Sunday, November 11, 2012

World Record Week

The entrance to the pooram grounds (clicked by my brother)

The last week has been mighty hectic. It was also loads of fun. And I got myself in to the Guinness Book of World Records. Yeeaah!

To be a bit more precise… me and around 2700 other ladies literally danced our way into the record books. The feat was enabled by the Mumbai Pooram foundation which organizes a yearly Arts & Cultural festival, the largest of its kind outside Kerala in Bombay. This festival is based on lines similar to the temple festivals (pooram) of the state of Kerala… the most famous of the poorams being the Thrissur Pooram held on the temple grounds of Vadakkunathan Kshetram with the temples of Parmekkavu Bhagavathi and Thiruvambady SriKrishna participating. Although the main deity of the Thiruvambady temple is Lord Krishna, the deity participating in the pooram is Thiruvambady Bhagavathi. Bhagavathi is a representation of the Hindu goddess Parvati, the consort of Lord Shiva (the deity of the Vadakkunathan temple.)

Though, the Mumbai Pooram is a celebration of the pooram culture of the temples of Kerala… it is not a religious festival. It is a showcase for the art and culture of Kerala and a platform to unite the Malayalis who have chosen to live their lives outside Kerala. It is a festival that brings the colour and pageantry of the vibrant pooram right in to their busy city lives.

This year, the major attraction of Mumbai Pooram was the world record attempt by 2700 female dancers performing the Kaikottikali / Thiruvathirakali dance art of Kerala. This form of dance is performed by women on the occasions of Onam or Thiruvathira. The dance is performed with the lasya (beauty and grace) element dominating the movements and expressions of the dancers. The typical formation for the dance is a circle of women around a nilavillakku (a ceremonial brass lamp) or a pookalam (a floral design) or a combination of both. The hand movements are languid and the bodies sway in a fluid motion in clockwise and / or anti-clockwise directions. The rhythmic movements of the dancers are given more importance than the hand mudras.

On the 9th of November 2012, a bevy of around 2700 ladies gathered at the KDMC grounds in Dombivli to perform this graceful dance in a special, never attempted before numbers. We had the Guinness Book Of World Records’ officials presiding over the event to ensure that the dance met their precise standards to ensure a place in the record books. The performance was scheduled for 6:30 PM and all the ladies had reached the venue by 4:30 PM, decked in the traditional Kerala attire consisting of off-white handloom cotton sarees or set-mundu with gold brocade borders and red silk blouses, with hair tied up in buns adorned with fragrant jasmine blooms, with kaash-maala / lakshmi-maala (a long necklace made of gold coins) and gold bangles, earrings and anklets.

After a long wait of about one and a half hours whilst which we were served cutting chai, the Guinness officials arrived to start taking a head-count of the dancers. Arranging 2700 dancers to be counted within the grounds when it was already choc-a-bloc with spectators might not have been an easy task… though the organizers could have done a much better and faster job if they had tried a bit harder. The dancers ended up waiting until 8:45 PM for the officials to finish counting them… all this time, we did not have a place to sit and were standing barefoot on the gravely ground. Let me tell you, it is not a pleasant experience to be standing without any food except a few Parle-G biscuits for about 5 hours… with the performance still looming ahead. Quite obviously, with the kind of exhaustion that had set in a few girls fainted… and I think one of the girls could not even be part of the performance. After the officials counted us… we were guided into the formation which took another half hour. Finally by 9:15 PM we were all ready in concentric circles, 18 in number.

The Guinness officials had informed us that any dancer who gave up before 5 minutes of dancing or who rested for over 5 minutes while dancing would be disqualified from the record attempt and their count deducted from the total. It was a scary prospect because the 5 long hours had exhausted the women… some of whom were really old and all of whom were above 13 years of age. Once, the guru-vandanam started, we were infused with a bit more life even though the limbs of most of us were too stiff with the waiting. When the singers started the song… all pains and aches and stiffness was forgotten and we all danced… and danced with as much perfection as we could muster. The performance lasted some 20 minutes… and by the end of it we all took a bow full of hope and anticipation… which later became a bow of triumph as we were informed that we indeed made it into the record books… the largest Kaikottikalli performance in the world.

Since, I was one of the dancers, I had to leave the photography to the professionals. Here is a lovely pic of the formation just before the dance started taken by freelance photographer Veeraj Nair (you can see more awesome pics at his blog.)

That's me!

Here are a few pics of the event my brother clicked.

The Vashi group... can anyone spot me?

A decorative gopurams structure which made it into the Limca Book of Records

Waiting for the Guinness Officials

The gopurams starting to light up

Standing in queues to be counted

The ground being prepared for the formation

The gopuram now completely illuminated.

Still waiting as the head-count nears completion.

The dance

The dance... continues

A formation showing unity.

The final bow.

In preparation for the event, we had daily rehearsals. Small groups of women from various localities gathered at convenient locations to practice the dance on a daily basis for the last few weeks. Our group was the Vashi group and had about 70 women in it. On 4th November 2012, there was a rehearsal at the venue which saw some 1500 of us attending. A few pics from the rehearsal.

A snapshot from the Times Of India


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