Dances of Kerala

Kerala is home to many arts – classical and folk, each with its distinctive flavor. Each dance immerses the viewer in a unique experience.

A trip to Kerala cannot be officially complete without watching a Kathakali performance. Kathakali was traditionally the bastion of only men, who donned female costumes as well. With colourful face makeup, elaborate costumes and headgear, kathakali artists intrigue and enthrall the viewer. The sounds of the drums and cymbals along with the accompanying vocals and the dancer himself makes time stand still and transport the viewer into the actual scene from the mythology/epic from where the story is told. It adds to the mysticism around kathakali.

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The swaying of coconut trees with the gentle breeze influenced the movements of another classical art form in “the land of coconuts” – the graceful Mohiniyattam. The only Indian classical dance form performed exclusively by ladies. Literally meaning dance of the enchantress, the seductive glances, the swaying movements of the torso, the expressiveness of the face adds to the allure and grace of the dance, enchanting the audience in the process and living up to its name. Temples in Kerala host kathakali and mohiniyattam performances, usually after twilight, for the benefit of devotees.

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Theyyam is part ritual and part spiritual dance from Northern Kerala. Performed predominantly by people hailing from the lower caste, once in Theyyam attire, the artist transforms himself and is considered equivalent to God by the locals. Sounds of chenda (drum)  in the background, the clanging of theyyam’s anklets, the headgear and face makeup add to the ethereal feel. Theyyam is usually performed in temples and ancestral homes(tharavadus) in north Malabar. If you are a culture buff like me, be prepared to lose yourself in these dances of Kerala – where journeys end and stories begin.

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Vishu Trivia

Vishu is a traditional festival celebrated in Kerala, India every year mid April. And it is a festival dear to my heart not only because it symbolizes the new year for us, and hence new clothes, my birthday follows a couple of days later, which means prolonged festivities.

The highlight of Vishu is The Vishu Kanni, an assortment of items which promise a good and fruitful year- and yes literally a “fruit”ful year – What you see is what you get. It also falls during the jackfruit season and the start of the mango season. An example given below :

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The flowers associated with this festival is the Konnapoo from the tree cassia fistula. It always flowers during Spring around the time of this festival.

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It is the national flower of Kerala and Thailand.

Moreover, the tree, called the golden shower tree (we can see why) is the national tree of Thailand. Its yellow flowers symbolize the Thai royalty.
In Ayurveda, the tree is called Aragvadha, meaning disease killer.
As part of Malayali folklore, the flowers please Lord Krishna, and hence is offered during Vishu Kanni.
The flower has also found its way on stamps across countries (20 Rs. stamp in India, 48p in Canada)

 

Braving the Mumbai Local

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Source : Internet

It was around 8.15 p.m. I waited in trepidation at what could possibly come, anxious, and mustering up my every resolve. Childhood memories came flooding back.

I was eight years old, my last trip to Mumbai, the city I would later revisit only after marriage. Dad had taken me around for a Mumbai Darshan. And the moment, the train stopped, people had come flooding both in and out. “Bacchi hai. Bacchi hai”, my dad had cried as he lifted me and shoved me into  a train packed with people. I don’t know how he did it. He gave one arm to me which I clung on for dear life within the coach, and with his other arm, he caught the hand hold. Getting out of the train was a similar affair where he lifted me, and yelled “Bacchi hai” to avoid being crushed in the stampede of people entering and getting out.

Landing to the present – some 17 years later, I waited for the train to arrive. “Lady’s compartment is there”, a man pointed out.

A lady with a kind face and, in a black dress is engrossed onto her tablet reading a book. She looked up and smiled – which did help me calm me a little bit. “Take this train “, she said as a slow moving local made its way onto the platform. Surprisingly the women’s compartment wasn’t as crowded as the details I heard. It probably helped that it was around 7.50  pm also (I was caught in the complete thick of it the next day, and realized they were right!)

I had a place to stand. I thought it maybe because of the comparatively later hour. A saree clad lady entered the compartment at the next station to sell her stock of trinkets. A policeman briskly walked up and stood on the footboard of the train at least for the next eight stations.

I also noticed the seat reservation mechanism in the ladies compartment. I was told later by a colleague it is exclusive only to the ladies compartment. “Which station?”, they enquire as soon as they get in, and then book their seats. Some actually offer when they get up, but in the thick of the crowd, its always the seat reservation mechanism.  I looked around me. Most ladies were hooked onto their earphones with eyes fixated on their mobile. Some with seats managed to sleep. And others were looming large over potential ladies whose stations were coming up.

And finally.. it was I looked through the window and saw my station come up. When I got down, I saw my husband was waiting with a smile.

“So how was it?” He asked.

“Not so bad” I responded, with a sense of accomplishment.