Yet another Onam’s here — and this year I don’t get to celebrate it at all (for one year, we’re off all celebrations ‘coz granny passed away). My first Onam after marriage and there it goes down the drain! Hmmm.
All these years, when we ‘had’ Onam to celebrate, it never was a big deal for me. I used to love getting all decked up in the Kerala traditional wear, have all the relative buzzing around, have that sumptuous sadya…but well, Onam was always just another festival. But somehow, this year, seeing everyone else celebrate makes me feel weird — and guilty for letting poor Onam never get that importance and high-office! 😀
And to add to all that, the husband is totally down with fever — high temperature and body pain and all that. And I am also sneezing my way to the same condition. I read somewhere that if you sneeze too hard, you can fracture a rib; if you try to suppress a sneeze, you can rupture a blood vessel in your head or neck and die. Surprisingly, I’m still alive, and my ribs are in perfect order 😀 Hope it remains so for at least another week — because my parents are coming tomorrow! Yey! The only thing I can say about continuous sneezing is that it makes you look like a drunk, sleep-deprived Chinese! (The red eyes, small and squinted) 😀
Anyway, yesterday a friend popped up on chat and asked whether I had a bath in the morning and went to the temple after that. Well, when I told her Onam had no religious connections, she asked me why, then, Mahabali roams around with a “kuri” on his forehead. I told her it was the then Devas‘ and Asuras‘ version of our modern bindi 😉
Well, Onam really has no ‘religious’ aspect about it. It is the day the Asura King Mahabali comes up from the underworld ‘Pathalam‘, to visit his beloved Kerala and the ‘citizens’ there — a once-a-year allowance granted by Lord Vishnu . The day when all of Kerala is dressed at its best, is laden after a good harvest and awaits a grand year ahead. (The story behind all this will give enough material for 3 posts!!)
Onam, therefore, is significant in two ways…
One, it is the commemoration of the community at large and celebration of past history, the Mahabali legend; and two, it is the celebration of the harvest, tied with the memory of the golden age of prosperity. Onam is the time when Kerala is all set to welcome back its favourite King for a day of feast and enjoyment. After the monsoon drenches this beautiful state for almost all of the Karkidakam (the Malayali’s ‘dark’ month — when nothing inauspicious is taken up), Chingam walks in,bringing with it spring and auspiciousness. Chingam signals harvest, which is celebrated in the form of Onam!
This sense of joy, prosperity and merrymaking is celebrated traditionally with folk games, family get-togethers and lots of sadya. 😉
The best part of Onam has always been the Onakkodi. People gift one-another and wear new clothes during Onam. ‘Vastra’ (dress) also stands for ‘heart’. So, new dresses signifies the ‘renewal’ of the heart with new thoughts, cleansing it of all bad memories!
Atham pathinu ponnonam… Onam celebrations start on the day Atham (the Malayalam star) falls — 10 days before Thiruvonam (another Malayalam star). A huge circle made on the courtyard, coated with cowdung (to keep the flowers in place), is beautifully decorated with flowers and called ‘Onapookkalam’. In most houses, this is done with great mastery and ends up being a beautiful work of art!
On Thiruvonam, before Mahabali comes for his yearly visit, houses are cleaned and decorated with flowers and traditional lamps. A beautifully enchanting display of fireworks and lighting turns the state capital, Thiruvananthapuram, into something of a fairyland!
Sumptuous sadyas are spread on the greenest of all plantain leaves. The sadya is an important part of Onam — its the yearly feast even the poorest person in the state doesn’t wish to miss. “Kaanam vittum Onam unnanam“, they say. It means that to have a share of the Onasadya, one should be willing to sell even the bare necessity he owns! The sadya is a full course meal, served strictly in the following order: 3 pickles (ginger, lime and mango), a thoran, a kitchadi, avial and koottucurry on one side of the leaf; on the other, banana chips, banana pieces dipped in jaggery, a small banana, pappads, rice and parippu. Then follows sambar, a milk-payasam with boli, a jaggery payasam with banana, and finally, a bit more rice with pulissery, rasam and then buttermilk! (The sadya varies from district to district in kerala; this is the Thiruvananthapuram style and I know only of this!) 😀
Different parts of Kerala celebrate Onam in their own different ways: Athachamayam (a cultural procession in the royal town of Tripunithura); the Thrikkakarayappan further north; Kathakali dancers in gorgeous costumes enacting the legends in Valluvanad;. an impressive procession of elephants adorned with their nettipattoms in Thrissur, where masked dancers perform the colorful Kummattikali; the famous Aranmula Vallam Kali in Aranmula; Pulikali (Kaduvakali) all over the state..everyone has one’s own concept of Onam! And, these are but a few of the various traditional activities that are enjoyed during Onam.
The swing, one most important part of Onam, is enjoyed by everyone: decked in their best, they sing Onappaattukal, swinging to and fro from high branches.
Oh! Good ol’d Onam. I miss it sooooo much this year…and when a friend send me a pic he clicked of the lit-up roads in Thiruvananthapuram, I saw nostalgia run across the room and take a huge leap on to me! Sigh!
Happy Onam, everyone! Have a great day today…and a graaaand year ahead — while I head off to sneeze in piece peace! 😀
yes Onam is a symbol of communal harmony too. Onam wishes to you and your husband, hope you both have stopped sneezing 🙂 Fortunately, those viruses are yet to spread through blogs.
get well soon!!
The food looks great!! Two of my colleagues got some delicious kheer (milk, sevayya and dry fruits) for all of us that they had prepared for Onam! 🙂
Happy Onam to you too, and get well soon! 🙂
Heyy, the fact that Lord Vishnu allows Mahabali to come and visit us itself is something to do with religion, rt? All those stories of how he went deep down is also something to do with a religion, rt? If its a story like a King died under unusual circumstances and prayed to ‘God’ to let him come once in a while to meet his subjects, then its nothing to do with any particular religion. But in Mahabalis situation, there are references to Devas, Asuras and also Lord Vishnu and all of them come only under particular religion, na?
for a BIG change… i think in vimmuuu’s lines :P.. i mean vishnus one whole avatar is devoted to ths story..nd hmm one more thng to debate on..i feel onam is a celebratn of spring than harvest :P.. for one thng…i hvent seen..’koythu kaalam’..its usually green durng onam..nd anthr thng ive heard that for vishu we wake up seing all those veggies and fruits coz those are the gifts of harvest seasn..makng vishu a festival of harvest..wil there b 2 such festvls??? dunno….
What a fantastic description of Onam! Belated Onam Wishes 🙂
Though there are some vivid memories of Onam from my kid times, I wasn’t really aware of some specific information you provided here – specially on the Sadya part. Thanks for sharing them 🙂
Happy onam! 🙂
Happy Onam ji … 😀
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btw, would you employ me what’s this festival about?
thank you very much!!!!
you know, I am Italian, but I am so curious girl and I would know better also India!!!!
cause I am loving it…
Belated Happy Onam. Hopped over from Blogadda. Loved this post! Hope you are better now.
Hey congratulations!! This post got picked up by Blogadda, just saw it there! 🙂
belated onam wishes 🙂
Welcome to AlphabetWorld! 🙂
Yep, we’re both fine now; and yea, perhaps its the only thing yet to spread through blogs 😛
Rocking blog, you got there! Will be a regular visitor 🙂
Thanks! I sure did! 🙂
Great to know you had a yummy time 🙂
All that is religious, I agree; On a Vinayaka Chathurthi, we celebrate Ganesha’s b’day; we do that on a Sri Krishna Jayanti too; we do poojas on Vijayadashami and all that…but that way, for Onam as a day, I personally feel there’s no direct religious significance. but it wasn’t on ‘Thiruvonam’ that Mahabali was sent down to earth. It just so happens that he chose this day to ‘visit’.
You may differ in your view, but well 😀
For the major part of your comment, I have replied to Vimmuuu as well. As for the harvest part, Onam is a harvest festival: that’s why it is “samruddhiyude ponnonam”. Also, Onam is an ancient Dravidian festival…as such, the original “harvest festival” fell on the Tamil month of Avani (also called Chingam); Avanam or Thiru’avanam’ (which became Thiruvonam) was the day yearly accounts were verified, marking the start of a New year. 😀
Welcome to AlphabetWorld! 🙂
Thanks a ton. Glad it bought you back good ol’ memories 🙂
Heading your blog-wards now 😉
@Sakhi and Harsh
Thanks! Hope you both had a good day too. Am sure you have at least one Mallu friend who went berserk on Onam 😀
This is my second post on Onam; if I elaborate anymore, am sure Vimmuuu and Verbi would pounce on me 😀 try this once as well: https://alphabetworld.wordpress.com/2008/09/13/onamthe-king-of-festivals/
Welcome to AlphabetWorld! 🙂
Hopping over to your blog now 😉
Congrats on your post getting picked as well!
Thanks! Am I thrilled! 🙂
Thanks! Belated wishes to you as well!
thank you very much honey…
I guess it is a great festival…
I would like to celebrate it too…
if one day I’ll come to India certainly I’ll do it…
Cool Post there… Have a belated onam…hope both of you are well now..
I hope u both are better now and am sure that next year your Onam would be as you want it 🙂
And that was a nice post giving people like me knowledge which am sure will be boasted about later 😉
Hi, saw your post on blogadda and popped over to wish you a belated happy Onam. Btw, even I believe that Onam is more of a harvest festival and that it has minimal religious significance. Of course nowadays it has more of a commercial significance 😉 Over here in Kerala Onam was pretty much a damp squib, though, with constant rains et al.
🙂 thanks thanks
hii…jus accidently saw you blog…
really a cool blog…
gud one…keep going….
Always welcome! 🙂
Anytime! Boast away to glory!
Partner in arms! I think your views will halp me defend myself against people who wanna fight on this 😀
Welcome to AlphabetWorld! 🙂
Thanks a lot! Keep visiting.
you are so nice!!!
Nice work,it brings back a lot of memories, I feel that people have forgotten what Onam is about … For a person like me its just a another reason to stay home and watch the “Super Hit” movie and the commercials that’s comes free with it !! Any ways Happy Onam !!
God bless you!!
Welcome to AlphabetWorld! 🙂
Hehehehe…true. In fact, it’s only when Amma told me ‘let’s design pookkalams’ that i remembered that part of Onam. Been so long.
Happy Onam! 🙂
God bless you too!
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