More than 50 female dancers will be gathering to perform the traditional “Thiruvathira” at the Kerala Hindus of Arizona’s (KHA) annual Onam celebration Sept. 3 at the ASU Preparatory School Auditorium in Phoenix.
A grand feast and cultural program with a variety of other performances will also be part of the celebrate. .
The Onam festival, which has been an annual event for KHA since 2011, celebrates the harvest and is also a social event celebrated in the months of August and September.
The “Thiruvathira” is a female group dance where the performers wear the traditional attire called the “settu mundu,” which is a white sari with a golden border. The dancers’ hair, usually worn in a bun-like style, is adorned with a jasmine garland.
The dancers are positioned in a circular pattern around a brass lamp while they rhythmically clap their hands and sing the folk song called “Thiruvathira Pattu.” One of the performers sings a line while the rest of the performers repeat in a chorus.
The “Thiruvathira” invokes a message of joy and is supposed to illustrate the emotions of a married woman or of an unmarried woman who wishes to be betrothed. This dance has become popular at most any type of celebration.
According to Manu Nair, KHA media-relations representative, the “Thiruvathira” performance at this year’s Onam celebration will be the largest ever attempted in Arizona in terms of the number of dancers performing it.
The Onam celebration will kick off with “Chenda Melam” (an ethnic drum ensemble) followed by an intricate and colorful arrangement of flowers laid on the floor.
The “Onam Sadhya,” or grand feast, takes place from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and features more than 25 traditional dishes served on a banana leaf. Make sure to get your food on time, as service will end at 1:30 p.m.
More than 100 performers will take to the stage after the feast doing comedy skits, festival or folk songs and traditional dances such as “mohiniyattam” and “bharatanatyam.”
“It is a family gathering with cultural programs,” Nair says.
KHA is a religious, non-profit organization that aims to be the umbrella unit for all Hindus living in Arizona. Some of the group’s tenets include organizing activities based on Hindu tradition, offering regular prayer meetings, exposing children to Hindu culture and heritage, offering worthy charitable causes and supporting new families who have moved to Arizona.