Onam celebrations of the Vallachira panchayat in Thrissur District of Kerala is now a showcase for tourists

Vallachira Panchayath Onagosham

 The Onam celebrations of Vallachira—‘Vallachira Panchayath Onagosham’— is set to go global. A Responsible Tourism Company, The Blue Yonder, along with Kerala Tourism is pivoting the festivities of the village, 15 kms from Thrissur, as a showcase for travellers. A pre Onam festival held in July 2023, had 25 vloggers and industry stakeholders from 21 countries experience this unique cultural fiesta of the locality.

A harvest festival, the origins of Onam festival are in the legend of King Mahabli and Vamana, the avatar of the Hindu God, Mahavishnu.

What makes the Vallachira Onam so special?

Interstingly, in 1962, the Government of Kerala urged all panchayats in the State to celebrate and promote the regional festival with gusto. Every panchayat responded with enthusiasm but none was able to carry on with the festivities year after year, “without a break”, except for Vallachira.

“The festival was held even during the Emergency years(1975-77). We took special permission from the authorities and practised the dances. Except for the 2018 floods and the COVID 19 lockdown in 2020, the festival has been held non -stop, every year. Now it is set to get bigger,” says Thommy Pidiyath,President of Celebration Committee.

“Vallachira is a centre for folk art and theatre,” says N Manoj, Panchayat President adding that the village has 6,500 houses and a population of 25,000. “Out of this 1500 people are directly involved in the festival and 5000 are associated unofficially.”

He speaks about the village’s 16 youth clubs that engage in games and performance competitions associated with the festival and its historical connect with folk performances steeped in mythology, tradition and culture.

Some of the performances that originate here are the Iverkali, staged  by five male dancers and related to the story of the five Pandavas, songs related to snake worship, pulluvan paatu; to the female energy and Goddess, Nanthuni paatu, Villu paatu or bow songs, also known as Villadichampaatu, an ancient form of musical storytelling. 

What is interetsing in these shows are the use of archaic instruments like the the villu (a one string bow)that is used as a primary musical instrument.  

The mega Thiruvathirakali with 130 participants on Atham, August 19, 2023 at Vallachira

The mega Thiruvathirakali with 130 participants on Atham, August 19, 2023 at Vallachira

Though the art forms are largely Hindu in origin, the Onam festival is secular in nature and performances like Margamkali, a dance form that narrates the story of the apostle St Thomas, and Kolkali, a Malabari dance of the Muslim community too is performed. The Thiruvathirakali ,a unique dance performed by women has as many as 100 participants.

Manoj says that plans are afoot to showcase all these activities round the year in a bid to generate tourism and income for the artists. According to him, a single dance programme means an income of ₹15,000 to the group, besides earnings for event companies.

The village has several illustrious men and women in the field of art and literature like traditional dance performer, Usha Nangiar,

Traditional dance performer Usha Nangiar who hails from the village is proud of the locality’s deep connect with art and literature. According to her the festival has grown manifold and has new elements like roadshows and march past by the clubs. She also lists out names of illustrious men and women of art and literature from the village—film director Priyanandhan, writers NV Krishna Warrier and Mullanezhi, Director Shashidharan who started Nadakamdweep, a theatre organization at Vallachira, a couple of years ago.

A march past by the 16 clubs will be held on Thiruvonam, August 29 at 3pm and conclude with patriotic songs. 

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