Off-season Onam dance at Nigdi today

Special dance competition at Sri Krishna Temple.

As many as 13 groups from across Pune will vie for top honours, as well as the prize money on Saturday when they try to outdo and outmatch one another in Thiruvathirakali (a dance form of Kerala and Tamil Nadu performed by girls and women during Thiruvathira, usually performed as part of the Onam festivities).

The venue of the special dance competition is Shri Krishna temple, Nigdi. Each group will get to perform for 10 minutes and will be judged by a panel specially invited from Mumbai. Each group will have around 8-10 members who will perform the dance around a traditional lamp. The winners get Rs 25,000 and the runners-up Rs 15,000. The prize money for the third place is Rs 10,000.

The prizes have special names, too. In descending order, the prizes are the 'Shree Vishal Mangala Pathira Phalakam', the 'Shree Vishal Lakshmi Swayamvara Phalakam' and the 'Ardhra Dharsana Phalakam'.

Women in traditional white sarees with golden borders perform the dance around a nilavilakku (a ceremonial lamp placed on the ground, which is in the form of a vertical shaft, carrying several storeys of circular rows of lights). The dance is also performed around a floral decoration.

Dancers move in a circular pattern, rhythmically clapping hands to the tune of Thiruvathira songs, which are usually narrations from folk epics. Saturday's programme will be inaugurated by the Director, Export and Import wing of the Poonawalla Group, PC Nambiar and Colonel (retd) AN Nair, president of the Poona Kathakali Vedhi.

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