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    This Onam, British actor Danny Sura will follow King Mahabali’s trail through Kerala

    Legend has it that every year at Onam, Lord Mahabali—the former ruler of Kerala—visits his subjects. In turn, his subjects prepare floral carpets made out of 10 varieties of flowers (pookalam), 28-sides grand lunches (sadya) and get young girls in pairs of four to dance wearing traditional clothes (thiruvathira) to give him a grandiose welcome. This Monday, on Spirit of India: Onam, an hour-long special show on Discovery Channel, British-Indian actor Danny Sura (of Kyaa Kool Hain Hum 3 fame) will travel through God’s Own Country and capture the spirit of the 10-day harvest festival. “For me, Kerala is a land of divine serenity and Onam—a beautiful story about a mighty king and the love that he had for his people,” begins Sura, who is now in Mumbai. He had earlier travelled through the city for the show’s Ganesh Chaturthi edition.

    Rich harvests
    In Onam, Sura travels to Aranmula, to be part of a mock snake boat race (vallamkalli), which are the trials for the larger event to be held right after Onam. Following this, Sura heads to Thrissur and hits the streets immersing himself in the play of tigers (pullikali), where men dressed as leopards and tigers dance around, while being chased by hunters–a 200-year-old gathering, introduced by the Maharaja of Cochin to showcase the machismo of the land. The British actor also tries his hand at kalaripayattu, Kerala’s indigenous martial art form.Sura says it is the perfect sports form as it utilises the harmony between the body, its balance and ayurvedic medicine. “During these celebrations, I gladly exchange my jeans, for a Kerala dhoti, which I am gifted by a family I share the onasadya with,” adds the Birmingham-based host, vowing to take the dhoti back to UK, to show Brits how people in Kerala dress.

    Girl trouble
    Following Sura’s dhoti adventure, the actor joins the womenfolk—all dressed in Kerala saris (a quasi of the mundum neriyathum, a two-piece dhoti traditionally worn by Malayali women) for a dance around the oil lamp and to arrange the flower buds into a circle. “Overall with Kerala, I had many surprises. First with the dhoti, the jet black hair on the women, the jasmine garlands on them and the singing and dancing,” expresses Sura adding that it’s obvious why people have been falling in love with the land.

    Spirit of India: Onam on September 12, 9 pm on Discovery Channel.
    —P Peter

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