THIRUVATHIRA – Festival of Women in Kerala

THIRUVATHIRA – Festival of Women in Kerala

Thiruvathira festival falls in the Malayalam month of Dhanu (December-January), this year it will fall on 21st December 2010 and spill over for a part day on 22nd as well. The origin of the festival is shrouded and not very clear. People celebrate this festival with age-old tradition, great joy and respect. It is considered to be auspicious to worship Siva and the devotees throng the temple before sunrise for a glimpse of Lord Shiva. Apart from the worship in the Siva temple, there is very little celebration in the houses.

According to traditions,Thiruvathira festival is celebrated in commemoration of the death of Kamadeva, the mythological God of love. According to another version Thiruvathira is the birth day of Lord Siva. Although Thiruvathira is celebrated by most of the Hindu communities it is essentially an prized celebration by Nair women.

Women wake up early by 4 am, take a bath on seven days commencing from the Aswathi. While taking a bath they sing songs mostly relating to the God of Love, accompanied by rhythmic sound produced by splashing water with their fists. Thiruvathira is a day of fasting and the women discard the ordinary rice meal on that day, but only special preparations are consumed, besides fruits, tender coconuts, etc. The first Thiruvathira coming after the marriage of a girl is known as Puthen Thiruvathira or Poothiruvathira and it is celebrated on a grand way.

From prehistoric times, Malayalee women enjoyed an enviable position in society, and she was practically the mistress of her house. This elevated position had distinguished her from her neighbours and influenced to a considerable extent the social structure, customs and religious practices of the people. The culmination of this phenomenon is clearly visible in setting apart one of the three great festivals of Kerala viz. Thiruvathira, exclusively for womenfolk, for which a parallel can hardly be found in any section of the Indian Society.

Oonjalattom, swinging on an slings tied to tree branches is a game of amusement during this occasion often enjoyed by women of all ages. At night the women keep vigil for Siva and perform Thiruvathira kali or Kaikottikali which is the highlight of this festival. Women dressed in traditional attire of “settu-mundu” or traditional Kerala attire stand in a circle around a lighted brass lamp, and dance. Each step is in sync with the rhythm of the songs they sing, clapping their hands.

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