Thiruvananthapuram: After being hit hard by heavy rains and floods, Kerala on Saturday marked the beginning of the Malayalam New Year - 'Chingam 1' - with prayers and celebrations. The month-long celebrations will end on September 16.
This is one of the most keenly awaited days for the Hindus in Kerala, but of late, people from other communities have also started celebrating the day, adding a secular hue to the traditional festival.
For Keralites, this day is also the beginning of the auspicious month for weddings , moving into a new home, buying a new vehicle or starting a new venture.
For Hindus 'Chingam 1' is the day when a visit to a temple is mandatory. And for women the highlight of the day is being dressed in their best, usually in the traditional sari.
Earlier, when agriculture was the principal vocation in the state, 'Chingam 1' signalled the arrival of the harvest season. Although many people have taken up other vocations now, the day has retained its auspiciousness.
'Chingam' is regarded as the season for sports and ritual celebrations. Onam, the harvest festival of Kerala, is celebrated in the month of 'Chingam'. This year Onam is being held from September 10 to 12.
"In yesteryears, this day was keenly awaited, as 'Chingam' comes after the 'Karkadom' month ( July-August) -- generally considered as an inauspicious month in which no major activity is done by the Hindus. But with agriculture taking a back seat in the state, the erstwhile intensity of the celebrations is no longer there and now its just a day, which begins with a visit to the temple followed by the traditional Kerala vegetarian lunch," said Savithiri Nampoothiri, an 85-year-old retired teacher.
"For the past one month, practically, we were idle, but from 'Chingam 1', we would be busy as we are booked for several weddings this month," said a leading caterer.
Another segment which does roaring business during the 'Chingam' month are car dealers, and one can see hundreds of cars ready for delivery.
But this year, much like last year, rain and floods have played spoilsport for many. According to the figures released by the Kerala government, 113 people have lost their lives and 1.29 lakh people are living in 805 relief camps across the state.