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Sep 14

Written by: Jennifer Kumar, Cultural Adjustment Coach
Friday, September 14, 2007

Thiruvathirakali is perfomed famously for Onam celebrations in the state of Kerala, India.  However, there is also a festival among some Keralites in December/January, the fifth month of the Malayalee calendar, Dhanu, called Thiruvathira.

 

I did not know about the Thiruvathira festival until I did a bit of research on this dance.  I became interested in this dance as I wanted to find some way to actively participate in the yearly Onam function through our local Malayalee association for the past few years, and this dance seemed easy enough for me to try.

So, this year ten of us ladies practiced from July until early September to create this graceful Thiruvathira dance, which is also known as Kaikottakali.  To me, growing up in U.S., this dance seemed very much like the western square dancing, having a partner, and moving around the group in various poses to come back to the part of the square (or in this case, circle) that you started.  It also reminded me very much of a dance I did while in college when I participated in the Japanese student’s club cultural function.  There, we did a circle dance in Kimonos and due to the tightness of the dress, had to move around  in small, graceful steps.  In this dance, it is manditory to wear a ‘set mundu’, a two piece Kerala sari.  This sari is a bit more challenging to move elegantly in than the more familiar one piece saris and also slowing down into small, but graceful steps seems very difficult for many who live a fast paced lifestyle, I suppose.

So, doing the dance itself became the meditation for me.  I loved to practice with the group and get the feeling of elation afterwords that “We did it!”.  I also enjoyed practicing on my own to the music and without the music in a meditative state.  It helped me relax from the stress of the working day.

Though Thiruvathira can be performed by any religion in Kerala, I think it is more associated with Hindus.  The [Syrian] Christians also have their own version of this dance, Margam Kali, that is performed with music having different words and beats.  The dress is also very different for the two dances.  Though they may seem similar from a distance, a close look at them, you will notice many differences.  It is these differences that fascinate me so much. 

Maybe I will get to learn about it more closely if I have the opportunity to participate in a margam kali dance.  From this site, I learned about the Syrian Christian Dress Code in Kerala, India, and from youtube, was able to see a nice perfomance of Margam Kali.  Since I am new to these dances, if you have some feedback on it, do share it with me, by e-mailing me.

I hope you enjoy seeing videos of our group dancing, just click on the photos in this article to see the videos.

Related Posts: Onam Ashamsakal – An American’s Journey to Understanding Onam

We shall meet in the next posting.  Enjoy your time until then.

 

Author Jennifer Kumar, is an American and currently as of February 2011, lives in Kochi India. Kochi is in the state of Kerala where Thiruvathira is performed. Follow her on Facebook.

Copyright ©2007 Jennifer Jayanthi Kumar

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3 comments so far...

Re: The Dance of Slow Gracefulness: Thiruvathirakali

(Posted on behalf of TJ Thomas.)
“Margamkali is basically a ritual art of the Syrian Christians of North Kerala. A dozen dancers sing and dance clapping around a lighted wick lamp ("nilavilakku") wearing the simple traditional white dhoti ("mundu") and blouse ("chatta"). The "Nilavilakku" resembles Christ and dancers are His 12 disciples. The songs are based on some Bible Story. Margamkali is usually conducted in Annual Church Feasts ("Perunal") and performed by North Kerala Christians. They come to South Kerala for performance. We, the South Keralites call them as "Vadakars," since they are from North Kerala. Gents also perform somewhat the same Margamkali, but it is called as "Kolkali". Instead of clapping, they use sticks to make sound. These arts were famous upto1960’s, but they are almost dead now. Margamkali is almost similar to Thiruvathirakali (Hindus) and Oppana (Muslims).”
Also posted for Follow Up Fridays, November 9, 2007.

By Jayanthi on   Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Re: The Dance of Slow Gracefulness: Thiruvathirakali

Thanks for such a beautifully composed, informative article.I think your designing work to this is really great .I really appreciate your work to this site.So thanks for it.I hope you can continue this type of hard work to this site in future also..Because this blog is really very informative and it helps me lot.I want to download some dance video.Will you give me some advice from where i get those one.

*Thank you for stopping by my site and spending time here.
I am not sure where you can download these videos, unfortunately. I am not familiar with downloading videos from YouTube - not sure if that option is available. If anyone else who comes to this page knows about that, please leave your thoughts here. Thanks.

By neues online casino on   Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Re: The Dance of Slow Gracefulness: Thiruvathirakali

this is amazing research thanks I visit this webpage every day i am also interested in foreign celebrations
thank you

By James McDonald on   Tuesday, November 08, 2011

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