On Sunday afternoon, even as the cultural procession to mark the opening of the week-long State School Arts Festival was about to begin, there were only faint signs of excitement visible on the main thoroughfare. Only a few had gathered on either side of the street, braving the scorching heat. But when the procession began, almost an hour behind schedule, every inch on the street was taken up, so were all the upper storeys of buildings on either side. Palakkad had come alive, when it mattered.
The procession which started off from the Victoria College junction and concluded two hours later at the main venue, Indira Gandhi stadium, was cheered on by local people and visitors.
At the head of the pack were students displaying their prowess in skating and Kalarippayattu. Students of the School of Martial Arts came together in a long line to carry a Tricolour which stretched to several metres.
Among the several percussive items on display, the disciplined beats of brass bands and Singari Melam mixed seamlessly with the raucous beats of ‘dappankoothu.’
Various groups performed Kolkali, Pulikali, Theyyam, Arabana Muttu, and Oppana.
As many as 35 schools and 15 government departments put up floats carrying a variety of messages. Women’s and children’s safety issues, which were the highlight of many floats at the previous festival in Malappuram, were on view this time too. So were references to Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani student activist, and the universal right to education.
A float which carried a local flavour was the one on O.V. Vijayan’s ‘Khasakinte Ithihasam’, which was set in a mythical village modelled on the Thassarak village in Palakkad. On the float were a young Vijayan in a contemplative pose, surrounded by his characters Ravi, Allappicha Mollakka, and Mymoona.
Another ‘local flavoured’ float was the one on Tipu Sultan’s ‘padayottam’, which had Tipu on a horse with a raised sword in front of the Palakkad fort.