The 10 days of Onam

  • 13/09/2016
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  • Admin

Onam, the harvest festival in the south Indian state of Kerala, is one of the largest and most important festivals in the country. The event lasts ten days, with the first day ‘Antham’, and the tenth day ‘Thiruvonam’, holding the most importance; but to really understand this ancient festival, you’ll need to know the accompanying legend.

As the tale goes, during the reign of a benevolent demon king named Mahabali, the state of Kerala enjoyed a golden era. Depending on what you read, Mahabali went on to be a ruler of both heaven and earth, revered and worshipped by his subjects. However, as often is the way, success also brings jealousy amongst peers, and unfortunately for Mahabali he had become peers with the gods. These Hindu gods felt challenged by Mahabali, and asked Vishnu for assistance. Vishnu agreed, and because Mahabali had grown egotistical in his rise to the top, Vishnu was able to trick him into giving up all he had achieved. However due to the prosperity and success of his reign, Vishnu granted him rule over the underworld, but more importantly -for this blog at least- permission to once a year visit his subjects with whom he was so attached. It is the visit of Mahabali that is celebrated as Onam every year.   

As previously mentioned there are 10 days to the Onam Festival, so let’s have a look at what happens on each day:

1. Antham is the first day of the celebrations. It’s believed that this is when King Mahabali starts his preparations for his journey to Kerala. There used to be a military procession, but this was replaced after Kerala gained its state independence with a procession called Athachamyam, which involves music, dancing, elephant processions and folk art presentations. This first day has become aggressively promoted as a tourist event because of this explosion of Indian culture. Pookkalam, the laying of floral carpets, begins on this day with the base layer of yellow.

2. The Pookkalam designs become a little more intricate on Chithira, and the locals start cleaning their houses in preparation for the final day.

3. On Chodhi the Pookkalam grows even further with the addition of 4 or 5 different flowers. Onam is associated with gifts, so from this day onwards people start buying clothes and jewellery.

4. Vishakam marks the day of some Onam-related competitions such as the individual Pookkalam competition.

5. Anizham has more significance than most of the other days in Onam as it kicks off the snake boat race or “The Great Vallamkali” in many parts of Kerala.

6. By the sixth day of Onam, Thriketa, the public anticipation starts to build. Most of the schools and offices are granted holiday from this day to the last of the festival, so many natives go back to their hometowns to celebrate with their loved ones. The design of the Pookkalam will be very large by this point.

7. Moomlam marks the 7th day of Onam, traditional Onam lunch feasts start to take place. Government celebrations also begin, with fireworks and illuminations across the main cities.

8. Pooradam starts off with the major traditional ritual where statues of Mahabali and Vamana (the form Vishnu used to deceive Mahabali) are taken around the house, and later placed in a Pookkalam.

9. Uthradom is the 9th day of Onam, and is celebrated in a similar way to Christmas Eve, and is known as the ‘First Onam’ because it marks the day that King Mahabali travels to Kerala. There are celebrations in all households, the lunch on Uthradom is generally quite grandiose, and following the lunch preparations for the feast for the final day of celebrations take place.

10. Thiruvonam is the tenth and final day of Onam, and the culmination of all the preparation that has gone before it.  The day is also known as ‘Second Onam’ and marks the return of Mahabali where he shall remain for the next few days blessing the inhabitants. Special prayers and masses are organised. In the major cities of Kerala there are extravagant displays of fireworks and light displays. In Thrikkakara temple, a ‘mega’ feast is produced, and games and dances are performed around the state of Kerala.

There are more days to the celebrations, such as the day Mahabali returns to the underworld, but these 10 days are the most significant. Onam is a festival of culture unlike anywhere else in the world, with themes of generosity and togetherness; this coupled with making the state as beautiful as possible make Onam an amazing place to be, and we’ve certainly put it on our wish list.















To find out more about what services we offer and how to make the most of them please contact one of our representatives on 01273 473986 or email            

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Spectacular world festivals this September

  • 09/09/2016
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Spain, Barcelona- Festes de la Mercé

‘Festival La Mercè’ is held in honour of the patron saint ‘la Mercè’ (the Virgin of Mercy) on September 24th each year and is commonly known as the "Fiesta Mayor" the main festival of Barcelona. It is described as the largest and most colourful festival in the city's calendar and the highlight of Barcelona's event schedule.

Some of the most important features of the festival were introduced in 1902, when parades included papier maché giants known as ‘gegants’ and a popular dance from Empordà that was becoming popular throughout Catalonia. The holiday has enjoyed immense local popularity ever since.

There are about 600 events spread throughout the plazas, streets, museums, and parks, and even better all entertainment is free.

Among more recently introduced traditions are the annual Catalan Wine Fair, 10 km race and the pyro-musical, a display featuring synchronised fireworks, water fountains and music conducted at the base of the Montjuïc Mountain. The procession usually takes place on the Via Laietana at nightfall. Fire-breathing dragons, accompanied by dangerous devils and other monsters march the streets and scare the people with lots of fireworks and bangers.





















Italy, Venice- Regata Storica

These rowing races on the Grand Canal commemorate the welcome given to Caterina Cornaro, wife of the King of Cyprus, in 1489 after she renounced her throne in favour of Venice.

The first Sunday in September is a highlight in the annual rowing calendar. The ancient sport has been practised in the Venetian lagoons for thousands of years and is particularly well known for its historical water pageant race. Scores of typically 16th century boats with gondoliers in period costume carry the ‘doge’ (the senior-most elected official of Venice).

It is said to be an unforgettable sight and draws in crowds by their dozens, all waiting eagerly to catch a glimpse of the race in action!


Germany, Munich-Oktoberfest

This annual celebration originates from when King Ludwig married Princess Theresa and the citizens of Munich were invited to attend the festivities held on the fields in front of the city gates to celebrate the royal event.

To mark this event on the first festival Sunday, 8000 participants march in the parade in their historic festival costumes from the Maximilianeum (which houses the state parliament) on a seven kilometre stretch to the festival grounds.

2016 marks the 216th year since the festival began. Today’s event sees large quantities of food and drink consumed whilst visitors enjoy numerous funfair and visual attractions.



China- Mid-autumn festival

This ancient festival is to celebrate the moon, it is believed movement of the moon had a close relationship with changes of the seasons and agricultural production. Therefore to thank the moon and celebrate harvest the Chinese offer a sacrifice to the moon.

Romantically speaking and according to old stories the festival is to commemorate Chang E, the goddess of the moon who in order to protect her beloved husband’s elixir, ate it herself and flew to the moon.

Eating mooncake, a traditional Chinese pastry made from wheat flour and sweet stuffing, is a symbol of family reunion and the cake is traditionally cut into pieces that equal the number of people in the family. Giving gifts, eating dinner together and children making lanterns are also other popular traditions to celebrate.



Italy, Tuscany-Saracen Joust

Saracen joust of Arezzo is an ancient game of chivalry and was born as military training. The most ancient document is a Priors’ resolution stating that the Joust against the Saracen should take place on Sunday and that the prize would be a satin purple ribbon.

Today the jousting day starts in the morning, when the town's Herald reads the proclamation of the joust challenge, and then continues with a colourful procession of 350 costume characters and 27 horses parading along the streets of Arezzo.

The event draws in a large number of crowds and keeps them entertained with spectacular medieval costumes, and highly skilled jousting.




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Inside Vandu HQ!

  • 02/09/2016
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A catch up with Aaron, our digital marketing co-ordinator.

What is your role at Vandu, and how long have you been working with the company?

I’ve only just started working for the company, it’s been just over 3 weeks now. I’ve joined Poppy in the marketing and promotions side of things, together we have been brainstorming new ideas for Vandu. There’s a lot of exciting things coming up. I have also been writing blogs, conducting interviews and designing flyers, this is where I can be the most creative!

What do you do when you come home from work?

I’m a bit of a night owl so I’m not a big fan of early rises, when I get home I take it as a chance for me to relax and unwind. After dinner, I might go for a late night run, I think it’s really important to keep myself fit and healthy to get the most out of my mind and body.

What is your favourite past time?

I’m the bassist in my band, music has been a big part of my life since around the age of 10. The band’s starting to do quite well now and we got played on BBC radio 1 the other day, so it’s starting to take up a lot of my free time (which is a good thing!). Other than that I’m a big spurs fan, so watching or playing football is probably the next best thing.

What do you enjoy about working for Vandu?

Writing blogs about different cultures, countries and festivals has been really interesting; I enjoy writing and researching because you end up learning something new and it keeps your brain moving. The team have been really nice and welcoming and I feel fully on board with them already.

What’s your favourite meal?

My mum’s fresh pasta Bolognese. It’s just dreamy really, and I’m not ashamed to say I’ve had it for breakfast more times than I can count.




                   (Mebrak Ghebreweldi centre and Aaron far right after completing London 10k this year)

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Inside Vandu HQ!

  • 26/08/2016
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  • Admin

Meet Vandu's director, Mebrak Ghebreweldi

What is your role at Vandu?

I founded the company in 1999, and have been directing it since.

What’s your morning routine like?

I’m a night person really, I stay up late reading news and other articles or watching ted talks… everyone is constantly learning, but as a foreigner I enjoy reading and watching these things to better myself and understand the culture as best I can. So anyway the morning’s a bit of a struggle. But you’ve got to do it, so I just get up and get on with it, maybe a cup of tea, a slice of toast and I’m off.

What’s your favourite meal?

Lentils with lots of chilli and rice or bread.

What do you do on the weekends?

I really love walking. I’ve just started tackling the South Downs Way route. The weekends are for socialising too, and I enjoy having friends round or visiting their homes. Sometimes a good weekend is just laughing and arguing with my boys. Other than that it’s just making sure the house is clean and ready for the week.

Finally what’s your favourite part of the working day?

Training is the most rewarding and enjoyable job I carry out. We at Vandu have trained hundreds of community interpreters, bilingual advocates and bilingual mentors throughout the south east England. I’ve met so many of them post-training over the years, some of them have moved to more permanent jobs, some of them have set up their own business or become health and public health professionals. They greet me with respect and a smile; this is where I feel I have contributed to our society the most, nothing is better than hearing an ex-trainee say that the training we’ve provided has helped me and I’m now “happier and enjoying life”. I can’t emphasise how satisfying that is, and it happens quite a lot.

Of course my team are a big part of my day, and I’ve been blessed with a great group of individuals. We are like a small family working hard and celebrating our successes together, like finding a rare language interpreter or a team member having a particularly fruitful day or even having a productive team meeting… all these successes give me an excuse to buy cake and biscuits for everyone. And then there are the birthdays!



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Can you beat this quiz on Asia?

  • 24/08/2016
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  • Admin

Did you know Asia and Europe are the only two continents where most countries use native languages as their official languages?

Question is, can you beat the quiz?



Knowing which language and dialect you require can be crucial in securing the correct interpreter for a specific job. To get in touch with one of our team and to find out how we can fulfill your interpreting needs, please call 01273 473986 or email

Don’t forget to tweet us your results on Twitter and follow us @VanduLanguage!

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