Onam: Keralites celebrate the festival world over
The god's own country Kerala has been flooded with thousands of tourists from across the country and globe to see the grandeur of Kerala's biggest festival, Onam.
The festival is unique since king Mahabali is revered by people of Kerala from prehistory.
Onam is a harvest festival celebrated in Kerala. It falls during the first Malayalam month of Chingam (August-September) and lasts for ten days. Hence, it can be considered as a New Year celebration.
On this auspicious day people conduct special prayers in Hindu temples. The festival is marked by Pookalam, elaborate banquet lunches and snake boat races among various others festivities.
On each day of the festival, courtyards decorated with intricate floral carpets called Pookalam, attain new colour as flowers of different colours are added to it everyday.
A number of activities and dances are also organised, the most popular being Pulikali in which performers dress up as tigers.
However, the high point of the day is the enormous lunch called Onasadya, when Payasam (rice pudding) in different flavours are prepared, be it Coconut Payasam, the gram pulse variant or Navadaanya Payasam.
Almost all Malayali homes celebrate Onam , which once came with the traditional 26-dish sadhya (feast). These days, few households go the full distance.
The sadhya has to be served on a banana leaf. In some places, the meal is still eaten squatting on the floor.
The 26-dish traditional lunch would include chips, pappads, various vegetable dishes, a good number of pickles both sweet and sour, the traditional aviyal, sambar, dal curry served along with a small quantity of ghee, rasam, two different preparations of butter milk, a chutney powder made of grated coconut, and many mouth-watering payasams (sweet dishes), some of which are eaten mixed with a ripe plantain.
Over the years, paucity of time has caused many modifications in the traditional meal. Today, few homes go the whole hog and sit down to a 26-dish meal.
There are even those who prefer to have an Onam bash in a hotel. Most star hotels have started taking advance bookings as well. None of them offer a meal, though, for less than Rs.500.
Onam preparations in full swing among expatriate community
The preparation is also in full swing among the expatriate community from the Indian state in Dubai as they have geared up for the grand feast that is synonymous with the event.
The celebrations start on August 29 but many community organisations are also organising cultural events until next month when many of the expatriates who are currently on holiday will be back.
In the UAE, the Onam spirit is apparent in a heavy rush of customers at retail outlets selling Indian grocery items as they try to avail special prices on ingredients used in the preparation of Onasadya, the traditional vegetarian spread which is an integral part of the celebrations.
The Indian Community Welfare Committee (ICWC), an initiative by the Consulate General of India, has reportedly planned numerous cultural events similar to different Kerala organisations.
Another organisation, The Federation of Kerala Colleges Alumni (FKCA), which has decided to organise its celebrations on September 14, will also hold a pookkalam (a floral arrangement) competition at the Millennium High School Auditorium.
It may be noted that several community organisations are also holding day-long festivities which will include dance and music performances at Al Nasr Leisure Land.
The festival celebration is not limited to the Keralite community, other communities also take part in the celebrations.