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Lesson Transcript

Culture Class: Holidays in India Lesson 15 - Malayalam New Year and Boat Racing Festival
Hello, and welcome to the Culture Class- Holidays in India Series at HindiPod101.com. In this series, we’re exploring the traditions behind Hindi holidays and observances. I’m Eric, and you're listening to Season 1, Lesson 15, Malayalam New Year and Boat Racing Festival. In Hindi, it’s called Onam.
In southern India, there’s a big celebration held during early autumn involving boat races. Are you familiar with this festival?
In this lesson, we are talking about the unique festival of Onam, which is celebrated some time in August or September.
Now, before we get into more detail, do you know the answer to this question-
What is the tradition related to this festival that has to do with tigers?
If you don't already know, you’ll find out a bit later. Keep listening.
Onam is an ancient festival of Kerala, which Malayalis, the word used to refer to the people of Kerala, of all faiths celebrate. It commemorates the Malayali New Year, the harvest of the rice crop, or Chawal ki khetti, and the return of the ancient King Mahabali. The festival is spread over ten days, and the first and last day, called Atam and Tiruonam respectively, hold the most importance. The occasion is celebrated with a grand parade of decorated elephants, or in Hindi Hatthi, spectacular fireworks, and the traditional Keralite classical dance form, called Kathakali.
According to mythology, the reign of King Mahabali, a demon, or Rakshash, was an era of peace and prosperity in Kerala. But the demons and gods were arch enemies, and, jealous of his success, the gods devised a plan to undo Mahabhali. He was given just one blessing as he was being banished to the underworld – that he would return to his people once every year on Onam. To welcome his return, people decorate their homes with large designs made on the floor with colorful flower petals.
The most famous tradition of Onam is the boat race, called Vallamkali. Among the rousing sounds of drums and cymbals, boatmen take part in racing their boats on the water. Boat-making is a craft native to Kerala, and all of the various indigenous styles of boats can be seen participating in this event. Thousands of people turn up to see this extraordinary event as the teams of boat pullers do their best to outdo their rivals!
Various types of boats, called Nawo in Hindi, take part in this race. There are long, snake-like boats called Chundan, small, swift ones with silk drapes and umbrellas called Odi, and another type with curved prows and sterns called Churulan. The design and appearance of each type of boat differs according to the village from which its craftsman hails.
Now it's time to answer our quiz question-
What is the tradition related to this festival that has to do with tigers?
An important tradition of Onam is the Puilkali, or the tiger pantomime. During this event, artists paint their bodies brightly like a tiger's and perform traditional pantomimes while wearing masks.
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And we’ll see you in the next lesson!

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What is the tradition related to this festival that has to do with tigers?