The ghostly pallor of the full moon has anointed the maidens of South India for over 1,500 years to recreate the cosmic dance between Shiva and Shakti. Depicting the lovesick penance of goddess Parvati, the Thiruvathirakali choreography embodies a legacy of longing for mystical union, interlacing masculine and feminine energies into the indestructible wholeness of the universe. In a remarkable display of unity and empowerment, Kudumbashree — a self-help group initiative over strong — recently achieved a world record during their mega Thiruvathira performance organised this Onam by the Kerala's Revenue Minister K Rajan.
Launched by the state government in 1998, Kudumbashree (which means "prosperity of the family" in Malayalam) has evolved into a formidable force by providing women across the state with opportunities for financial independence and social inclusion.
In the not-so-distant past, when women were circumscribed by social taboos, the reverberations of palms meeting and feet weaving through concentric circles blazed the trail for feminine bodies to pirouette in divine abandon, manifesting prayers for the well-being and longevity of their spouses. This spectacular event unfolded at the Kuttanellur Government College grounds in Thrissur, where an astonishing 7,027 Kudumbashree members clinched a spot in the Talent World Records and the Limca Book of World Records for the highest number of participants for a dance performance. A mere ten minutes in length, the performance was characterised by its hair-raising electricity; drawing a large audience including dignitaries and cultural enthusiasts.
Donning white mundu neriyathu saris with colourful borders, fresh jasmine flowers tucked in their hair, the Thiruvathirakali dancers could be seen swaying from a bird's eye view in the hypnotic geometry of a mandala.
Beyond the world record, this performance represents something more profound — the emancipation of women through culture and tradition. It is a reminder of the pivotal role that Kudumbashree plays in transforming the lives of women in Kerala. By preserving and celebrating their heritage of sociological liberation, these women are not only enriching their lives but also passing on the torch to future generations.
One of Kudumbashree's core objectives is to preserve and promote traditional art forms and their record-breaking Thiruvathira performance underlines the organisation's focus on the holistic development of women and nurturing a sense of community among its members.