“maveli nadu vaneedum kalam manusharellarum onnupole
amodhathode vasikkum kalam apathangarkkumottillathanum…”
The traditional Onam song beautifully marks the transition of the season, the cheerfulness in the weather and freshness of autumn.
Onam, the ten-day harvest festival that is celebrated during the month of Chingam according to the Malyali calendar is the largest festival in Kerala. Worldwide, Malayalis prepare to welcome the arrival of their much loved, legendary King Mahabali to their homes. Onam is one of the ancient festivals that still survive in the modern times.
Intricate flower carpets, elaborate banquet lunch, snake boat races, Puli Kali, and the Kaikottikkali dance marks the cultural essence of Kerala during this festival.
The legend has it that ‘Asura’ king Mahabali was banished to the netherworld by Lord Vishnu, who took the incarnation of Vamana (the dwarf), under pressure from ’Devas’, who were jealous of the King’s popularity. Before his departure, the King secured an assurance from Lord Vishnu that he would be allowed to visit his subjects on ‘Thiruvonam’ day of Malayalam calendar every year. It is this visit of Mahabali that is celebrated as Onam every year.
Onasadya-the grand feast
The grand feast Onasadya, prepared on Thiruonam is the most delicious part of Onam. Onasadya is served on banana leaves and people sit on a mat laid on the floor to have the meal. The traditional Onasadya comprises of 26 items that are served on a plantain leaf but now it has been reduced to 11 to 13 items. There is a popular saying among Malayalis, which implies, "We should have the Thiruonam lunch even if we have to sell all our properties."
Pookalams-the tradition of flower carpet
About three decades ago, children made the Onam festival almost magical by waking up early morning to pick flowers from the homes of their neighbors. For every family, it was imperative to show the best 'pookalam' or floral carpets that adorned the courtyard of each house. Onam instilled in children a love for nurturing flowers. The excitement in collecting flowers motivated children of all ages. It meant they could even 'steal' the flowers from any house in the neighborhood and no one would cry out 'Thief'! However, with the passage of time no one goes flower picking, they simply buy it from shop.
All six yards or more of off-white sari pleasantly and tastefully embroidered with kasavu has come to be recognised as being typical of Kerala. Come Onam season, it’s a common sight to see women grace the streets, clad in this splendour, the children palyful and a smile on evrybody's face. The cheerfulness in welcoming their King is absolutely magical during the ten days celebration.
Updated Date: Sep 08, 2011 19:49:56 IST