||Onam, the harvest festival of Kerala
is celebrated during August/September every year. Keralites from all over
the world travel to their native land to celebrate this festival as it
is an occasion of pomp and merriment derived from gathering with family
members and friends.
It is an unusual festival, in the sense that it reveres the memory of a local demon king, Mahabali, who was ousted from his kingdom by Lord Vishnu. So attached was the king to his country and subjects, that he asked for and was granted permisssion to return once a year. Onam is considered to be the day when the king returns to his kingdom.
Apart from the mythological reason for Onam, it is a festival after the new harvest, when the coffers are abundant with grains and crops ready to sell and eat. The greenery throughout is magnificent. After working under the scorching sun of April and with flood waters of July and August the farmers heave a sigh of relief upon seeing the green lands.
Onam is celebrated by one and all irrespective of caste and creed. The well-to-do donate liberally to the poor as the feeling is that no one should go hungry during Onam. The festival spreads over a period of ten days starting from ‘Attam’ in Chingam, the first month in the Malayalam era.
Fine attire, sumptuous food and a pleasant ambiance are the hallmark of Onam. Houses are cleaned thoroughly and decorated aesthetically with flower petals of all colours and shades arranged in various designs. Children compete with each other in making ‘Pookkalam’ and the eldest in the family gives a prize for the best flower arrangement during the ten days. The eldest member also has to provide new clothes for all to wear on the special day of Onam. Onam is never complete, as no occasion ever is, without a fabulous feast called Onam Sadya. Payasams, fried items and other dishes of South India are prepared besides Kerala’s specialties, ‘Aviyal’ and ‘Kalan’. Sitting together, and enjoying Onam Sadya served on plantain leaves amidst fun and frolic are pleasant memories Keralites cherish life long. Perhaps no other occasion can provides such camaraderie.
Sports, games and cultural programmes are inseparable with Onam festivities. While women folk engage in Kaikottikkali, Margamkali, Mohiniyattam and other classical and folk dances, men folk engage in Kolkali, Pulikali, Parichamuttukali and Akshraslokam. Processions with decorated elephants and floats depicting mythological scenes and architectural elegance accompanied by Panchavadyam, Nagaswaram, Thayambaka, etc. are an integral part of Onam celebrations.
Houses are cleaned and floral decorations put up to welcome the beloved ruler. A highlight of the celebrations is the famous Vallamkali-Snake Boat Race held at Arunmula in Central Travancore.
The great man is he that does not loose his child's-heart