Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Kerala Village Fair – Displaying the Rich Culture and Tradition of Gods own Country

Celebrated with huge gaiety and fervor, Kerala Village Fair is an amalgamation of cultural and traditional events conducted around the verdant villages of Kochi and Kovalam every year in mid January for a time period of ten days. During this festival, traditional houses (Nalukettu) are festooned with beautiful decorative and these decorated houses also serves as the venue for all these events. Thousands and thousands of tourists from across the globe visit Kerala during the time of this festival. This is the best time to visit Kerala to witness the grandiose cultural events and the bygone era of rich Keralite history.  

A typical traditional Keralite house which is known as ‘Grammam’ houses many conventional Nalukettu houses and tea shops. Nalukettu are the traditional thatched and decorated houses and are the main backdrop of all the festivities that are conducted during the festival.

Annually in the beach of Kovalam and the Marine Drive in Ernakulam this festival is celebrated with huge enthusiasm and participation by all the people of Kerala irrespective of their caste and political affections. The basic concept of this festival is to recreate the entire Keralite village in the traditional Keralian style. Houses and huts depicting both of the higher and the lower class are made.

Celebration: The traditional Nalukettu are ornamented with ancient paintings, Mahogany, sandalwood, priceless furniture in teak, spice bowl, ethnic jewelry, swords and shields. The traditional house is further bejeweled with household utensils, Palmyra fans, musical instruments; majestic wooden beds which make it even more attractive drawing large number of tourists. The Nalukettu looks captivating with a floral decoration known as ‘Pookalam’ and the village girls exhibiting ‘Thiruvathirakali’ around a tall brass lamp attired in a gorgeous traditional dress.

Main Highlights: The main highlights of this festival are the large number of astrologers, sorcerers, and artisans who provides glimpse of the Kerala rich history and its bygone era. In true sense, this fair recreates the charm and the nostalgia of the bygone era that symbolizes the simplicity and the richness of old Kerala. Ritualistic art forms such as Pulikali, Theyyam, Kakkarisi, Panchavadyam, Villapattu, Bhajans and Thullal are also performed.

Culinary Delights: At the Chyakada or the village tea shop the visitors and guests are welcomed in every Grammam with tender coconut and refreshing tangy lemon juice. Culinary delights such as steamed tapioca and fish curry (meen and kappa) or pounced rice cakes and lentils (Puttu and Kadala) are also served during the festival. The festivity is further enhanced by the wide range of South India dishes which include mixed vegetable avial, fish stew with coconut milk, theeyal, mutton biryani, lacy idiappam, Malabar porotta and many more.

Visitors can buy various souvenirs and other handicrafts at Kamalgramam to take back home as a memorable gift from Kerala.

Tourists must visit this place during the celebration time of this festival if they want to witness what Kerala used to be in yester years.  

Monday, April 7, 2014

Pongal, the Joyous Harvest Festival

Introduction
Pongal which is also known as Thai Pongal is celebrated by Tamils in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. It is one of the most significant festivals of Tamil celebrated at the end of the harvest season. This festival is celebrated annually during the month of January.  Pongal is considered as the most auspicious one and mark it as the beginning of sun’s movement towards the zodiac Capricorn. Other than Tamil Nadu, this auspicious festival is celebrated in the Indian Union Territory of Puducherry and Sri Lanka.

History
The history of this festival is over 1,000 years old although some say that the festival is much older than that. Still, the history of this festival can be marked from the Sangam Age, from 200 B.C. to 300 A.D. Pongal actually initiated as the 'Dravidian Harvest Festival'. During that period, young girls used to worship God for prosperity and rain and they avoided taking milk and milk products during the festival. They also used to create idol of Goddess Katyani out of wet sand and worship it. Though there are many legends associated with this festival, one of the legends say that once Lord Shiva told his bull 'Basava' to visit the earth and meet the human beings living on it. Lord Shiva had also asked his bull to tell the human beings to take oil massage and bath daily like they eat food every day. On the way to the earth the bull forgot the message and told the human beings to eat daily and to take oil massage and bath once in a month. When Lord Shiva came to know about this, he became angry with Basava and punished him to live on the earth itself and asked help the human beings by ploughing their fields to harvest more grain. Thus, traditions and rituals of ancient period started to be celebrated as Pongal.

Celebrations and Rituals
The festival is celebrated with lot of vigor and joy in the state of Tamil Nadu. Almost every inhabitants living at this place actively participates in its preparations. The celebration of Pongal festival initiates from 13th January and lasts till four days. The festival initiates with 'Bhogi' and concludes with 'Kannum’. The festival is mainly of great significance for the farmers. On the first of the festival, people start with the celebration which is known as 'Bhogi' that includes cleaning of their houses and preparing attractive Kolam at the entrance of their houses.  Late in the evening of the first day, they worship Lord Indra and burn the unwanted things of their houses in a bonfire. After which they sing and dance happily around the born fire. According to the people who celebrate Pongal, this is the sign of the end of old things and beginning of new and good things.

The second day of the festival is called ‘Sury Pongal’ as it is dedicated to Sun. On this day, people worship Sun in the morning and prepare a sweet dish made of new rice, milk and jiggery. This sweet dish is known as 'Sakkarai Pongal'. It is prepared in an earthen pot and when it gets cooked; people will say 'Pongalo Pongal'. The third day of the festival is called 'Mattu Pongal'. On the third day people wash their cattle's like cows and bulls and decorate them beautifully by painting their horns with attractive colors and  by hanging bells around their neck. After completing the decoration of the cattle, they worship them and thank them in helping them in harvesting and ploughing. The last or the fourth day of Pongal is 'Kannum Pongal'. On this day people enjoy to their fullest content. During this day people meet their relatives and friends and exchange gifts, wishing each other 'Happy Pongal'. The entire festival is celebrated with lot of delight.