Geetha Mandalam Splendid 34th Annual Onam Celebrations

Chicago IL: Geetha Mandalam celebrated its 34th Annual Onam Celebrations on Saturday, September 10th at Apollo Elementary School, 10100 Dee Rd., Des Plaines, IL. On this occasion, More than 500 people attended this festival of flowers, feast and frolic show.

Geetha Mandalam is a Hindu Religious organization established in 1978 by a group of Malayalee Hindus here in Chicago. Geetha Mandalam meet and conduct group prayers every last Saturday of the month, they also conduct various other activities and celebrating Onam, is one of their main function

Significance of Onam
Onam is an ancient festival which still survives in modern times. Kerala’s rice harvest festival and the festival of rain flowers, which fell on the Malayalam month of Chingam, celebrated the Demon King Mahabali’s annual visit from Patala (the underworld). Onam is unique since Mahabali has been revered by the people of Kerala since prehistory.

According to the legend, Kerala witnessed its golden era during the reign of King Mahabali. Everybody in the state was happy and prosperous and the king was highly regarded by his subjects, so much so that even the gods under Indra became jealous of Mahabali, and they approached Mahavishnu claiming that Mahabali is now equivalent to an Indra. Since a world with two Indras represents imbalance, Mahavishnu assumed the form of a dwarf: the Vamana avatara had tricked him to Patala. However, as Mahabali was equivalent to an Indra, he had to wait until the next Yuga where he would be the Indra. In the meantime, with the grace of Mahavishnu, Mahabali visited his people on an annual basis. Mahavishnu served Mahabali as a gatekeeper in Patala as the Lord himself serves his greatest devotees.

It is this visit of Mahabali that is celebrated as Onam every year. People celebrate the festival in a grand way and impress upon their dear King that they are happy and wish him well. The rich cultural heritage of Kerala comes out in its best form and spirit during the ten-day festival. The central feature of Onam is the grand feast called Onasadya, prepared on Thiruonam. It is a nine-course meal consisting of 11 to 13 essential dishes. Onasadya is served on banana leaves and people sit on a mat laid on the floor to have the meal.

Another popular feature of Onam is Vallamkali, the Snake Boat Race, held on the Pamba River, in which decorative boats oared by hundreds of boatmen race amidst chanting of songs and cheering by spectators and viewers.

There is also a tradition to play games, collectively called Onakalikal, on Onam. Men go in for rigorous sports like Talappanthukali (played with a ball), Ambeyyal (Archery), Kutukutu and combats called Kayyankali and Attakalam. Women indulge in cultural activities. They make intricately designed flower mats called, Pookalam in the front courtyard of the house to welcome King Mahabali. Kaikotti kali and Thumbi Thullal are two dances performed by women on Onam. Folk performances like Kummatti kali and Pulikali add to the zest of celebrations.

The celebration started at 5:30 P M with group prayer. Jasmine Pillai and Venessa Pillai did excelent job for Master of ceromany of entire program. Mahabali was greeted with Chenda Melam (Kerala Drum), and Thalapoli (Ladies with lighted lamp), then Mahabali gave Onam message to the people, Thiruvathira,(dance) by Anitha Kurup, Lakshmi Varier, Lakshmi Suresh, Anju Jayaprakash, Anita nair, Sangeetha Nair, Rethika Nair, Asha Nair, Nandini Suresh, Gauri Nair.

Next young children presented Mahabali with Athapoov (Floral show) Immediately President, Anil Pillai greeted the invitees and wished them happy onam, in his speech he reminded all how people lived in peace and happiness during Mahabali’s time and today why so many unusual things are happening and we are unable to lead a peaceful life. Anil Pillai introduced Pramod Shah, Trustee Village of Skokie to invitees to deliver Onam Greetings and Pramod Shah gave a special Onam greetings.

Cultural program:
Vinayaka Puja (Dance) by Megha Nair and Sahana Harikumar
Group song by Anitha, Rethiks and Sanlar Nair
Group Dance by Neetu,Nina,Raji,Niveda,and Nikita
Group Dance by Gopika Uma, Nikita, Ria Betsy, and Nimmy
Mimics By Ranjith Nair
Group Dance by Anjali,Ashwathi,Mayuri,Zeona, Varsha,Sharon, Reha, and Diya
Group Dance by Vinaya, Anjali, Sonia, Vicky, Anjali, and Maya
Group Song by Lakshmi and Nandini
Poetry by Govind Prabhakar,
Tabala by Abhilash
Prize Distribution (Annual sports , Prayer and story telling )

Winners of various sports, prayer competition and storytelling prizes were given by Pramod Shah, Pious T, Thampi Chemachel, Dr. Asis Sen. Arvind Pillai, Suresh Balachandran, Aji Bhaskeran, Sivan Mohamma helped to distribute the prizes. After the vote of thanks by Secretary Sivan Mohamma a grand Onam feast was arranged, coordinators of the feast were Thankamma Appukuttan, Sukumari Nair and Mani Pillai. All cultural programs were coordinated by Aji Pillai and SivaPrasad Pillai, stage was organized by Narayan Kuttappan, Prayer was coordinated by Gopalakrishnan V., Anand Prabhaker, Rajappan K., Chenda Melam was organized by Aji Bhaskeran and Reghu Nair. Many other key members were also involved to make this event a grand success. Onaya Sadya (Grand feast) provided by Geetha Mandalam

Geetha Mandalam Executive board
Anil k Pillai (President)
Dr. Sunitha Nair (Vice President)
Sivan Muhamma (General Secretary)
Sivaprasad Pillai (Joint Secretary)
Aravind Pillai (Treasurer)
Thankamma Appukuttan (Joint Treasurer)

Board of directors
G.K. Pillai
Narayanan Kuttappan
Prasannan Pillai
Sukumari Nair
Vasudevan Pillai
Rajappan Koottanal
Satheesan Nair

Photographs and Press release by: Asian Media USA

Suresh Bodiwala
Asian Media USA
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