Photography : 10 Portraits from Kerala Onam Festival

8/15/2013 03:35:00 PM

Update : Dec 29,2014
New Photo-book released : Kerala - In Portraits
available on @blurbbooks nd @itunes store. do check it out.

In Kerala state of India, the festival of Onam marks the arrival of king Mahabali and the celebration of new harvest season. This festival lasts for around 10 days those considered to be the most auspicious and celebrated with great joy and exuberance.

Temples and house floors are decorated with flowers and rangoli colors in beautiful figures called ‘Pookalam’. Ten days of the festival are named as Atham, Chithira, Chodhi, Visakam, Anizham, Thriketa, Moolam, Pooradam, Uthradam and Thiruvonam. Atham marks the beginning of the festivity with much grandeur in a spectacular procession of folk art and culture in the historic town of Thripunithura few miles from the city of Cochin.

Athachamayam is a very colourful festival with spectacular processions accompanied by decorated elephants and floats, group of musicians, and various traditional Kerala art forms. Some of the beautiful art forms which are seen during the Athachamayam Festival in Kochi include Chendamelam, Panchavadyam, Theyyam, Karakattam, Mayilattom, Pambamelam, Pulikali, Ammankudam, and Aattakavadi.

Here are few portraits from the parade that I shot last year, the journey to the town and my experiences are all chronicled here in this post

Beauty had this penalty -- it came too readily, came too completely. It stilled life -- froze it. One forgot the little agitations; the flush, the pallor, some queer distortion, some light or shadow, which made the face unrecognisable for a moment......

1- A school girl in traditional Kasavu Saari, participating in the parade, You can find many local shops selling kasavu in variety of designs and quality here including a lot of embroidery. I brought a traditional one too, which is the second silk kasavu in my collection.

Theyyam at Onam Athachamayam in Tripunithura, Kerala

2- A theyyam performer in the procession, there are about 400 types of theyyam and every theyyam dance has different costume and story to tell.  Except one, all theyyams are performed only by

#Explored Sep 29, 2012 #116 - Theyyam at Onam Athachamayam Tripunithura Kerala

3 -Theyyam, Theyyattam or Thira is a popular Hindu ritual form of worship of North Malabar in Kerala, India, predominant in the Kolathunadu area, consisting of present-day Kasargod, Kannur Districts, Mananthavady Taluk of Wayanad and Vadakara and Koyilandy Taluks of Kozhikode of Kerala.

#Explored "A good portrait is incredibly hard to create, there is too much temptation to pander to the individual rather than portray them as they really were. - Philippe Halsman
4- This is a Portrait of a boy performing non traditional Pullikali, also popular as Kaduvaakali. 

Pullikali is a two-century old dance form still kept in prevalence by the artists. Based around the theme of “playing with tigers”, this art involves dance performances wherein tigers remain the total focus of attraction. Thrissur is the place where this dance has the majority of performers who wait for the grand festival to charm the spectators.  

The  Very Colorful Puli Kali Walk at Onam Athachamayam 2012 Tripunithura Kerala India

5 - Here is a good look on Pullikali performers from Atham parade.
Loaded with a gaudy appearance, the performers in this art paint the body in the colours of tigers and have the face covered with a tiger mask. Dressed like a tiger, the Kaduvaakali performers charm the kids greatly by teasing them with ticks and pranks.

Mahabharata theme Arjuna Nritham, The Dance of Arjuna or Mayilpeeli Thookkam at Onam Athachamayam Tripunithura Kerala

6- A portrait from Mahabharata theme Arjuna Nritham, 
The Dance of Arjuna or Mayilpeeli Thookkam, In the epic Mahabharatha, 
Arjuna was the most valiant of the five heroic brothers, the Pandavas, 
and was also a renowned singer and dancer and is said to have propitiated goddess Bhadrakali by a devotional presentation.
This dance form is performed by men. The performers wear costume  made of mayilppeeli (peacock ) feathers. This garment is worn around the waist in a similar fashion as the "uduthukettu" of Kathakali. The various dance movements are closely similar to Kalarippayattu techniques. The performers have their faces painted green and wear distinctive headgears. The all night performance of the dance form is usually presented solo or in pairs

Onam Pookkalam & Shining Mohiniyattam Girl at Onam Athachamayam 2012 in Tripunithura Kerala

7 - The Little Girl dressed in the attire of Kerala traditional dance form Mohiniyattam 
is leading the Athachamayam Procession. The boy behind he banner is holding a Pookalam.
The ritual of laying Pookalam (floral carpet) starts on Atham day. The size of pookalam on this day is called Athapoo considerably smaller, and which eventually grows day after day. Only yellow flowers are supposedly used on this day in homes, and the design stays simple.

Krishna, an emanation of Lord Vishnu with his Radha ,The Supreme Feminine form of God, Lakshmi in Athachamayam Parade at Tripunithura, Kerala

8- In this image Krishna, an emanation of Lord Vishnu is with his Human Radha 
(a Man apparently who's carrying the entire structure on his two shoulders, including what he himself is wearing with such a poise)

Sri Garuda at Athachamyam Onam 2012 Tripunithura Kerala

9- A depiction of Another Hindu God Shri Garuna / Garuda 
 Garuda, a large mythical bird or bird-like creature that appears in both Hindu and Buddhist mythology,  the mount (vahana) of the God Vishnu. Garuda is depicted as having the golden body of a strong man with a white face, red wings, and an eagle's beak and with a crown on his head. This ancient deity was said to be massive, large enough to block out the sun.

atham, tripunithura & me ( First day / día primero  ONAM)

10- Adorning the very prominent tri-colors of India, on his face, this man remains a mystery I need to solve. until next time.

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  1. Nice captures! All these would be on the roads soon as Onam is in a couple of weeks.

  2. Excellent photos...really enjoyed

  3. @Niranjan Yes you're right.
    Thanks for stopping by.


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