(Trumbull, CT: September 13th, 2015): Indian Americans continue to come in large numbers and settle down in the state of Connecticut particularly in towns with reputations for excellent schools. The latest figures from the U.S. Census show 37,545 people of Indian origin living in the state, an increase of about 14,000 from 2000. In the last five years since the last census, there has been a very significant influx of Indian Americans in the Constitution state. The reasons to move here, Indian Americans say, remain education and opportunity.
This fast growing presence of the Indian American community was evident when nearly three hundred people from across the southern state of Connecticut came together to participate in and cherish their rich cultural heritage and be part of the annual Onam celebrations organized by the Malayalee Association of Southern Connecticut (MASCONN) on Saturday, September 12th, 2015 at Madison Middle School, Trumbull, CT. The more than four-hours long cultural extravaganza was in many ways “reliving the culture and traditions” and a “cherishing the past with a view to pass it on to the future generation.”
Living in countries that are far away from their homeland, in the midst of different cultures, busy with the day-to-day mundane work and home tasks, the Non Resident Indian (NRI) community made this “land of opportunities” their home, have brought with them these cultural traditions and have sought to pass them on to their children, who are often born and raised here.
The celebration of Onam festival provides them with a perfect opportunity to encourage the new generation of children of Indian origin to witness, learn and appreciate these rich traditions, even while it offers the first generation NRIs to stay connected and cherish the rich cultural heritage they hold so dear to them as well as it serves as a way of showcasing these traditions to the larger American community..
Onam is a festival celebrated in the south-western state of Kerala, India. The Keralites or the Malayalees, the illustrious people of the beautiful state are known around the world, celebrate the festival of Onam wherever they are. Celebrated around the world by Malayalees during the month of Chingam of the Kerala Calendar, which falls in August-September, festivities lasts for ten days and bringing out the best of the Kerala culture and traditions. Intricately decorated Pookalam, ambrosial Onasadhya, breathtaking Snake Boat Race and exotic Kaikottikali dance are some of the most remarkable features of Onam celebrations.
According to legends, Onam awaits one very special visitor, Kerala’s most loved legendary King Maveli. He was the King who once gave the people a golden era in Kerala. The King is so much attached to his kingdom that it is believed that he comes annually from the nether world to visit his people living happily. It is in honor of King Mahabali, affectionately called Onathappan, that Onam is celebrated.
In his Onam message, Giby Gregory, President of MASCON, told the audience that the “beauty of the festival lies in its secular fabric. People of all religions, castes and communities celebrate the festival with equal joy and verve. Onam also helps to create an atmosphere of peace and brotherhood by way of various team sports organized on the day.” He added.
“MASCONN an offshoot of the natural growth of the Indian-American especially Malayalee Community in the southern Connecticut region,” said Sujanan Puthenpuraiyil, vice president of MASSCON, in his welcome address. “In a very short period, we have grown by leaps and bounds and we strive to meet the growing needs of our community.”
Legendary King Mahabali was welcomed to the stage with pancha vadyam and a warm traditional welcome by women, who later on performed Thiruvathirakkali, a folk dance, typically a Keralite dance, well known for its essence, grandeur and simplicity. In this traditional dance form, women clad in traditional Kerala attire with gold brocade attached to it and wearing jasmine garlands on their heads, rhythmically moved around a lighted Nilavilakku, singing and clapping their hands, to the tune of a particular genre of songs called Thiruvathirappaattu, which is meant solely for this graceful dance.
The colorful Pookoalm at the entrance of school and the traditional lamp gave a warm traditional Indian welcome to the participants. The cultural event consisted of several songs, mostly in Malayalam, a language spoken by Malayalees around the world. Children from the ages of five delighted the audience with their melodious voices, and several dances both cinematic and traditional, showcasing the rich variety of dance forms prevalent in India.
The ambience was filled with nostalgia since it was an occasion for all the Malayalees in Connecticut to cherish their childhood memories, especially everyone enjoyed the sumptuous Onasadhya (meal) served on banana leaves, the most important and main attraction of the day with different traditional dishes and ”payasam” that was served on banana leaves.