The mood was subdued and somber. But the colorful traditional attire, children, women and men clothed in conveyed a message of hope and joyfulness. For the nearly 300 people from across the state of Connecticut, who had come together to celebrate their culture, traditions, and fellowship during the 10th annual Onam celebrations organized by Malayalee Association of Southern Connecticut (MASCONN) at Madison Middle School, Trumbull, CT on Saturday, September 15th, 2018, it was a way of cherishing their rich culture, while paying homage to those who had lost their lives, properties and to some, everything they ever had owned, due the devastating floods that inundated the beautiful state of Kerala and the livelihood of millions last month. The colorful Pookoalm and the thilak (pottu) that had traditionally welcomed participants at the entrance of school, giving them a warm traditional Indian welcome, was missing this time, as the organizers had decided scale down the celebrations in honor of Flood Victims in Kerala.
“MASCONN is an offshoot of the natural growth of the Indian-American especially Malayalee Community in the southern Connecticut region,” said Wilson Pottackal, President of MASCON, 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.” Earlier, he called on the audience to stand in silence paying homage to those who had lost their loves in Kerala in the Floods and to those who lost their lives due to Hurricane Florence in the mid-Atlantic states. The funds raised today, he announced, will be sent to help the victims of the devastating floods in Kerala.
Onam celebrations at the Madison Middle School auditorium began with the lighting of the traditional Nailavilakku or lamp by honored guests of MASCONN and the executive committee members. Thiruvathirakkali, a folk dance, typically a Keralite dance, well known for its essence, grandeur and simplicity put the audience into a nostalgic mood of Onam, as been celebrated for centuries around the world.
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.
Onam awaits one very special visitor, Kerala's most loved legendary King Maveli. He is 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 see his people living happily. It is in honor of King Mahabali, affectionately called Onathappan, that Onam is celebrated.
The grand welcome accorded to Legendary King Mahabali with “Pancha Vadyam” and a warm traditional welcome by a dozen beautiful women dressed in traditional attire, was also missing this year.The cultural events consisted of several live dances, classical Bharatnatyam, fusion, Bollywood, folk and contemporary dances, live music and songs, sung in Malayalam, a language spoken by Malayalees around the world. Children from the ages of five to older adults delighted the audience with their melodious voices, and several dances both cinematic and traditional, showcasing the rich variety of dance forms prevalent in India.
Sujata Gadkar-Wilcox, Democratic Candidate for Connecticut House of Representatives, Trumbull’s 123rd District, in her Onam message, urged the community to come out and vote in the upcoming Mid-Term elections in November, sending a strong voice to the government that Indian Americans are united and are ready to come to the mainstream, contributing to the decision-making process of the state and the nation.
Harry Arora, the Republican party candidate seeking to win the Congressional seat from Rep. Jim Himes, while addressing the audience, reminded of his connection to Kerala and its culture, and appealed to all to come and vote in large numbers.
The whole 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 Onam Sadhya (meal), the most important and main attraction of the day with different traditional dishes and ''payasam'' that was served on banana leaves. 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.
This fast growing presence of the Indian American community was evident when more than four 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 17th, 2016 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.”
MASCONN is a non-political, non-religious forum to strengthen Malayalee culture and tradition and to give special emphasis to the development of the new generation of expatriate Malayalees. For the younger generation, MASCONN passes on the cultural heritage, tradition, the rarely cherished legacy and values while they are integrating into the American culture. For more information on MASCONN, please do visit. www.masconn.org.