Archive for August, 2012

Until recently Onam for me meant waking up early, donning new attire, visiting the local temple and gorging on sumptuous food for the rest of the day. This time I try to take a different look at a festival that people in Kerala celebrate with much vigour.

Kaikotti Kali

Kaikotti Kali

To get the facts right, the festival of Onam commemorates the Vamana avatar or the fifth avatar of Lord Vishnu and also marks the arrival of King Mahabali. Onam falls in the Malayalam month of Chingam and lasts for 10 days with Thiruonam being the last day. The rice harvesting season also falls during this period giving this occasion even more reasons to celebrate.

I remember my mother telling me tales about Onam and the manner in which it used to be celebrated in the not-so-old days. Electricity was a rarity in villages then and the only source of light during the night was the ever humble oil lamp. Kerala with all its brightness was never low on light. So be it temples, houses or cultural hotspots, a lamp always found its way as a sign of goodness.

Pookalam

Pookalam

The run-up to Onam starts from Attam, the first day, where people start preparing for Thiruonam. Houses are cleaned and painted, old stuffs replaced by new ones and people just about start getting in the mood with Pookalam, the floral carpet, making its presence in front of the house. With each passing day the Pookalam sees a change in size and design with a variety of flowers spread in a complex yet subtle style. Though Onam celebrations differ in each region the idea is to celebrate and cherish the fruits of the hard work done. The next few days has people splurging on clothes and jewellery, buying harvested goods and participating in Vellam Kalli (Boat Race), Kamba Vali (Tug of War), Kaikotti Kali and other functions.

Vallam kali

Vallam kali

The 9th day or Uthradom is much awaited as this is the day when King Mahabali or Maveli will be descending Kerala and spending the next fewdays. Mavelis made of wood and mud are worshipped and pooja (sacred ritual) carried out every morning and evening, a function where only men are allowed. Ironical, considering most of Kerala is a matriarchal society. Cometh the 10th day, people are seen celebrating Thiruonam by gorging on at least 20 different varieties of food, exchanging good wishes and presenting gifts while women take to the traditional dance of Kaikotti kali; all this while the floral carpet is at its vibrant best. Once Maveli is immersed in water after the pooja, men take to the streets to perform the colourful and vibrant Puli kalli (Tiger dance) where they mask themselves as tigers. The next 3 days are also celebrated with much enthusiasm as Onam draws to a close.

It is said that old always makes way for the new. The same applies to Onam, where increasing media coverage and public awareness has seen this

Pulikkali

Pulikkali

celebration take to different parts of the country. Not to mention that you will find a malayalee in every corner of the planet. While the age old tradition continues, Onam now-a-days is more of a cultural show than celebration, or so I feel. The huge number of television channels has made sure that a constant dose of programs and movies are all that people get to watch. Local organisations and societies organise Onam functions and almost every occasion is graced by a celebrity or a politician. Jewellery shops are packed while shopping malls sees a mad rush. Call it consumerism or progressive approach, people have moved on from the very old form of celebrations. Though the modern budget concerned family believes on controlled spending, what must be appreciated is the spirit with which this festival is welcomed.

Though I do believe in the phrase ‘Change is the only Constant’, it must never overshadow our roots. The new age Onam has just managed to balance itself on the fine line between the old and the new establishing a congruence of devotion and pragmatism. Now, it’s upon generation next to carry on the flame ahead. Here’s wishing each and everyone a wonderful Onam and good time!

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 ImageOver 350,000 dead; millions displaced, billions worth of property damaged, a civilization completely annihilated and many still suffering. This was the outcome of the catastrophic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, which forced the Japanese to surrender and ultimately lead to the end of World War II.

Once; food, clothing and shelter were the only basic necessities that man knew, until his thinking and greed got beyond his own capacity and his wants became his needs and this transpired into one of the worst man-made disasters in human history, The World War!

After the destruction of Europe, the focus was now on Asia-Pacific and Japan, a small island nation to the South-East, was at the helm of things. Japan in those days was at their merciless best. Having captured almost three-fourth of Asia-Pacific, they eyed Europe and after the furious pounding of the Pearl Harbor, their spirits were at an all-time high. But time was quickly running out and they very soon realized that their act had woken up a sleeping giant, who till that day had no specific grudge against them, the USA. Thereafter, what followed was an unrelenting attack by the US which bought the whole of Japan to their knees and forced them to reorganize their armed forces. In a bid to save precious fuel, Japan turned a blind eye to the air raids by America. This would go on to become one of their biggest mistakes which in the end cost many innocent lives.

On August 6 and 9, 1945, the US dropped two atom bombs named the “Little Boy” and “Fat Man” on Hiroshima and Nagasaki respectively. While Hiroshima was an embarkation port and industrial center that was the site of major military headquarters, Nagasaki was a city of both industrial and military significance. When the aircrafts carrying the bombs entered the Japanese airspace, little did they realize that the US planes were here to cause mass murder. Later a Japanese radio announced, “Practically all living things, human and animal, were literally seared to death”, leaving the world shocked and grieving.

It is quite ironical that peace, which can only be achieved by non-violence, is forced upon us by violence and destruction. No matter how justifiable or unwilling America was, the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki has changed the face of the world and will continue to be seen as a black spot in the history of human race. It is said that the fourth World War will be fought with batons, sticks and knives – such will be the after-effects of World War III. Think, think and re-think. Should we continue to live the way we are or should we change for the better of mankind? For being human is what makes us different!

Copyright @Bookchums

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When my Content Manager asked me to write a blog on this special topic, I was left wondering as to where to start from. Should it be my school days when Raksha Bandhan meant girls chasing every single boy and tying rakhis in exchange for some sweets or was it that day when cousins who never said hello in a lifetime suddenly called up their brothers and bombarded them mercilessly with their love?

Raksha Bandhan has a special place in my heart as the only sibling I have is my younger brother and the one whom I call my dear sister is my cousin who lives far away in Dubai. It’s been more than 6 years since she has tied a rakhi to me but the bond that we share is still intact. Be it Dubai or some other place on earth, a Rakhi has always found its way to my home – right on time. I’m sure this time it wouldn’t be different.

Our very own Wikipedia says Raksha Bandhan, (the bond of protection) or Rakhi is a festival primarily observed in India and Nepal, which celebrates the relationship between brothers and sisters, which forces me to ask this question. What’s so special? Legend has it that many kingdoms avoided extinction and social harmony reached a new high with the presence of this eternal thread. The endless love between the Hindu Deity Sri Krishna and Draupadi is much celebrated among Hindus. Once when Lord Krishna cut his finger, Draupadi tore off a piece of her sari and bandaged his cut. Krishna had then promised Draupadi that he would repay each “thread” when the time comes. When Draupadi needed Krishna’s protection and prayed for his help, he came to her rescue. This is one of the stories of the origin of the Raksha Bandhan festival.

Marking this auspicious day, the sister ties a sacred thread around her brother’s wrist, and the brother in turn presents her with exciting gifts with a promise to protect her throughout his life.

Rakhi is not just a thread, but a thought, a promise and a testimony to the very fact that love in its purest form has no boundaries and knows no biases. It is difficult to explain the relationship between a brother and a sister as love has no definition. So be it the sister’s unrelenting demand for gifts or the brother’s constant naughty and irritating acts, the bond between both is beyond the imagination of any person and could simply be termed as everlasting.

As I sit today recalling the wonderful moments me and my cousin spent together, it would be right to say that the bond that we shared was unconditional and speaks laurels about the Knot with a Difference. Truly …Kuch Khaas Hai!
Copyright @Bookchums

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