Diwali- one festival- many stories.

Photo by Susannah Louise on Pexels.com

We know Diwali as Festival of Lights. In simpler terms, Win over evil is the message. This festival is celebrated in India and now all over the world. Each part of India celebrates this in various beliefs. I do not know any other festival out there with this many stories and beliefs. As a part of my blog series about my homeland Kerala. I found this as an apt time to write about Diwali. This weekend we celebrate Diwali. So why not?

When I was growing up, my parents told me why we celebrate Deepavali. (in my language Malayalam we say Deepavali for Diwali- If we break this word “Deepam” meaning Lights. “Vali” means crackers). South India, we celebrate this all night long with crackers. Women made lots of delicious delicacies and no one sleep that night. The story my parents and grandparents told me was.

Story one

Photo by Suren Singh on Pexels.com

This auspicious day, Lord Shiva gave a boon to Chundasur (a demon). After many years of penance, Chundasur asked Lord Shiva, “If I point my finger to anyone, that person should blow up”. Lord Shiva gave him that power. Chundasur knows there are many times Gods have cheated demons. So he said, “Lord, I want to test this power on you. I want to make sure this works” Lord Shiva sensed the danger, and he started running. Chundasur followed him. The people put fireworks to hinder Chundasur’s path and placed lights for Shiva for a safer path. They made nice delicacies for Shiva to keep him energized. Later Chundasur got tricked to touch his own head, and he dies. What an interesting story isn’t it? As a child, I loved this festival. We placed crackers after crackers to make sure we keep this demon away from our homes and placed Diyas. This festival is etched in my heart and soul. I am sure very few people know about this story and its relation to Diwali.

There are many more stories.

Story two

Photo by Suvan Chowdhury on Pexels.com

The one we all know or popular is Lord Rama returned to Ayodhya after 14 years of exile and winning a war against Ravana. On this day there was no moon to show the path. People of Ayodhya welcomed him with thousands of lights on streets and houses. This is also a story we believe happened, and we celebrate Diwali.

Story three

Photo by Shiva Kumar on Pexels.com

Narakasur (Son of Earth and Varaham- third incarnation of Lord Vishnu) – Here Earth request Vishnu to make their son Narakasur the strongest of all. Later, Narakasur became a problem for everyone. He conquers the entire world and heaven. Vishnu had to incarnate himself as Lord Krishna. Lord Krishna kills him and frees almost 16000 women from slavery. Before death, Narakasur realized his mistake and prayed to Lord Krishna that his death should be celebrated with light and crackers. Hence a lot of us celebrate Diwali.

Story four

Photo by Raweena Perera on Pexels.com


According to Jainism. Lord Mahavira attained Nirvana on this auspicious day. We believe that his soul attained the purest form on this day. He preached Dharma.

Story five

According to Sikhism. Guru Har Govindji–Sixth Sikh Guru got released from prison. He came home with other prisoners got freed. People celebrated with decorating the streets with oil lamps. This marked Diwali.

If you read all these stories, one aspect we can see. Win over evil. A beautiful message. World need this. A little love and hope. Diwali definitely shows us the importance of this. We need to stand unified and fight for good. Let us flourish the light of hope on this November 14 and celebrate Diwali. Let us all welcome the positive vibes over to our homes. This year 2020 need this hope of new beginning. Let’s make this happen. Happy Diwali everyone.

Photo by Dhivakaran S on Pexels.com

theyyam-dance of gods

In my previous blog, I said, this month is all about my hometown. Kerala. Small yet rich in culture. Our traditions we follow in Kerala is not in practice with any other states in India. We hold that unique nature. We portray our vibrant culture and traditions through a wide variety of festivals.

Photo by Sidhick Kannur on Pexels.com

Today I am going to introduce you to an art form called Theyyam. We have festivals dedicated for this art form. Originated in Malabar (northern part of Kerala), I can describe this art form in modern day as Dance-Drama.  Usually the season for Theyyam festival is in the months of November to March. During my college days, I got the privilege to take part in these festivals. I still cannot forget those images of Theyyam characters. Vivid and colorful.

Theyyam is very sacred and related to temple arts. The stories they perform always revolves around Hindu mythology. They usually perform this art form before shrines and sometimes ancestor worshiped temples managed by some families. Not everyone can perform this art. Takes years of training and dedication. Before they perform these individuals perform religious practices including celibacy for a period of time.

Theyyam photo by Manyu Varma @ Unsplash

Theyyam simply means God. Some people refer to this art form as “Dance of Gods”. This art form is mainly performed by men from certain tribes from Kerala. They have the rights to perform. Mostly these tribes are called scheduled caste (in modern times we say low caste). This art form has deep roots from the times of Dravidian culture. 

People believe that when the performance happens, the spirit of the deity (GOD) conceptually transferred to the performer and they seek blessings from them. People widely believe that these performers, while they are in the presence of divine, they can cure their illness and give solutions to their problems.

I have to admit this. As a Keralite, I have witnessed this in person. I believe there are some supernatural abilities when you have faith. I have personally travelled to Parassini Kadavu Sri Muthappan Temple, one of the temples in North Kerala where my friends have told me that if we go there and pray to Theyyam, you will pass all the exams. I did. Not sure whether or not because of the prayer, I passed all the exams. Don’t think I have done any extra preparations for the exam. I did the same as all the years. But in the previous years I have failed many papers. All the papers got cleared after I met with this Theyyam. I cannot forget this experience in my life.

Theyyam Photo by Vineeth Vinod @ Unsplash

Some form of Theyyam have performers walking on fire, hot coal or even jumping in to them. We may think it is some sort of magic. I had a friend from Payyanur, and he invited me once to see this art form. I went to his home four days prior to this performance. I talked personally to the performer. He said, he is on a strict religious rules for forty-one days. He has to put daily some medicine oil on his body. He has to pray every single day before this performance. One day prior to the performance I saw two trucks full of wood came in. They put them on fire. The fire was about two stories high. I couldn’t believe these performers jumped in and we could feel the heat far away. Nothing happened. I saw the same person next day, and he did not even have one single burn spot.

One cannot take the eye from Theyyam. The headgear is so elaborate and the make on their faces are unique. Mostly makeup takes about hours. They lie down on the floor when their face get painted. Headgear is made from coconut leaves. They make the crown from bamboo and wooden planks. Some weigh a lot. Each character is unique to witness. Male and female characters are all played by men.

In short the performance is like this. Begins with a part called Vellattam or Thottam.  Here not much makeup you can see. They will recite about the shrine of that particular temple. Drummers and performer will accompany them, will recite some ritual songs. After that they will go back to get ready with all the headgear and makeup. This time they come out and the atmosphere will change. The energy will change. The music and drum beats will change. The people around will feel the energy or God in them.

Theyyam Photo by Vineeth Vinod @ Unsplash

The Theyyam will enter the shrine and he gets seated in front of the shrine. That is when symbolically people believe the power is in the Theyyam. We consider him divine. People will ask his blessings. He sometimes even predicts what is going to happen.

I hope you enjoyed this blog about Theyyam. I will try to bring more unique experiences about my hometown. Kerala- Gods Own Country. Thank you for reading.

SEASON FOR FESTIVALS

Image result for THRISSUR POORAM IMAGES

Every one will have nostalgia. Some memories. Some time in your life, you wish you can experience again. Or in other words, you wish you forget. The picture above is from one of the temple festivals. This particular temple, I have never been. But I have been to many temple festivals while growing up in south India.

The vibe we get there, cannot be translated over here in few words. You need to experience it. You need to live it. Now almost two decades, I never had a chance to participate in one of the temple festivals. Life has taken many turns in the last two decades. Do I miss them. Yes. I do. The culture, the traditions, the life experience, the energy you get from these instances are hard to forget.

When I was growing up, I should say, I am about 14 years old or so. Just like my older son now. I will go and spend all ten days in the temple. I never went home after school. Yes, my parents were not too happy. But I did it. My friends all did it. We had so much fun and life. Today, I felt like writing this, because it is festival season in Kerala. My home town has many temples. They all had festivals. Many artists come and perform. The crowd enjoys them with out any religion barrier. We all are one. Just humanbeings.

Most of the temple festivals end with a procession by elephants and fire works. As you can see in picture above all elephants will be adorned with gold ornaments and many other colorful decorations. Temple society will fight for the best elephants to perform those processions. They go around the town for the entire night. We kids used to follow them. I still remember, the baby elephants playing with the tails of older ones. Also, once they are full and not hungry anymore, they throw coconuts to each other. The experience we cherish, as a writer, I am not capable to describe here.

Rarely one or two times, elephants go mad. Those instances are scary. But, I still went with elephants every year. Families, even if they are separated and away from Kerala, they made sure to meet during this times. Just like Christmas, we see this as family re union times.

Fire works at the end of the festival is the most amazing part. Some temple committee organizes competition. Those competitions are a treat to watch. We never went home all these ten days. We ate temple food. Watched many programs. Some times even walked from temple to temple to see different cultural programs.

Everyone will have nostalgia…. Enjoy them….

Life is always a journey. One cannot plan or reserve tickets….