For the Love of Rains and Traditions

Celebrated in June every year, San Joao is one of Goa's cultural festivals. Tradition has it that it was on this day that unborn St. John the Baptist 'leapt with joy' in his mother Elizabeth's womb, as Mary, the mother of Jesus visited her.

Celebrated in June every year, San Joao is one of Goa’s cultural festivals. Tradition has it that it was on this day that unborn St. John the Baptist ‘leapt with joy’ in his mother Elizabeth’s womb, as Mary, the mother of Jesus visited her. PHOTO: Harsha Vadlamani

Yes, this is yet another rain-inspired story, after the one on Communist reading rooms. But such is the power of the Indian monsoon, that it can sway even the most stoic of minds. For comparison, the feelings and emotions associated with the deluge mirror those of when sighting the first of the cherry blossoms or even the Northern Lights. May be less, may be more. Any how, this post is about a fun tradition that has its roots in the picturesque villages of Goa, a popular tourist destination. And the feast of Sao Joao is a playful mix of religion, tradition, lots of merrymaking, and jumping into wells. Yes, wells. And oh, the event marks the six-month countdown to Christmas!

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MC’ing Christmas & New Year’s Eve

When I was asked to be the “face of RAXA Collective” during the Christmas/New Year’s Eve celebrations at Cardamom County, my impulsive nature overtook any kind of rational thinking and I said “yes”. I didn’t stop to think for a minute if I could do a decent job or not. But once I’d already made a commitment, I realized that I shouldn’t think too much of it and decided to go with the flow. So when the day dawned, I was my usual self, but honestly, quite anxious.

There were about 120 guests and to keep the crowd occupied is one thing, and entertained is another. Continue reading

Cattle Race – Onam Celebrations

Photo credits : R R Ranjith

Photo credits: R R Ranjith

The cattle race is one of the many charismatic Onam celebrations enjoyed by farmers during the end of the harvest season. A special 100 meter track filled with mud and water is created. The skilled drivers balance precariously on a modified plow while the pairs of bullocks charge through the farmland at hair-raising speed. Continue reading

Onam Celebrations – 2013

Photo credits : Ramesh Kidangoor

Photo credits: Ramesh Kidangoor

Kerala is a land of celebrations and Onam in particular transcends regional and religious profiles. Of the many festivals that are celebrated here, Onam is the most spectacular event of all. It celebrates the return of King Mahabali, who sacrificed his life to save his people but is said to visit his subjects annually at the harvest time. Continue reading

Sree Narayana Guru Jayanthi – 2013

Photo credits : M N Shaji

Photo credits: M N Shaji

The poet and social reformer Sree Narayana Guru Swami (1856 to 1924) is considered a great saint due to his preaching of “one caste, one religion and one God for humanity”. His 159th birthday was celebrated yesterday (August 22nd 2013), during the Malayalam month of Chingam on the Chadayam star. Continue reading

Cochin Carnival

Photo Credits : Ramesh Kidangoor

Photo Credits : Ramesh Kidangoor

Cochin Carnival is celebrated at Fort Cochin annually during the last ten days of December. The carnival is celebrated as a continuity of the Portuguese New Year festivals during the colonial years. During the carnival period all establishments in the city don white paper buntings. All available space on the streets is used to host traditional competitions such as kalam vara (floor drawing), tug-of-war, and bicycle racing. Additionally, people often play beach volleyball or go for a swim in the sea. The festivity and revelries continue until midnight of December 31st, culminating in a marvelous show of fireworks. Continue reading

Festival Of Kerala- Vishu

Photo Credit: Abhay

Photo Credit: Abhay

Celebrated on the first day of the Malayalam month of Medam (which in 2013 falls on April 14th) Vishu is one of Kerala’s most important festivals. The parallel festival to the Onam harvest celebration, Vishu is the festival of sowing. All Hindu households begin the day with offerings called vishu kani. This consists of a ritual arrangement of auspicious articles like raw rice, fresh linen, golden cucumber, betel leaves, banana, jack fruit , yellow flowers (indian Laburnum) and a metal mirror. Continue reading

International Environmental Film Festival of Paris: Prize List and Small Gems

The 30th edition of the International Environmental Film Festival closed in Paris a few weeks ago. The selection of rare, beautiful and eye-opening films was a treat so I wanted to share some of the goodness with you.

Grand Prix: The Fruit hunters by Yung Chang

Inspired by Adam Leith Gollner’s book of the same name -that also inspired a post in these pages – Canadian director Yung Chang (Up the Yangtze) enters the world of fans of rare varieties of fruits.  As he follows fruit hunters’ travels and meet-ups, he finds the tree of an almost extinct mango, comes across actor Bill Pullman and interviews many of these unsung heroes of biodiversity. The aesthetics of the cinematography makes those fruits and those characters irresistible. Continue reading

Hindhu Festival – Maha Shivaratri

Photo credits: Ramesh Kidangoor

Maha Shivaratri means “the great night of Shiva”. Shiva- the name meaning auspicious- is one of the Hindu Trinity, comprised of Lord Brahma The Creator; Lord Vishnu The Preserver and Lord Shiva The Destroyer. This festival is said to commemorate the day on which Shiva protected the world by drinking a pot of poison that had the power to destroy the entire universe. Continue reading

Kerala Temple Festival – Ettumanoor

Photo credits: Ramesh Kidangoor

The Siva Temple at Ettumanoor has a unique festival called Ezhara ponnana — meaning “seven-and-a-half golden elephants”. Each of the statues in the procession contain nearly 13 kg of gold.  Seven of the elephants are two feet high, only the eighth is one foot, giving the festival its unique name.  Continue reading

Chakkulathukavu Pongala – Sree Bhagavathy Temple, Alleppey

Photo credits: Ramesh Kidangoor

This festival takes place in Sree Bhagavathy Temple near Alleppey during the month of Vrischikam (November/December) in Kerala’s lunar-based calendar; the time when the glory of the Goddess is at its peak. This is one of the state’s most renowned festivals, where tens of thousands of female devotees gather around the temple days before the function. The women line up on both sides of the main streets and each arranges an area for offering the Pongala (cooking demo) in front of them. Each one brings an earthen cooking pot with rice, coconut and jaggery. Continue reading

Onam Celebrations At Thekkady

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Celebrations in Kerala are never focussed on the individual; they are about the land, the people and the society. The state’s most famous festival, the Harvest Festival of Onam takes place during the time when granaries overflow. In contemporary Kerala in addition to traditional customs there are exhibitions and sales across the state with music and dance events, flower shows and food festivals. These are some of the Onam festival pictures from Thekkady, which are organized by the Tourism department and Grama Panchayat (the local municipality).

Onam The Festival Of Kerala

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The most spectacular event of all Kerala festivals, Onam epitomises a new found vigour and enthusiasm about everything. The festival celebrates the return of King Mahabali, who is said to visit his subjects each year. To convince their beloved King that Kerala continues to be prosperous land of milk and honey people decorate their homes and celebrate to the fullest sometimes even faking prosperity to present a happy and flourishing facade to their King. Continue reading

Pakal Pooram – Glimpse of Thrissur Pooram

Photo: Joshy Manjumel

Pakal Pooram is a small-scale version of the grand Thrisssur Pooram.  The Pakal Pooram (Day Pooram) pictured above took place last December in Thekkady as a tourist attraction.

Elephants have been the part of the cultural ethos of Kerala for centuries. The people of Kerala consider this animal a harbinger of good fortune, a remover of obstacles and as a representative of the god Ganesh, an inseparable and integral part of religious and economic life.

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Machad Mamankam – Unique and Traditional Temple Festival

In Kerala, almost every village has its own temple with an annual festival. So there is always a local festival happening somewhere or the other, each with its own flavor and color. The 800 year old Mamankam festival is celebrated annually at the Machad Thiruvanikav temple near Trichur, the cultural capital of Kerala. Continue reading