Download video: ESAF Onam Celebration - Traditional Thiruvathirakali
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In Kerala, the festival is celebrated as the birthday of Lord Shiva. Thiruvathira is the nakshatra or "star" as per the Malayalam calendar of Lord Shiva. Another belief is that the festival commemorates the death of Kamadeva, the Hindu god of erotic desire. It is believed that on this day, the Goddess Parvathi finally met Lord Shiva after her long penance and Lord Shiva took her as a saha-dharma chaarini (equal partner). Both Parvathi and Shiva present this ideal to devotees in the form of Ardha-Nareeshawara (half male, half female form).
In Kerala, Thiruvathira is an important traditional festival along with the other popular festivals, Onam and Vishu. This has been celebrated by the Nambuthiri, Kshatriya and Nair communities of Kerala from days of yore. It is largely a festival for women; unmarried women observe a partial fast on this day to get good husbands and married women take a fast from the preceding day (Makayiram nakshatra) and on the day of Thiruvathira for the well being of their husband and family. The first Thiruvathira of a newly wedded woman is her poothiruvathira.
The fast essentially involves abstaining from rice-based food. The typical meal includes cooked broken wheat and Thiruvathira puzhukku, a delightful mix of tuber vegetables: colocasia (chembu), yam (chena), Chinese potato (koorka), sweet potato (madhurakizhangu) with long beans (vanpayar) and raw plantain fruit (ethakaya), cooked with a thick paste of freshly ground coconut. The dessert is koova payasam, a sweet dish made of arrow root powder, jaggery and coconut milk.
Thiruvathirakali is a dance form performed by women on the day of Thiruvathira to the accompaniment of Thiruvathira paattu, folk songs telling tales of lovesick Parvati, her longing and penance for Lord Shiva's affection and Shiva's might and power. The sinuous movements executed by the group of dancers around a nilavilakku embody lasya or the amorous charm and grace of the feminine. The dance follows a circular, pirouetting pattern accompanied by clapping of the hands and singing. Today, Thiruvathirakali has become a popular dance form for all seasons.Thiruvathira kali is a typical dance form of Kerala. This is a female group dance made up of simple yet very attractive steps. In ancient times, women use to perform this dance in their homes during festivals and functions, giving it the Malayalam name aka Kaikottikali: aka-inside + kaikottikali-play claping hands. Lore has it that Thiruvathira Kali is in memory of Lord Siva taking Parvathi as his wife. A group of women dressed in typical Kerala style with mundu and neriyathu and the hair bun adorned with jasmine garlands perform this dance during festival seasons.. Kaikottikkali spreads the message of joy and also illustrates the emotions of a married woman towards her beloved and of the unmarried woman longing for one.
The first Guinness World Record for Kaikottikkali was achieved on 9th November 2012 at DOMBIVLI near Mumbai by the MUMBAI POORAM FOUNDATION, a socio-cultural organisation. In the true Onam Spirit, 2639 women including Keralites, Maharashtrians, Gujarathis, Bengalees, Tamilians, Telugu, Kannadigas and others from all parts of the country representing all religions danced to the tunes of specially written songs.
On 14 December 2013, over 3000 women participated in a Thiruvathira Kali event held at Kochi and attempted to set a new world record. The event was organised in connection with the Thiruvathira festival which falls on 18 December 2013.
The latest Guinness Record in Kaikottikkali was set on 2nd February 2015 with 5000 women led by Smt. Jitha Binoy under the banner "THANIMA" of Irinjalakuda, Trissur.