoor temple will witness unprecedented rush of pilgrims who congregate to have the Vishukani darshanam.
Vishu kani is the offering of farm produce, fruits and vegetables to Lord as a thanks giving to a bountiful harvest. The native crops of Kerala like mangoes, jackfruit, bananas etc occupy a prominent place in Kani which is arranged in the traditional vessel of uruli ( a shallow round vessel) made of brass. The golden shower flowers, known as kanikonna forms an inevitable item in the kani. The elders of the family give Kaineetanm ( cash gifts) that represent a prosperous year ahead to the rest of the family. New clothes, fire works, gifts and above all the traditional Kerala style luncheon with many curries , pappadam and payasam ( desserts) add up the fervour of this festival.
Vishu festival also marks the day of Mesha Sankranti during which Sun transits to the first zodiac of Aries. The word Vishu literally means the equinox and is considered as the astrological New Year day as well. Though the break neck speed of modern lives have robbed off the charm and traditional flavour of many of our festivals, even today Malayaless look forward to celebrate Vishu with zest and enthusiasm. Vishu is not just another holiday, it is part of our culture and identity. Let us celebrate the way that it was intended to, without diluting the essence to suit our convenience:)
Karma Kerala wishes all its readers a happy and prosperous Vishu
Karma Kerala celebrated Xmas with much fan fare and gaiety on 17th December, much before the rest of the world did . It was all about fun, frolic, food and fiesta to put it in a nutshell. From the traditional Xmas activities like carols to the fast paced dance routines, skits and songs there was something for everyone in our colorful Christmas programme. The office was decked up with festoons, colorful balloons and confetti and the excitement was thick in the air.
The programmes started at noon after a sumptuous Christmas luncheon that consisted of typical Kerala delicacies including appam and stew among others. Our boss, Mr.Tejal etched out the strategies and goals for the year ahead and the mood was upbeat as 2010 turned out to be a profitable year for Karma Kerala even as many parts of the world were reeling under the global downturn.
The Christmas gift exchange was the first item in the itinerary where everyone exchanged gifts with their Xmas friends, the names of which remained a top secret till the last moment!. The dance numbers by Shreya, Rini, Tessa , Mary, Thanima, Amjath, Kiran and praveen was the star attraction of the evening; not to forget the swift paced dance number of Sharaz. There were games like passing the parcels and an innovative candle race (where the participants needed to come first without the candle flame going out) among many other games. As they say, all good things must come to an end; so did our wonderful day but not before offering us loads of laughter and fun in a party well organised.
Karma Kerala wishes all its patrons and well wishers all over the world a Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year.
The Greater Cochin Development Authority (GCDA) is organising a five-day Onam celebration, ‘Ponnona Varavelppu’, at the GCDA Marine Drive Walkway from August 17 to 21. Some of the attractions on offer include Panchavaadyam by Kuzhur Narayana Marar, a special orchestra in tribute to the artists of the yesteryears including Mohammed Rafi and Mukesh, music director Baburaj and poet Vayalar Rama Varma. A programme on the unique martial art form of Kerala, kalaripayattu is slated for August 20. The celebrations will conclude on August 21 with a sumptuous Onasadya for the visitors.
In the other districts of Kerala too Onam festivities will be held in its true splendor and spirit. In the capital city of Kerala of Thiruvananthapuram, Onam is celebrated in a grand scale with a tourism week celebration comprising of folk arts , displays and floral carpet competitions. Thrissur, the cultural capital of Kerala will reverberate with the buzz of pulikali when scores of dancers in bright yellow tiger costumes paint the city streets in a riot of colors.
This year Kochi is also indulging in Onam in a grand scale and this 5 day festivities will add further charm to the festive mood in the air. The Kite flying festival in Fort Kochi and pageantry and floats will be the other attractions associated with the biggest festival of Kerala this season. Make the most of the festive spirit around and discover the cultural richness and the heritage of Kerala through Onam.
Akshaya Thritiya was celebrated in Kerala amidst reports of a substantially higher sales of gold in all its forms. While jewelers cashed in on the mass hysteria and off loaded a bulk of their shelf stock, the gold coin counters at the public sector banks reported three times their normal transactions where customers formed a beeline to buy gold on this auspicious day.
The word “Akshaya” means never diminishing in Sanskrit and the day is believed to bring good luck and success. It is one of the most important days for Hindus and Jains and it is believed that if you do a charity on this day you will be blessed and will receive blessings many fold. Originally, Akshaya Thritiya was considered an auspicious day to do pious deeds and to start new ventures. However , it is baffling to note that these days jewelers have turned the sanctity and purity of this auspicious day into a marketing gimmick!
Kerala, where Akshaya Thritiya was not heard of till a few years back, too has fallen prey to the jewelers concerted efforts of promoting the yellow metal. Gold is a good investment option and any time is ideal to buy it. However to link it with a particular day is nothing but utter foolishness. Are we so naive to believe that any piece of gold purchased on this day will increase manifold?
Read on to find how a couple was taken for a ride after falling for a misleading ad of small time jeweler in Kochi during last year’s Akshaya Thritiya festival. The said couple is running a garment shop in Cochin and was doing good business. It was when a jeweler’s advertisement on the likely windfalls that they may get if they buy gold on Akshaya Thritiya , caught their fancy. They decided to purchase gold with the money that they had set aside to source garments and cloth materials from Bangalore for their shop.
They were happy on a decision well made and counted each day in anticipation of the big fortune. Voila! It was then a friend of theirs approached them with a lucrative offer. Give her 1 lakh and in just 15 days , it will be returned as 2 lakhs. The offer was too good to let by. They gave her 1 lakh and as promised she returned it as double the amount in 2 weeks. Their happiness knew no bounds and the windfall was promptly attributed to akshaya thritiya. But the anticlimax is that the lady who gained their confidence vanished with all their money and ornaments in a matter of a few months! Now their shop is in ruins, and they are on the look out for ways and means for a decent living. It is high time that we put a stop on all these superstitions and gimmicks and celebrate akshaya thriitiya the way it was meant to be – by doing noble deeds and charity!
Listed in the Guinness book of world records, Attukal Pongala is the largest festival for women in the world. It was celebrated with religious fervour and gaiety at the state capital of Thuiruvananthapuram on Sunday and was attended by over 30 lakh women devotees from all over Kerala and outside. Most of them reached the city days in advance to book vantage spots near the temple to set up the hearths where “pongala”, the sweet porridge made of rice, jaggery and coconut was cooked as the offering for the goddess. In places like Thampanoor, long lines of devotees were seen on the sides of the road with even the nook and corners of the city occupied by devotees.
Arrangements were made weeks in advance and residents associations and clubs played a very proactive role in ensuring the smooth conduct of this festival, which involved meticulous planning and coordination in a massive scale. The rituals of the day began with early morning purification ceremony after which the chief priest handed over the lamp to light the hearth in the temple kitchen, ‘tidappalli, from where the light was transferred to a hearth outside the temple from which it was moved to all the Pongala hearths in quick succession, when the whole city became covered with a thick blanket of smoke.
Volunteers were seen distributing drinking water and lemonade as the mercury soared at noon . Arrangements to provide free noon meals were also in place ; even autorickshaws were plying for free for the benefit of the devotees who had come from far off places . Once the pongala was made, the priests sprinkled holy water to sanctify the offerings while helicopters hovered above, showering floral petals on the hearth, to signify the culmination of the ceremony, which is celebrated by the city as a whole with no barriers of religion and caste and this is what makes this festival so very special!
While the city folks forsake their sleep for a night long of waltz, wine and dine, the womenfolk of the Kerala villages had a special reason to stay awake the whole night on the New Year eve. It was Thiruvathira, one of the most important festivals for the womenfolk of Kerala. Celebrated in the Malayalam month of Dhanu, this time, it fell on a blue moon, which added up to its charm. It is celebrated in commemoration of the death of Kamadevan, representing the annihilation of the vices and the passionate thoughts by keeping the mind stable. Kamadevan was burnt alive by the opening of the third eye of Lord Siva,one of the members of the Divine Trinity.
The festivities start very early in the morning when every female member of the family takes bath in the pond and very often girls from the neighbourhood assemble to make it a group affair. After the elaborate bathing ritual comprising of singing and splashing of water, they deck themselves up in the traditional dresses, darken their eyes with home made kajal and chew betel leaves to redden their lips. Huge swings will be put up for the women to enjoy.
On Thiruvaathira, the women folk abstain from taking rice and for the lunch a delicious arrow-root powder porridge or fruits are served. The women spend the whole night singing and dancing. Kaikottikkali is an exceptional dance form that is associated with this festival in which a group of women attired in traditional dresses dance in a circle around a lighted brass lamp.
At night, women eat eight different tubers roasted in the fire, which is known as Ettangadi chuduka’ . The night long music and dance is interspersed with a ceremony called Patirappoo choodal, after which, the dance and music continue till sunrise. The festivities conclude with an early morning bath and prayer at the nearby temple.
Scores of men of all castes and creed dress up as women in gorgeous saris or the traditional ‘set mundu’ and offer prayers and participate in colorful processions. It is performed as a thanks giving ritual by the ardent devotees who come from far and wide. The devotees carry a five wicked lamp mounted on a wooden pole, from which all other lamps of the temple are lighted up.
Legend says that the Goddess was overly pleased with the cow boys who acted as girls and offered flowers and coconut preparations to the deity. The temple was constructed without an outer wall as per the divine revelation made to one of these boys. The ritual of men donning female attires was started ever since then and even today it is practiced once in every year with religious fervor and gaiety during the chamayavilakku festival. It is believed to be one of the most popular offering to the goddess to invoke her blessings and to cast away all the sins.
Thiruvananthapuram: The famous Pooram festival of Sri Subramaniaswamy Temple at Panmana, popularly known as the ‘Pazhani of Kerala’ was celebrated with pomp and religious gaiety.
The best part of the festival is the impressive congregation of caparisoned elephants and the change of parasols, well complemented by stunning ensemble of an array of local musical instruments. Played by over 250 artists, this musical feat known in local parlance as Panchavadyam and Panchari melam, akin to the fabled Thrissur Pooram.
Panmana Pooram is a red letter day in the festive calendar of South Kerala. On the concluding day of the festival there will be a breathtaking elephant pageantry in which over twenty four caparisoned elephants would participate.
By Road: The nearest bus station of Karunagappally is at a distance of about 7 km.
Nearest Railway station: Karunagappally
Nearest Airport: Thiruvananthapuram International Airport, (90 km)
Aluva: Aluva Sivarathri will be celebrated at the Siva temple on the banks of the river Periyar at Aluva, 16 km from Ernakulam with religious fervor and gaiety. Periyar holds a special place in the minds of Malayalees as a sacred river or Dakshina Ganga. It is not just a perennial source of the State’s drinking water and hydel power but is a final abode of the departed souls and a revered spiritual and creative spot, which has inspired writers, poets and thinkers.
Celebrated in the month of Kumbham, Sivarathri festival draws pilgrims from far and wide which falls in February – March. Pilgrims offer last rites to the departed souls in the morning succeeding the revered night. The river banks will be accommodating over seven lakh people who will be thronging to participate in the Sivarathri celebrations on Wednesday night.
The banks have been decorated with colorful illumination and volunteers have been posted in all the bathing ghats and jetties where country boats drop scores of pilgrims In addition, there is an array of entertainment options and a consumer goods fair, which will feature exhibitions of domestic appliances and ornamental fish among others. The state road transport corporation has set up a temporary bus terminal at Paravoor junction to cater to the pilgrims. In addition, a larger posse of police personnel is also deployed to ensure the smooth conduct of the celebration. Boats with expert swimmers from the police and navy are also available to handle any emergencies.
The other festival highlights include night long reading of the puranas and other holy texts, Cultural programmes and Vavubali ( paying obeisance to the forefathers) at dawn.
Guruvayur: The ten day long annual festival starting on the 8th Asterism during the Malayalam month of Kumbham will draw thousands of Lord Guruvayurappan devotees to this famous temple in the coming days.
The annual festival is a massive affair enriched with colorful processions and illumination that transcend the milieu into surreal planes. The interesting fact is that for the Guruvayur festival only moderate fireworks are used and no high decibel pyrotechnics are employed. This temple city decks up in its best with decorative arches and colorful festoons, streets get spruced up and the houses lining up the alleyways don a fresh coat of paint to gear up to the festive mood. Buildings and shops are decorated in the traditional style of plantain trunks and coconut. The Two temple ’gopurams’ and the outer-courtyard are elaborately decorated with lights and breathtaking displays.
Elephant race is probably the most interesting feature of the festival, where the temple elephants run round the temple eleven times and people cheer them and often run with them in frenzy. The winning elephant is offered prizes as well. This ritual is immediately followed by sowing of seeds, where nine different cereals are germinated in a number of pots made of silver. The hoisting of the temple flag signaling the commencement of the celebration is done on the same night of sowing the seeds.
Various cultural programmes such as Chakkyar Koothu are preformed daily at the Koothambalam. On the 9th day Pallivetta or the royal hunt starts with the Lord on elephant hunting a flock of wild boars (devotees donning boar masks), which symbolizes the defeat of the good over the evil. The temple opens only late by 6.00 am on the next day of ‘pallivetta’ as the Lord would be tired after the previous night royal hunt.
The Arattu marks the culmination of the festivities when the priest takes a dip with the silver idol in the sacred temple pond of Rudratheertham to be followed by thousands of people who take a holy dip in it. The temple town never sleeps for the next ten days when music, dance and celebrations would add flair and fervor to mark the beginning of one of the most important red letter days of Kerala festive calendar.