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Celebration of Kerala's Tradition & Culture

Celebrations at Thiruvananthapuram

In the wake of India’s independence, major events that formed a part of the Onam celebrations in Kerala, like Athachamayam, began to lose significance. They were once celebrated with royal pride and recognized with pious practices. Until independence, Onam in Kerala was considered a traditional custom rather than a full-fledged festival. 

A change was introduced in the year 1961 when Onam was declared as the national festival of Kerala under the cabinet of then Chief Minister Pattom Thanu Pillai. But unfortunately, after the declaration, in the following year, Kerala was unable to celebrate the newly-declared festival due to the Indo-Chinese war. Nevertheless, after 1961, Onam evolved into a grand public festival by the decree of the Kerala government.

There were dissenting voices raising questions regarding the history and the secularist dimension of the festival. But Onam continued to be hailed as the national festival of Kerala by consecutive governments. The harsh famine of 1982 had also halted Onam celebrations in Kerala. It was in the first half of the 1980s that Onam celebration was organised under the directive of the Kerala Tourism Department. With that, the festivities acquired a greater significance and appeal.

Moreover, Athachamayam or the Athachamaya procession became an event that saw substantial public participation. The premises of the Kanakakunnu Palace in Thiruvananthapuram were chosen as the main venue for conducting the celebration. So far, this celebratory event has been held at 30 different venues in the city besides Kanakakunnu Palace. Today, economically as well as culturally, the celebration has become a great success. Elevating Onam to a public festival has given a much-needed impetus to artists performing folk arts and other ritualistic artforms.

Each year, hundreds and thousands of people arrive at the Kanakakunnu Palace to watch these diverse cultural artforms. Dramas, music festivals, kathaprasangam (recitals), cultural artforms like Kathakali and many other similar programmes beckon the crowd. Renowned singers and actors at the venues provide more publicity and excitement. Thousands of people flock to PMG junction in Thiruvananthapuram to catch the sight of brilliantly lit-up streets from East Fort to Vellayambalam.

The crowd is amazed at the sight of old and new buildings, including the Secretariat of Kerala, dazzling under decorative lights at night. The week-long Onam celebrations in Thiruvananthapuram culminate with a flamboyant procession. Various artforms, masquerades, performances and floats accompanied by vadyamelangal or orchestras, central-state police forces make the event a grand, memorable one. Nowadays, Onam celebrations are held in all districts of Kerala including tourist spots such as dams, on behalf of the Kerala Tourism Department. The Government of Kerala sets aside a considerable amount as funds to conduct the celebrations every year for its citizens.

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