Onam: The festival of flowers

Yesterday Thiruvonam was celebrated in Kerala, putting and end to Onam celebrations.

Onam is the festival of flowers, celebrated all over Kerala, a small South-Indian state. It spans over a period of ten days beginning with Atham during the month of Chingam, building up in grandeur with every passing day. The celebrations last until Thiruvonam, the final day, marking the pinnacle and the end of Onam celebrations. The nature also readies itself for the celebrations-there are blooms all around, filling our hearts with colours-colours of love and oneness.

Let me tell you a few things about Onam.

Flower carpets-The hallmark of Onam   

Traditional pookalam on a poothara

Flower carpet or Pookalam are the highlights of the celebration. Every morning, during the ten days of Onam, a flower carpet is made on the Poothara. Poothara is an elevation, either a circle or a square, usually 1m dimensions, in the courtyard. Customarily flowers are picked from the neighbourhood in a Poovatti(likened to a container to hold flowers) and children make the flower carpet. It is made as a gesture of welcome to the old king, Mahabali.

 

Once upon a time…..

An illustration of King Mahabali

The lore says that a very long time ago, a great king called Mahabali ruled over the land. The land was very prosperous over the time, when the Devas grew envious of Mahabali and approached Lord Mahavishnu to banish him. Lord Mahavishnu took the avatar of Vamana, came to Mahabali requesting for three feet of land. Mahabali happily agreed. At once Vamana grew to such proportions that with two feet measured the whole of earth and heaven. Vamana asked where to place his foot for the third time, when Mahabali, offered his head, on the condition that he would be allowed to visit his land once every year. Thus Vamana, stamped him into the depths of Paathaala, the underworld. Mahabali is thus believed to visit his lost kingdom during Onam.

 

All geared up!

During the olden times, Onam was one of the few occasions when you would get a new set of dress. Onakodi, or a new dress for onam, is worn on the day of Thiruvonam. Women wear kasavu or gold-embroidered sarees, girls long skirt and blouse and men wear kasavu mundu.

 

Ona Sadya – The sumptuous meal

Ona Sadya-Tickle your tastebuds!!

Ona Sadya, the afternoon meal on the day of Thiruvonam, is one to look forward to! It again symbolizes the affluence of the yester years, as every man, rich or poor, makes it a point to have a great meal no matter what he has to sacrifice for it. A variety of dishes are made-Sambar, Pachadi, Koottukari, Aviyal……. and they are served along with rice on a banana leaf. Paalada pradaman is my personal favourite among them.

 

Arts and Games too!!

There are various traditional games as well. Pulikkali, Thumbithullal, Thiruvathirakali, Vallamkali are a few of the art forms. Each of these is popular in different parts of the state and attracts numerous tourists. People indulge in these games after the Ona Sadya. Each of the art forms has a story to tell.

Onam celebrations have undergone numerous changes in the past years, but the essence behind the celebrations remains the same-celebrating goodness.

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