Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Onam, Thiruvathira Kali and Ammamma

Every Onam celebration in Kerala or anywhere else for that matter, is incomplete without the beautiful 'Thiruvathirakali'... I love watching it, but I have never taken part in the dance so far...however, my Ammamma (mom's mother) was a specialist in this dance, as I found out more than a decade and half ago....

During one of my Onam vacations, I overheard my grandma sing this beautiful thiruvathira song.. it was not one that I had ever heard before, but it caught my attention because it was about Krishna and Kaliyamardana (Krishna killing the evil serpent Kaliya)... she could not remember all the lines, so within the next half-hour, we set off, with a book and a pencil... I had no idea where we were going, but it was a journey of discovery for me...!!!

We walked to a house that I had never been to before..(Ammamma did not go to too many places without us) ...she told me it was the home of one of her friends and that she had been living elsewhere and had come home this Onam.. she hollered from the verandah and her friend came out... a very elegant lady with snow-white hair. The friends started talking and at first I did not pay attention... then as Ammamma was asking the other lady named Manka if she remembered the lines of that particular song, I began to listen... they had become friends while learning Thriuvathira kali from the same teacher. All of them teenagers, aged between 12 to 18..and there were 21 of them. Girls of marriagable age considered this an asset in their repertoire of skills in those days. Finally, when the class was dispersed, all of them collected a rupee each and bought a Gold sovereign for their teacher. Imagine... a gold sovereign for 21 rupees ...!!!

While they were trying to remember the song, another friend dropped in...this lady was called Bhargavi, and I had met her on numerous occasions...though this was the first time I was told that she was also one of the 21 girls... of the three of them, my grandma was the youngest and it was mind-boggling to watch her being treated like a kid by the others...!!! while they sat reminiscing, I was trying hard to imagine them as young girls dressed in long skirts and half-sarees...

The dresses were a breeze, but the best I could do was give them all black hair... their wrinkled skins, grins with missing teeth, and lightly stooped bodies were a bit difficult... so I gave up...!!!

Finally, the three of them pieced together one song and came up with lines of four other songs.. I wrote it all down ... I lost that book a few years back, had memorized the song earlier ... I will post the song another day, just in case I do forget in the future ...

All three friends have passed on, but anytime I hear a thiruvathira song, I remember those three 'girls' and the great afternoon I spent with them.

The photograph was taken from the net.

1 comment:

  1. Wow..thats a beautiful picture...I love kerala food and this picture brings back so many fond memories...the girls are so pretty..are you in it by chance?..:)