Women in Woodlands wield record numbers for dance

Last night, almost 400 women took part in the Thiruvathira, the Malayalee folk dance. There were women from all ethnicities, as well as various age groups. The Thiruvathira, an all-female dance, originates from Kerela, India, and is traditionally performed in groups of eight to 10 on the day of Thiruvathira, during the Malayalee month of Dhanu. The dance yesterday evening involved 390 women and was organised by the Singapore Malayalee Association in an attempt to set the record for the largest Thiruvathira dance. With a population of 40,000, Malayalees are the second largest sub-group in Singapore's Indian community, next to the Tamils. 

Didn't manage to catch this amazing sight yesterday? Watch it now:

Thiruvathira is performed by women in order to attain everlasting marital bliss. It is usually performed around a nilavilakku (a ceremonial lamp) or a floral decoration. 
Photo credits: https://lapazgroup.net/2012/05/30/thiruvathira-kali-traditional-dance-of-kerala/

The dancers move in a circular pattern, accompanied by rhythmic clapping of hands, to the tune of the Thiruvathira song. One of the performers would sing the first line of the song while the rest repeat it in chorus. Often, the songs are narrations from folk epics. 
In addition to being performed during the Thiruvathira day in the month of Dhanu, this dance is also performed during Onam, the harvest festival, one of the most important festivals for Malayalees.
Malayalee women celebrating Onam, dressed in their traditional wear. 
Picture credits: http://www.onamfestival.org/what-is-onam.html

There are a few stories behind Thiruvathira:

According to Hindu mythology, Lord Shiva was in deep meditation on Mount Meru for years. Goddess Parvathi performed rigorous penance to win Shiva as her husband. Finally, aided by Kamadeva, the god of love, Parvathi's wish was fulfilled. Shiva was pleased with her commitment and married her.

According to legend, Thiruvathira is believed to be the birthday of Lord Shiva. The story also continues, and says that Shiva was furious at Kamadeva for interfering with his penance and as a result burned him to ashes by opening his third eye. And at the tearful pleading of Rathe, Kamadeva's wife, Siva restored him back as Ananga, representing true love and affection, and not just physical lust. 

One more mythological tale says that a young Brahmin girl, an ardent devotee of Goddess Parvathi, was widowed soon after marriage. Touched by her grief and sadness, Parvathi requested Shiva to restore her husband's life. Although initially reluctant, Shiva eventually obliged and restored the young husband back to life.

This article originally appeared on The Straits Times on 9 April 2018.

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