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Onam Celebrations and a transformation!

By 6 years ago
Categories Kerala

Onam is Kerala’s harvest festival which is the most important religious and social event in the Hindu calendar, but is celebrated by all faiths. It only happens in Kerala and lasts for 10 days. Woman were the traditional Kerala Sari of white with a gold trim.

It’s a bit like Christmas – the build up starts weeks before it actually happens. You begin to notice decorations going up around town and adverts wishing everyone a Happy Onam. Nearer the time the streets are full of flower sellers, strings of jasmine which the girls wear in their hair and flower petals that are used to make the traditional pookkalam (flower mats). These are so beautiful and on the last day of school there was a competition amongst the school children to design the best one – Nicola one of the GVI volunteers was a judge – the blue team won! We had other Onam celebrations at school, we were so lucky and privileged to be invited to the schools Onam meal. All the teachers were there and lunch was served on a banana leaf. We sat on the floor and were served the most amazing food – lots of tasters of different curried vegetables, coconut, dried bananas, pickles and yummy red Kerala rice (which isn’t actually red!) The pudding was to die for – a rice pudding with cashew nuts that was so sweet you’d though you’d gone to heaven.

On the last day of school we had Onam celebrations. We started with a beautiful song sung by one of the children – some people clapped so we joined in only to be told off by one of the students – apparently it was a sad song and we shouldn’t be clapping. Next the teachers sang and this was definitely worthy of clapping and everyone did. The best entertainment was the tiger dance or Puli Kali. This is a traditional Onam dance which now only can be seen in the Thrissur district of Kerala. On the fourth day of Onam celebrations (Nalaam Onam), performers painted like tigers and hunters in bright yellow, red, and black dance to the beats of instruments like Udukku and Thakil. Literal meaning of Pulikali is the ‘play of the tigers’ hence the performance revolves around the theme of tiger hunting. One of the GVI volunteers had painted tiger faces on their bodies and the 5 boys looked amazing and their dancing was incredible and they had so much energy.

As it was the last day of school those of us that were leaving were thanked for the worked we had done and had to walk through the 100 or so children to reach the stage to receive thanks from sister Annie and the teachers. It was hard saying goodbye.

The school closes for 10 days for Onam but this wasn’t our last at the school! Using some of the money raised from the bike ride that took place a few weeks before and other amazing donations we were able to transfer one of the dreary grey classrooms to a bright place of learning. The school is amazing always full of laughter and joy but the rooms can be a bit bleak so having 10 days really meant we could change this. Indian paint is not Dulux! The emulsion is a weird paste which is mixed with water and is lumpy and the coloured paint a bit like nail varnish so once we had it on us it was a bit of nightmare to get off but was so worth it. We did manage to get some on the walls and painted these blue, doors red and windows yellow. When I left to come home the volunteers that were left were getting ready to paint number lines, the alphabet, animals and generally decorate the walls. I wish I could be there when the teacher and children see their new room – it was such a transformation!