Monthly Archives: August 2015

The right way of eating an Onasadya

With Onam just round the corner, Kochi Times takes you through a gastronomic journey…


The green plantain leaves, pickles, chips and goblets of veggie delights that are spread on it, the tempting aroma that wafts all around tempting the senses… say Onasadya and the image conjured up in Malayali minds waters the mouths and brightens hearts in no time. Delectable dishes that assure a gastronomical joyride are the stars of Thiruvonam, but how well do we know them to give them a befitting welcome?

It’s well known that the sattva guna vegetarian Onasadya is supposed to be served in a traditionally-followed healthy order that helps digestion, but not many today are aware of it. To top it all, there are regional differences in the dishes served and customs followed as well. This Onam, Kochi Times beckons some renowned regional food experts to help us feast healthy and hearty.

Sadya’s simple past

Renowned culinary expert Pazhayidom Mohanan Namboothiri, who anchors many important feasts of the State including the State School Youth festival, says that in the 50s and 60s, Onasadya was much simpler than its modern day versions! “It was called naalu curry and sadya, and had just eight to nine items in total, including kaalan, erisseri, olan, thoran or mezhuku piratti, achar, pappadam, two or three upperis, moru and payasam. Later, avial came in, followed by sambar from Tamil Nadu and other items, totalling up to around 16 dishes from salt to payasam. What we see today are the improvised forms of this pattern,” he says.

Varied regional tastes

All that said, Malayalis across the State have their own regional favourites and star dishes. For instance, it is a well-known fact that non-vegetarian dishes are widely served in the northern parts of Kerala in Onasadya. There are similar changes in other items and customs too.

Pazhayidom Namboothiri says, “In southern Kerala, parippu (dal) is quite important, but not in northern Kerala. In the south, parippu and sambar, rasam, avial, thoran, pachadi, one koottukari, two upperi, pappadam, pazham, one uppilittathu and payasam would mean a good sadya. In the north, however kurukku kaalan is used instead of pulisseri, and it is served at the tip of the leaf. Their items are less in numbers as well, and will include sambar, rasam, moru, avial, koottukari, pachadi, two uppilittathu, thoran, chips, pappadam and, pazham.”

Serving it right

The tapering end of the leaf should point to the left of the seated guest and rice should be served on the lower half of the leaf, experts say. “From the bottom part of the leaf, items should be served clockwise”, says Pazhayidom Namboothiri, adding, “Pickles should be placed in the bottom portion. Lemon, mango, puli inchi, kichdi, uppu will be served at the bottom left. On the other side you can keep chips and thoran, followed by pachadi, koottukari, olan and avial.” There are regional differences in serving as well. In northern Kerala, katti parippu is also served on one corner of the leaf. They would serve it in the order of rice, sambar, rasam, payasam, and rice and moru again, experts say. In southern Kerala, sambar is given after nei parippu, followed by rasam, payasam, rice, pulissery and moru.

“There is no particular order followed in central Kerala. Rice is eaten with sambar, parippu or rasam and then they move to payasam,” says Namboothiri. Desserts are served mid-way through the meal and pazham is served with payasams. In some places, rice is served once more with rasam after payasam.

Generally, the food is first served on the extreme tip of each banana leaf and usually food is served from left to right, starting with salt, pickles, thoran, avial, olan, kichadi, pachadi and erissery. From left to right in the bottom, small banana, chips, pappadam are served and into the rice ghee and parippu curry are added. Once parippu is finished, sambar, rasam, kalan, pradhaman are served and at last, sambar or moru.

The meal can also be followed by vettila murukkan or betel leaf chewing, which will ease digestion and cleanse palate as well. Traditionally, spices and vegetables like onion and garlic are not used in the preparation of sadya.


Sadya expert Manoj Balusseri lists out the traditionally important payasams as pazham, palada, pal payasam, parippu pradhaman, kadala parippu pradhaman and the semiya payasam. “Ada pradhaman is made in two different ways in the south,” he adds.

Pazha pradhaman and palada pradhaman are the important payasams in northern Kerala, while ada, pal payasam and gothambu palada are the favourites in central Kerala. The southern part of the State uses mixed payasams of three or four items. The payasams, experts say, are to be consumed starting with the lightest and moving on to the darker ones, meaning those made with jaggery.

Customs long forgotten

How many of us know that after eating an Onasadya, the leaf should be folded towards the other side? Apparently, a sadya leaf is folded towards you only after rituals like adiyanthiram (cremation ceremony). While the exact reason is not known, Pazhayidom Namboothiri says, “There is the possibility of food wastage in an Onasadya and thus, folding it against you ensures no waste falls on to your lap. Whereas, items and wastage can be less for rituals like adiyanthiram.”


An ideal traditional sadya should have delicacies such as pazham nurukku, kaya varuthathu, sarkkara upperi, koottu kari, kalan, olan, avial, thoran, naranga, puliyinchi, sambar, rasam, prathaman, thairu, pappadam and payasam. The rice used for sadya can vary from north to south of Kerala. For example, the matta rice is used in Palakkad and white rice is used in the Thrissur region.

— Santhosh Ambiswamy, renowned food expert

source: / The Times of India / News Home> City> Kochi / by Deepa Sonam, TNN / August 23rd, 2015

Coconut wood furniture unit to take off soon

Department of Wood Science, Kerala Agricultural University and Coconut Development Board have joined hands to set up a furniture demonstration unit that will tap the abundance of coconut timber supply in the State.

The project, for which an outlay of Rs. 50 lakh has been sanctioned, is linked to Coconut Board’s ongoing replanting and rejuvenation of coconut gardens programme. The Board is providing aid to coconut farmers to remove senile palms and to replace them with new ones.

According to an estimate by the Board, there are a total of 18 million coconut palms in the State of which 14,83,107 have been reported to be senile.

This implies that there is abundant supply of coconut timber in the State though the palms are now cut down and mostly wasted, said E.V. Anoop of the Wood Science Department.

A Board official said that the removal of senile and sick palms was in progress. Root-wilt affected palms are concentrated in the districts of Alappuzha, Pathanamthitta, Kottayam and Idukki though the Coconut Board programme is on throughout the State.

The furniture unit is meant to make export-oriented, high-end furniture. It is also expected that people in Kerala will give up their apparent aversion to using coconut timber for making furniture.

The furniture unit, which will be a technology demonstration facility, is being set up in collaboration with the Kodungalloor Coconut Producer Company and Kerala Furniture Consortium, said Mr. Anoop.

The response has been positive as coconut producer companies and furniture-makers are eager to utilise the new opportunity, he added. The venture will work on a value chain model involving coconut timber extraction, conversion on site, design and manufacture. One of the most difficult areas for farmers now is to find labour for cutting down the palms and transporting the timber.

source: / The Hindu / Home> News> Cities> Kochi / by K.A.Martin / Kochi – August 27th, 2015

Cochin International Airport becomes world’s first to operate on solar power

Kochi :

Chief minister Oommen Chandy inaugurated the 12 MWp (megawatt peak) solar power plant at the Cochin International Airport Ltd (Cial) on Tuesday.

The plant, comprising 46,150 solar panels laid across 45 acres in the cargo complex, will enable Cochin airport to produce 50,000 to 60,000 units of solar power every day for its operations. Airport authorities claimed that this would technically makes the airport ‘absolutely power neutral’.

Cial first ventured into solar power sector in March 2013 when they installed a 100 kWp (kilowatt peak) solar plant on the rooftop of the arrival terminal. Installed by the Kolkata-based Vikram Solar Private Ltd, the plant was a trendsetter in the field of grid-connected solar energy (one without any battery storage) in Kerala.

Later, they installed a 1 MWp solar power plant partly on the rooftop and partly on the ground in the aircraft maintenance hangar facility on the airport premises. This plant was installed by Emvee Photovoltaic Power Pvt Ltd and is the first megawatt-scale installation of solar PV system in Kerala.

After commissioning these plants, Cial has so far saved more than 550MT of CO2 emission. Over the next 25 years, this green power project will avoid carbon dioxide emissions from coal fired power plants by more than three lakh metric tonnes, which is equivalent to planting 30 lakh trees.

Cial is now in the process of setting up a 12MWp solar PV plant as part of its green initiatives. This will come up in an area of about 45 acres near the international cargo premises. The work has been awarded to Bosch Ltd and is expected to generate around 48,000 units per day. Along with the electricity generated from the existing 1.10 MWp plants, this would be sufficient to meet the power requirement of the airport, officials said.

Later in the day, the annual general body meeting of Cial approved the recommendation of director board to give a dividend of 21% to all its shareholders. The total earning of Cial in 2014-15 was Rs 413.96 crore, an increase of 19.69% compared with the previous year. The airport made a profit of Rs 144.58 crore in 2014-15, which is 16.25% compared with the previous year. The number of passengers touched 64 lakhs. “The new international terminal will become functional by 2016,” added Chandy, who is also the chairman of Cial.

source: / The Times of India / News Home> City> Kochi / August 31st, 2015

The Kasaragodu spark

Work is my God: Kaiyyara Kinhanna Rai worked tirelessly and did not lose hope till his end Photos: courtesy family album
Work is my God: Kaiyyara Kinhanna Rai worked tirelessly and did not lose hope till his end Photos: courtesy family album

For six long decades Kaiyyara Kinhanna Rai kept his movement alive – Kasargod had to become part of Karnataka. RAHMAT TARIKERE writes that the meaning of all the writings of this writer who passed away recently is to be found in his social activism

My meeting with Kaiyyara Kinhanna Rai was an accident. There was a programme at the Kannada Sahitya Parishath in Bangalore. Kinhanna means little brother, but our Kaiyyara Kinhanna Rai was a strapping six and a quarter feet, well-built man. Dressed in his trade mark white khadi kurta and dhoti, he was sitting all by himself in the last row. With the sweet memories of his poem I had learnt in school Neenanagiddare Naaninage, which unfolds as a dialogue between a horse and a donkey, I walked up to him and greeted him. Holding my hand he ushered me to the chair beside, pulled out a four page resume from his bag and gave it to me. In that resume the list of his non-literary activities outnumbered his literary activities. For instance, his participation in Quit India Movement, submission of a memorandum to the Unification committee urging that Kasargod should be absorbed into Karnataka, winning the Best Teacher national award, his administration for 15 years as the chairman of Badiyadka village panchayat, the two schools and community hospital he built, the Swadeshabhimani newspaper of which he was editor, president of Weaving and Weavers Khadi Co-operative society… so on and so forth. It felt unusual that the resume of a Kannada writer read like this. Everything in it said that Kaiyyara Kinhanna was more a political activist than a writer. Once I had finished reading it, Kaiyyara Kinhanna Rai started speaking about Kasaragodu. Now, even the programme had begun. He was speaking softly, just for me, but his gravelly voice overpowered the speaker’s voice and was audible to everyone in the auditorium. Some of the audience members turned back impatiently and gave us dirty stares. I didn’t know how to stop this senior writer, nor was I in a state to listen to him – I was getting restless. By this time, the writer Boluvar Mohammad Kunhi walking straight up to us, in a brusqueness that is unique to Coastal people, said: “If you want to talk, please go outside.” I fled from there. That was my first and last meeting with Kaiyyara Kinhanna Rai.


Between 1930-40, Coastal Karnataka was tense with three major movements. Foremost of them was to free the country from the clutches of the British. Second was to unify the regions that shared a common language but had been distributed among various presidencies, the Unification movement. Third was the communist movement that was fighting against the ruthless zamindars who had the support of the colonial rulers, and then there were other social movements like untouchability, caste system etc. For Karnad Sadashiv Rao the country’s freedom was most important. For someone like Kudmal Rangarao who had been ostracised by the Brahmin community, building a free hostel and school for the Dalits was of utmost importance. For B.V. Kakkilaya and Niranjana, labour movement was important. B.M. Shrikantaiah, Kuvempu, Alur Venkatarao and others felt that Unification was more important than Independence. Kaiyyara Kinhanna Rai had twin obsessions – freedom and Unification. After Independence in 1947, his only mission was Unification. When Potti Sriramulu fasted for three weeks and gave up his life, the Nehru government, unwillingly constituted a committee for the linguistic reformation of States. The committee recommended that Kasargod, Dakshina Kannada and Bellary which were a part of Madras presidency, should henceforth become a part of the Mysore presidency. What eventually happened was however different – they included Kasaragod in Kerala. The Kannadigas of Kasargod were heartbroken. It was at this juncture that Kaiyyara Kinhanna Rai began his movement for Kasargod’s absorption into Karnataka. This became a question of life and death for him. A full-time preoccupation, he discussed this with all and sundry, and in every place. But death has terminated his relentless struggle of a lifetime. His dream remains unfulfilled.


It is a matter of surprise that Kaiyyara Kinhanna Rai kept this spark burning in him for six long decades. His commemorative volume, in fact, is called Kasaragodina Kidi. There is a story behind calling it a spark. When he realised that Kasargod did not become a part of Karnataka, in anger and sorrow he wrote a poem, Manege. He tried to ignite everyone else with the fire that had caught him. In every public forum this was what Kaiyyara Kinhanna Rai spoke. Once, chief minister Gundu Rao was present at the function. “We, two and a half lakh Kannadigas, have been orphaned. Our language and culture is getting erased. The water that flows in Payaswini is our tears,” Kaiyyara Kinhanna Rai had cried in public. Kaiyyara Kinhanna Rai belonged to that generation which dedicated its entire life to a cause it believed. The question is however, why could he not realise his dream? To get absorbed into Karnataka, or to get separate statehood is perhaps a political dream, and it can bear fruit only when it becomes the dream of the community.

If the dream does not have economic and political dimensions, and is merely an emotional one, it is even more difficult to keep it alive. For the new generation of Kannadigas in Kasargod, Kaiyyara Kinhanna Rai’s dream must have seemed unrealistic. When there are more important questions than Unification, the poor or the locals will not make this a significant issue of their lives. Also, Kerala tops the country for its administration, education and other vital issues; it may have therefore appeared to them that they do not want to be a part of Karnataka. There was no political outfit like MES in Belgaum to fight the case of Kasargod. Kaiyyara Kinhanna Rai therefore became lonely in his struggle. That he could keep this Unification dream alive in him for six long decades became his achievement.


Born in Peradala in Kasargod (1915-2015), Kaiyyara was a school teacher. Writing was his hobby, though not a very powerful writer. The other important writers from this area are Govinda Pai, Parvatisubba, and K.V. Tirumalesh. His best writings are his poems for children. His other poems tended to be verbose and heavy with idealism — it lacked creative energy. One has to recognise this as the limitation of a Kannada school teacher. Gourish Kaikini is among the few teachers who could transcend this limitation. Even his autobiography that contains many intense and intimate experiences of his life is bland.

Yet, his writing has a historic importance. It becomes important because of its dynamic social and political consciousness. And this was shaped by Gandhianism. Gandhi’s visit to Mangalore filled youngsters with new ideals. By refusing to enter the Udupi temple that denied entry for the Dalits, Gandhi had stirred up the consciousness of the society. By then, Kudmal Rangarao had already been ostracised. Narayana Guru had launched his temple agitation against the upper class. People had laid down their lives in the communist movement in this part of Karnataka. Shivarama Karanth’s Chomana Dudi had been written. Kaiyyara Kinhanna Rai’s social writing was an extension of this. He, however, was not critical of the society, but instead glorified the tolerance of Dalits who put up with these social evils.


Truly Kaiyyara Kinhanna Rai’s contribution should not be sought in his writing. It has to be seen in his social activism. This trait could also be found in B.M. Idinabba. We can see it in H.N. Doreswamy too. In fact, the title of his autobiography Work is my God suggests this.

At a time when governments have absolved themselves of community responsibility, a corporatized education that is available only to those who have money, the hospital, and school Kaiyyara Kinhanna Rai built as panchayat chairman is important. Freedom fighter, social activist, journalist, poet Kaiyyara is no more. With him, we have lost the link to a generation that dedicated its life for a cause.

Translated by Deepa Ganesh

source: / The Hindu / Home> Features> Friday Review / by Rahmat Tarikere / Bengaluru – August 27th, 2015

Book attempts to document the local history of village

Malappuram  :

Olavattur was once a socially and economically backward, but historically important village near Kondotty in the district. The place is now facing a fallout due to rapid growth and development, thanks to the inflow of gulf money through non-resident Keralites (NRK) in the village.

It is in this context, a book, ‘Olavattur Nalvazhikal Nattuvazhikal’, which documents the local history of the village becomes relevant. The book is 600 pages, prepared by a collective of local people, documents the cultural and social history of more than 70 local areas in Olavattur panchayat and the history of 81 traditional families in the region. The book details the six generations of each traditional family in the region and also describes in detail the eminent and historically significant persons in the region and their contribution. It also records the statistical data and gives a picture of major achievements of the village.

According to Rajesh Monji of Ideal Cultural Association, which published the book, the document is a record of myth, folklore, customs and people of Olavattur.

“Initially it was started by some friends and later we extended our plan to publish a book. We documented the history after interviewing more than a 100 elderly people including freedom fighters in the village. We are hopeful that the book, which chalks out the changes in the cultural and social changes through the past to the present, would be an authentic book of reference”, he said.

source: / The Times of India / News Home> City> Kozhikode / TNN / August 28th, 2015

Reading hymns of nature with camera

Fr. Pathrose.— Photo: Special Arrangement
Fr. Pathrose.— Photo: Special Arrangement

Sans cassock, Fr. Pathrose could be mistaken for a professional nature photographer.

Impulsive and passionate about photography, the priest of the Syrian Church sets off with his backpack at the drop of a hat to destinations as far and rich in biodiversity as Nepal, Bharatpur, Tuticorin, Wayanad and the like to delight in the ‘camera moments’ that the nature offers to him.

“He’s a blink and you miss him-type,” beams writer and actor V.K. Sreeraman, who fostered the priest’s talents with the lens. “And, like me, he’s a resident of Kunnamkulam, widely known as Kerala’s haven for fake goods. But in reality, it has several original gems like Fr. Pathrose.”

In fact, the priest wears several hats: he’s the principal of the Bethany St. John’s English School at Kunnamkulam, a karate black belt, naturopathy expert and a poet.

A native of Nedumkandam in Idukki district, he enrolled himself in a seminary in 2000 before joining Plus Two.

“I used to write poetry and stories during that time, but when I enrolled for degree at the Catholicate College in Pathanamthitta, film personality and Professor Madhu Eravankara introduced me to the finer aspects of viewing a scene through the lens. Kathaprasangam artist Prasad Anchal further fine-tuned it into a love for nature,” explains Fr. Pathrose.

Starting off with a second-hand camera using film roll, he slowly graduated into wielding an ordinary digital camera before obtaining a DSLR.


The Forum for Arts and Cultural Events (FACE) instituted by Mr. Sreeraman organised the first exhibition of his nature snaps at Kunnamkulam along with those of seasoned lensman Manoop Chandran. The show has come to the city’s Durbar Hall now.

“It’s only recently that I realised I’ve shot over 1,000 pictures of birds and animals in the wild and from the Kole fields of Kunnamkulam,” says Fr. Pathrose, currently in Munnar on a photography sojourn. “Those who say everything in nature has been lost haven’t looked around. I’ve clicked so many rare birds. It’s a pleasure to see how they interact with their surroundings,” says the priest, eager to rush off to Kashmir at the next opportunity.

Father Pathrose is a man of many talents. Nature photogprahy is just one of them.

source: / The Hindu / Home> News> Cities> Kochi / by S. Anandan / Kochi – August 28th, 2015

Build it like Baker

“Uncommon Sense: The Life and Architecture of Laurie Baker”, a feature film on the architect that is being made by his grandson Vineet Radhakrishnan (in picture), captures the essence of Baker, the man and his outlook.
“Uncommon Sense: The Life and Architecture of Laurie Baker”, a feature film on the architect that is being made by his grandson Vineet Radhakrishnan (in picture), captures the essence of Baker, the man and his outlook.

The trailer of Vineet Radhakrishnan’s film on his grandfather Laurie Baker gives fascinating glimpses into the celebrated architect’s work and design philosophy.

Sunlight streams in through the window in Laurence (Laurie) Wilfred Baker’s home at Nalanchira in Thiruvananthapuram. The chiaroscuro catches your attention. Baker chuckles with childlike pleasure, explaining how the grill in the window is made of recycled metal parts such as a discarded bicycle wheel and a clutch plate.

That one frame from a six-minute preview ( of Uncommon Sense: The Life and Architecture of Laurie Baker, a feature film on Baker that is being made by his grandson Vineet Radhakrishnan, captures the essence of Baker, the man and his outlook.

“Although there have been several articles and a few short films on my grandfather, never has a feature film been made on him. I have always felt that the long movie format was most suited to explore and understand the layered and interlinked narratives of his architectural work, his remarkable personal story, and unique life philosophy,” says Vineet in an e-mail interview. Baker lived in Thiruvananthapuram from 1970 to 2007 and drew the blueprint for a school of architecture that derived its aesthetics and inspiration from local building material and vernacular building techniques.

The main block and library of the Centre for Development Studies, designed by Laurie Baker, in Thiruvananthapuram. Photo: Special Arrangement
The main block and library of the Centre for Development Studies, designed by Laurie Baker, in Thiruvananthapuram. Photo: Special Arrangement

Vineet, who has postgraduate degrees from IIT-Delhi and INSEAD, France, says that the greatest influence in his life has been his grandfather. Vineet is a fine art and fashion photographer. The trailer of the film, released online, gives glimpses of the film — interviews with leading architects and proud owners of Baker homes, poetic shots of Baker’s buildings and, best of all, vintage shots of Baker himself talking about his philosophy and his insistence on eco-friendly architecture. The film is likely to be released in October. Excerpts from an interview:

What is the story behind the movie on one of the most important architectural inspirations in the world?

In late 2013, after completing my MBA, I did some candid introspection, and realised that if I didn’t make the film then it probably would never happen, especially since I was going back to a comfortable corporate job. So I gave up the job, and started planning the film. I have been a professional photographer for several years, so many skills translated to film shooting and I ended up, partly out of necessity, becoming not just the director but also the cinematographer and shooting all of the footage, with a friend assisting at times. We spent the next year travelling across India, re-discovering and filming Baker buildings and interviewing a variety of people who knew him in one way or the other.

What is it that you plan to cover in the film — Baker the man or Baker the architect ?

Laurie Baker’s architecture exists because of Laurie Baker the man, and because of his rather particular ideals, motivations and approach to life, his environment and to his fellow human beings. So I don’t think it’s possible to separate the two. The movie will let the common man who appreciates Baker the man, understand the beauty of his architecture better and also let the architectural student or practitioner who understands the technical building aspects see why Baker built the way he did, what he built, and equally importantly why he chose to forgo the projects he did.

How best do you plan to capture his ‘small is beautiful’ philosophy and drive for sustainability?

I feel Baker’s life itself is the most powerful illustration of these ideas, because he put into practice all of these concepts, every time he designed or constructed a building whether it was his own house, a house for a fisherman, a relatively more affluent client or a large institutional building. If we have captured his life well in the film, the message should be quite apparent.

What is the most important thing you learned from your grandfather and what is the feature in his buildings that really captures Baker’s aesthetics best?

Never did I feel that it was a strain for him or my grandmother to live the life they did, or make the unconventional choices they did. Fame, money, and social conventions did not matter. I admire them most for the courage of their convictions. His sense of proportion and balance, always avoiding cluttered façades and over-design, reflects his attitude to life.

What is the best way to continue his legacy of sustainable architecture and how can his buildings be preserved for posterity?

Rather than preserving his buildings for posterity, I believe, the attempt (an approach he would have liked) should be to preserve his questioning conscience: to not accept ways of doing things just because everyone says that’s how it is done and to respect nature and stand up against wastefulness and deceit.

source: / The Hindu / Home> National / by Saraswathy Nagarajan / August 27th, 2015

Athachamayam, exquisite offspring of a rich culture

The myth of Mahabali might be as old and surreal as the God’s own country itself but the zeal and enthusiasm for celebrating Onam has remained the same over the years.

The Athachamayam can be regarded as a harbinger for the ten-day festival of Onam; an indicator of the visual treat that is in store for the Malayali. Athachamayam, a festival originating from the royal corridors of Thrippunithura, is the pride of Kochi, a true reflection of the bygone era of the King’s reign and the society’s receptiveness towards people of various backgrounds, irrespective of caste and creed.

What is Athachamayam…

The story behind Athachamayam reminds you of a fairytale. The glorious festival was officially conducted annually at Thrippunithura, setting the mood for the Onam celebrations. The subjects waited in awe to get a glimpse of their King who would arrive with pride and in full royal regalia on the day of Athachamayam. Onam being a festival of unity, the King’s procession brought the subjects together at one place, which resulted in a gala affair, embellished with colours and folk art forms. As was the custom, at the outset, the Maharaja of Kochi performed special poojas at the Thrikkakara Vamanamoorthy Temple on the day of Atham. The march was flagged off from Thrippunithura to the Vamana Temple at Thrikkakara.

Sasi Vellakkat, councilor, who is one of the organisers of this year’s Athachamayam, recalls how athachamayam was celebrated in the erstwhile Kochi. “The celebrations commenced with Kochi Raja, heading the procession from Kunnumel Kottaram, as the Hill Palace was earlier known as. The royal procession then headed to Thrikkakara temple.” The procession thus had Nettoor Thangal to represent the Muslim community, Karingachira Kathanar, as a representative of the Christian community and Chembil Arayan as a member of the fisherfolk, Sasi adds.

With the merger of the Kochi State to the Indian union, the King’s title, splendour and rule became things of past, and so did the celebrations for some time. It is presumed that the last time the King made his presence felt was during the reign of Rama Varma Pareekshith Thampuran.

Athachamayam reborn… However, the Thrippuni-thura Municipality took charge of the carnival in the year 1985 and the Athachamayam soon rose like a phoenix, without losing any of its initial charm. Floats of various hues and embellished elephants became part of the parade, with the inclusion of various folk art forms such as Theyyam, Kummatti, Kolkali, Mayilattom, Karakattom, Kummi, Poykal, Ammankudam, Puli Kali, Kathakali, Aattakavadi, besides Panjavadyam and Chendamelam. Floats depicting various sequences from the epics such as Mahabharatha and Ramayana add colour to the atmosphere, in addition to providing an authentic picture of how Athachamayam was envisioned in the yesteryears. On the day of Atham, the streets of Thrippunithura are adorned with conical shaped clay mounds, decorated with flowers. They represent Mahabali and Vishnu and is popularly called as Thrikkakara Appan.

Athachamayam this year.. Sasi feels elated every time he becomes part of the team and says, “We have incorporated folklore and traditional artforms from Kasargod to Palakkad, such as Puli Kali from Thrissur, Theyyam from Malabar, and tribal dance from Kasargod, among many others.” Apart from this, tableaus and around 100 different cultural shows will be brought forth by school students. As per the organisers, a representative from the royal family will receive the Atham flag on Tuesday, following which there would be a small procession. The flag will be hoisted by the Governor at the Government Boys’ High School Ground at 9 am on Wednesday. On the day of Uthradam on August 27, the flag will be lowered. The flag will then be given to Thrikkakara Muncipal Chairman, where they will be hoisting the flag again, which is symbolic of the fact that they can start the Onam celebrations in Thrikkakara.

Athachamayam 2015 Traditional artforms from Kasargod to Palakkad such as Puli Kali from Thrissur, Theyyam from Malabar and tribal dance from Kasargod Around 100 cultural shows and performing arts by schools students

source: / The Times of India / News Home> Kochi / by Deepika Jayaram, TNN / August 21st, 2015

Wonder Woman’s Ball Game

Vinaya (left) with women of Wings | Ratheesh Sundaram
Vinaya (left) with women of Wings | Ratheesh Sundaram

In conservative Kerala, where women rarely venture out of their homes after dusk, there is a slow wind of change. Housewives and working women in the age group of 25-65 can be seen playing volleyball in Thrissur district. They are largely from the middle-class and lower middle-class strata and till a year ago, were least interested in sports. For them  now, sports has not been simply been a life changer but has become a tool for empowerment. It has literally given them wings.

They are part of Women’s Integration and Growth through Sports (Wings), a venture by Vinaya, a senior civil police officer at the Police Academy in Thrissur. Started a year ago, Wings has more than 300 members with around 12 A teams and three B teams in Thrissur district. Two weeks ago Wings launched three teams in Palakkad.

She says that women are often excluded from many events and places due to gender disparity. “In Kerela, women often have no business entering public places like playgrounds or take active part in festivals like Thrissur Pooram. They are often totally excluded or sidelined from such activities and places, which are men’s fiefdoms promoting male camaraderie. I found this very disturbing and was determined to change it. During the football world cup or cricket world cup matches, the whole world will be rejoicing but women are totally excluded from the festivities and sometimes even ridiculed if they show interest in the games. This had to change. Wings is my way of making a change,” says the 44-year-old.

Vinaya explains that while playing volleyball, a player runs, jumps and shouts. It improves a person’s physical and mental health and increases self-confidence, gradually changing one’s attitude and outlook. “Most of these women have never done anything like this before. It has brought about a great change in them physically, mentally and socially,” says Vinaya.

The players agree. Asha Devi, a 40-year-old housewife who plays for the Kuttimukku team and is the secretary of Wings says, “Our attitude towards life changed since we started playing. We have realised the importance of maintaining our health. Once you join the team, you make so many friends and just talking and laughing with them can be a great stress buster. We don’t use our surnames these days but introduce ourselves by our first names. We have realised that there is no need to introduce ourselves by our husband’s names when we have an independent identity.” Pappa, a 34-year-old staff nurse who plays for the Police Academy team adds, “The game has positively influenced our lives, our health and physical fitness.”

Wings’ coach Ratheesh Chullikkad says that most of them are ordinary women from interior areas like Anappara, Peringottukkara, Puthur, Cheroovazhi and Vallissery whom Vinaya has recruited from roadsides or through neighbourhood groups. “Today they participate in all our activities. Besides playing tournaments, we organise blood donation camps, quiz competitions and treks.”

Wings will start teams in every district in another year. “Life is not a four-line book where you write abiding by all the rules. Women have to think differently and fight for their space in life. Being part of a sisterhood like this makes it easier to fight life’s battles,” says Vinaya.

source: / The New Indian Express / Home> Magazine / by Elizabeth Ninan / August 08th, 2015

Drumming their way to better life

Sinkari Melam by Kudumbasree members in Kozhikode .– Photo: S. Ramesh Kurup
Sinkari Melam by Kudumbasree members in Kozhikode .– Photo: S. Ramesh Kurup

 Women-Sinkarimelam troupes going places

Two major women’s Sinkarimelam troupes in Kozhikode district missed the Kudumbasree 17th anniversary contest as they were performing as part of Onam celebrations in Delhi and Bengaluru. Yes, these women are literally going places, thanks to an art form that has changed the course of their lives for ever.

There are 13 women-Sinkarimelam troupes in the district, eight of them under the Kudumbasree fold. All these troupes are doing quite well with at least 15 performances a month, up to 20 during peak season. Every troupe has average 20 members and they charge around Rs.15,000 inside the district. They are highly in demand not just for Onam celebrations and temple festivals, but even for shop inaugurations and weddings.

However, it was not a path of roses for them. When the Kuruvattur Community Development Society started the ‘Swaralaya’ troupe four years ago, they had to face severe criticism for trying to do something that is meant only for men. “We were accused of creating noise while practising. But the same people who criticised then are now seeking entry into the troupe,” says secretary of the troupe Ajitha Kumari.

Monsoon is an offseason for the troupes in Kerala, but they make up for it with performances in Tamil Nadu at the time. The festival season from November to May is the peak season. “We get more recognition when we go out of the State. The Kudumbasree fold has a good name across the country,” says M.K. Vanaja, leader of ‘Varna Mudra’ of Unnikulam CDS, the first troupe in the district. They have travelled across South India and to some parts of Maharashtra for their performances.

With the increase in number of troupes, the competition is intense and each troupe has a rare trick up their sleeve to impress their audience. Starting from colourful uniforms, they bring up different beats and dance steps for variety. The ‘Swaralaya’ has a troupe of young girls performing Vilakkattam while ‘Varnamudra’ has a men’s team performing Pookkavadi that performs alongside their Sinkarimelam.

“The members of our troupe are happy with the outcome. Sinkarimelam has helped us mould a life. We could settle our debts, get our homes done as well as get our children educated,” says Ajitha Kumari adding that her daughter is a B.Arch student.

source: / The Hindu / Home> National> Kerala / by Aabha Anoop / August 27th, 2015