Low-key start to Onam festivities amid COVID-19 pandemic

Low-key start to Onam festivities amid COVID-19 pandemic
A snap from the past. Hundreds participate in Athachamayam procession at Tripunithura. Photo: E V Sreekumar

Kochi: Unlike previous years, there was no colourful rally on the streets of nearby Tripunithura on Saturday, as people largely celebrated the Atham festival indoors, marking the start of the 10-day 'Onam' festivities in Kerala, in the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The low-key celebrations began with Tripunithura MLA M Swaraj hoisting the Atham flag symbolically at Tripunithura, officials said.

Locals said various folk art forms like Ammankudam, Pulikkali, Theyyam and Mayilattom and classical art forms like Kathakali used to add colour to the traditional Athachamayam procession at Tripunithura, the erstwhile capital of kingdom of Cochin.

Hundreds of people including foreign tourists used to gather at Tripunithura to enjoy the traditional Athachamayam procession accompanied by floats and folk dance performances, they said.

In the year 2018 and 2019, Athachamayam processions held in Tripunithura were dampened by devastating floods.

This year, the celebrations are marred by COVID-19 pandemic, officials said.

Big celebrations are missing this year due to the measures taken by the administration to prevent the fast spread of novel coronavirus, they said.

The Ernakulam district administration issued a guideline banning public celebrations in view of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the days of kings, the Maharaja of Kochi used to participate in the procession from Tripunithura to the Vamanamoorthy temple at Thrikkakara.

According to legend, the festival is celebrated to welcome King Mahabali, whose spirit is believed to visit Kerala at the time of Onam to see his subjects.

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