Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Chingam ചിങ്ങം

Thiruvonam vannethiyaloo...
Kai kotti Kalicheedam...
Atha pookkal itteedam...
Ooonjaal aadi rasicheedaam...
ithu kandu santhoshamakunnathu...Maveli thambranalle...

So many years back a 9 years old girl wrote this. This was has her first and last malayalam poem she ever wrote in her life....She even dared to compose it...giving the same music of famous hindi song "ek do theen....." :D

Tomorrow is Chingam 1. The first month of Malayalam New Year. It is also know as Karshaka Dinam(farmer's day) :). During my school days 2 or 3 times I won the best student who has vegetable garden. Obviously my father did help me to make that garden :D.

When Chingam month starts, it is like all of us are waiting for the Onam Festival. Onam is celebrated on the same month. Actually Onam starts 10 days before the star Thiruvonam. There are 27 stars or nakshatras (similiar to zodiac) in sanskrit. The celebrations of Onam start on Atham star of Chingam month. This is exactly 10 days before Thiruonam star.

My first memory of Onam is on my 1st standard. I remember our family having Onam sadya and i was cracking so many pappadams that day. During 2nd Standard..That time I was staying with my Badapapa(my father's brother) and family. I got a yellow cloth (manja kodi mundu) on the Thiruvnonam day. And I remember my Mummy making Snacks like Achappam ,Banana chips, unniyappam , Karanji. Me and my brother used to carry those snacks to our neighbours as a gesture.

Traditionally all the 10 days starting from Atham has importance. Pyrmid shapped Earthern moulds( It represents Mahabali and Vamana) are placed on dung-plastered courtyards which is in front of the house. Fresh flowers are used to decorate around moulds like 10 rings. It is called Onapookkalam. Early morning before the sunrise, children will go and collect the flowers in their pookuda(basket) singing "poove...poli poove..." from the village garden (may be house or may be land or may be near paddy fields).

I have heard from my father and aunts that when they were small they used to go very early so that they can get the particular flower for that day before any other kids can get. The remaining kids who reaches a bit late need have to search for more time find that particular flower.

The first day there will only one flower. i.e., only one flower is put in the first ring. 2nd day there will be 2 type of flowers and it is put on 1st and 2nd ring. The one put on first day and the second type of flower. This happens till the 10th day. So end of the 10th day, 10 types of flowers are put around mould in the 10 rings.

Google says The deities are represented in the following order (for the ten days)- Lord Ganapathi, Shiva and Shakthi, Shiva, Brahma, Pancha Boothangal, Shanmugham or Muruga, Guru, Ashta Digpalakar, Indra and Lord Vishnu.

The flowers used to decorate Attapookkalam includes - Thumba (Lucas Aspera), Kakka Poovu, Thechipoovu, Mukkutti (little tree plant), Chemparathy (shoe flower), Aripoo or Konginipoo (Lantana), Hanuman Kireedom (Red pagoda plant) and Chethi (Ixora). I got most of the flower names from Google. Still 2 more flowers are missing. I need to call up and ask my Aunts whether they remember. I donno whether Thulsi and Pichi will be included. These flowers not found in market. And now it is even hard to be found in the villages.

Another thing is long swings are tied to the branches of large trees like the mango and jackfruit trees near most of the houses.

After Attam the 9th day is Uthrdam and it is called 1st day of Onam(Onnam Onam). This day evening before dusk, the whole house and surroundings is cleaned. We will light all the lamps(all the nilavilakku we have at home will be used) and kept till the next day noon.

10th day is Thiruvonam and it is also called Randaam Onam. Thiruvondam day(10th day) it is told that we shouldnt pluck any flowers or cut any leaves. We shouldn't hurt anything as they are also waiting for the arrival of Mahabali. So very early morning the flowers are plucked for Onampookkalam and the plantain leaves(to serve the sadya/feast) is cut and kept. I have heard that some people prepares Ada for pooja. Everybody takes an early bath and wear new clothes. Special alms are given to the needy. The theory is to make each and every person happy.

Another important activity of Thiruonam is the Thiruvona Sadya. The feast served on plantain leaves have so many dishes. Each and everybody celebrates Onam in Kerala and they will never miss a Onam sadya. There is a famous saying in Malayalam - "Kaanam Vittum Onam Unnanam" . This means " Even if we have to sell all our properties, we will do that and have a grand feast on Onam Day". That is the importance of this grand feast on the Thiruvonam day.

Now I will share the minimum items to be served for Onam Sadya(in my knowledge). :)

Inji Curry (Ginger curry), Mango Pickle, Naranga (Lemon) pickle, Pachadi/Kichadi (cucumble with curds), Thoran, Aviyal, Sarkarapuratty, Kaya Varuthathu(banana chips), Salt, Pappadam

Curries like Parippu curry, Sambar, Pulishery, Pacha Moru(butter milk) and Rasam is served. In sweet Ada pradaman is served with plantain. Items like olan, kootu curry, erishery, kaalan, kadala pradhaman, semiya payasam can also be served. All these items are served on a banana leaf. All family members will sit together and have the wonderfull feast :)

This link has a glimpse of my last year Onam Celebration

This year also I will prepare Onam sadya and keep post the recipes in my space :)...

I am hoping that we will have a wonderful and memorable Thiruvonam :)

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