I go down to South India during Onam, the most important festival in Kerala. The most important days are the Atham, the first day of Onam, where the preparations for the festival are held and the Thiruvonam, the tenth day. During all ten days of the festival there are sporting events, such as rowing competitions in the backwaters, the beautiful lagoon areas. Celebrated in Kerala as a new harvest festival, it is celebrated in the first month of the local calendar.
Water festivals are organized along the sacred river Pamba. Traditional games like the Onakalikal, the Talappanthukali (a game with the ball) Ambeyyal (archery), Kutukutu and fights like Kayyankali and Attakalam also takes place. The Vallamkali (the serpent race) is a famous tournament with muscular rowers who compete on boats details and decorated snake boats which people participate with fervor.
There are also many cultural events and traditional dances presented in this period, such as the Thiruvathirakali, also known as Kaikottikkali, which the women perform in a circle around a lamp, or the Thumbi Thullal and the Kummattikali. in Thrissur, in particular, there is a spectacular parade composed of beautifully adorned elephants surrounded by dancers from Kummatikali who, when masked, go from house to house to perform the colorful dance.
Even the traditional Kathakali dance is commonly performed with dancers who stage mythological legends. In the Pulikali dance, known as the dance of the tiger or Kaduvakali, the artists paint their bodies like tigers and dance on the rhythms of instruments like the Chenda and the Thakil. At the Thrikkakara temple, one of the most significant places of the festival near Cochin, every day performances are held with dancers and percussionists.
We take a flight to the Cochin airport and head for Alleppey for the night. After many other curves around 9.30pm we arrived at our guesthouse. Alleppey is not a nice place but in the end we went to the part of the beach where there were a few places to have a beer and have something to eat before going to sleep in our wonderful colonial room.
After a breakfast with mango lassi, masala chai and idlis we rent scooters and drive to Marari Beach, about fifteen kilometers to the north. Now that I have harpooned you with my verve full of dreams, I can confess that we have had a little trouble getting to Marari. Firstly, I'm still not very comfortable on two wheelers, since I have never driven 3 hours in my life in real conditions. Secondly it is the time of the monsoon.
Of course, hardly have we filled up and go 500 meters that a monsoon shower falls on us like the lightning on the war. The heavy showers force us to take shelter because the drops enter in our eyes. We stop in front of a shoemaker to put our little bags and bikes away. When we leave, our scooters wade in the middle of a large puddle. We finally reach our beach, soaked to the bone and happy to play Robinson Crusoe for 48 hours.
After rain comes the good weather. We must believe that the adage works everywhere. This miniscule village wedged between the highway and the ocean is part of what the Lonely Planet loves to call a jewel to discover. There are one or two modest resorts that rent bungalows at night and it is also possible to take on rent the little beach shack.
At this price, we let ourselves be lulled by the sound of the Arabian Sea that comes to run aground. And as the world is particularly well done in the land of jewels to discover, we enjoy a light salty breeze that moistens our body tanned at the only glance of the sun veiled by a fringe of palm. A paradise deserves convoluted long sentences. It's not because you already see yourself lying on the fine sand.
We are rewarded with a beautiful late afternoon which we enjoy to sip coconut water from the hull and we languish on a land of sand. The vast majority are tourists, especially couples. It must be the honeymoon trip dreamed up by many of them. In the guesthouse they offer Ayurvedic massages.
The massage was without any clothes with a lot of oil on a wood cup also medicinal. The truth is that I had already had this experience in the hammams of Turkey. When the evening comes, we rush our faithful scooty to go to dinner. We find it difficult to get a restaurant. We join the highway, lined with gargoyles and shops of all kinds.
However, the decrepitude of the walls and the old age of the boss attest to the longevity of this restaurant. Miracle, the waiter speaks a little Hindi, because none of us can handle malayalam, the official language of Kerala. We get away with sambar (a kind of spicy vegetable soup), fish, chapatis, an ungroomed wheat cake. After this frugal meal, we take the road back (literally) and we hurry to join the crossroads, much less dangerous.
It marks a quiet day, the last day of Onam, the most celebrated festival in Kerala. We are lucky to be invited to share the traditional meal at the resort. Unfortunately, the weather is not part of our beachesque getaway, and we watch the rain fall more than anything else. In these days nothing must be scarce. Not even the joy and enthusiasm, which are contagious and electrify the air.
Our resort is certainly not far behind. After the night dedicated to the preparation of the petals and the morning at the creation of the athapoo or pookkalam, the first beats of drums and cymbals are heard.
The air smells of incense and flowers, especially the jasmine in the hair of women in traditional dress to give off a fresh and clean smell, like the soul that is preparing with renewed candor to start a new year. After the ceremony with the fire and the typical products of this land, we are ready to spend this day of choral party. Soon we are greeted by the tiger movements of the tiger man, pulikali.
Then the girls perform the traditional female dance called the thiruvathirakali. After the initial fear they move in a circle. Suddenly the majestic and mythical Mahabali arrives, who bestows blessings and smiles. His arrival is greeted by the drums and victorious incitements.
In the afternoon, in fact, there are games organized by a special volunteer committee. The different teams face each other in a series of fun and engaging races. The fans are fierce and there is no lack of clashes and appeals to the judges. The game is taken very seriously! The first rule to be able to play well is to have a full stomach.
It's time for lunch and we sit at the table to enjoy the onasadya, the traditional lunch consisting of at least 11 foods and served on banana leaves. The food is delicious and the final dessert, the payasam made with boiled milk, brown sugar and rice is delicious. The day turns towards the end in the evening with the characteristic game of Onam with the tug of war.
The boys face each other very seriously, turning into certain warriors. Female supporters call for victory. This is a solemn moment, where strength and teamwork are put to the test. For the occasion even a referee and two external assistants are engaged. The game gets to the final with some injured forced to retire and in the end the long-awaited trophy is a bunch of bananas delivered to the winning team!
The party is over. The trees that line the streets are illuminated by colored lights. We have enjoyed two beautiful days in peace, which in India, is priceless.