The 10-day long harvest festival of joy, colour and lights begun from today, and the entire south Indian state of Kerala is all ready to sink in the celebration of Onam – Kerala Hindu’s New Year.
Boat races, tiger dances, floral decorations, marital art performances, Kummatikali dances, costumes, folk songs and dances, elephant parades, tug of wars and finally the 28-dish grand feast called Onam Sadhya – all these together boils down into on festival – Onam. In the fast paced modern ear, this festival brings together all Malayalis who celebrate the cultural festival in its full glory. The harvest festival holds historic significance and a belief that Mahabali – the most benevolent mythological king of Kerala who sacrificed his life for the well-being of his people comes to visit the state. And he is welcomed with the ruler’s favourite dishes, flowers and fun which displays prosperity.
On the first day of Onam – called Atham, colourful carpets of fresh flowers are laid in courtyards of each home, and men and women adore off-white gold bordered dresses which accentuates the elegance and richness of Onam. On the 10th day of Onam, the most awaited part of the festival is served – the grand feast called Onam Sadhya. Devotees generally start preparing for the 28-dish grand feast at least a month earlier. Traditional Onam Sadhya generally consists of banana chips, rice puddings, pappadoms, sweet and sour pickles, avial, sambhar, dal, ghee, rasam, coconut chutneys, stews, rice, thoran and puliserry among other delicious delicacies. All these food dishes are served on banana leaves and everyone sits on floor with families and friends to celebrate the festival of joy.
Traditional celebration lasts for 10 days, but in many urban homes, the faster version of 2-3 days long celebration is adopted. And most people come home even for one day to meet friend and family to enjoy the festival and homemade meals. Malayalis from all across the world, no matter where they are – will celebrate their tradition on the day of Onam, as a lovely reminder of the green and prosperous slice of land they originally belong to. Happy Onam to all viewers. But the main highlight of this festival in today’s polarized India is that the entire state gathers up to celebrate a Hindu mythology – it is the true essence and pristine real life emblem of what we call ‘Secular India’.