As Diwali, Christmas, and Eid are celebrated on a large scale every year, we often forget one of India’s most prominent festivals: Onam. A secular festival celebrated between August and September annually, Onam is the Harvest Festival of Kerala, and is celebrated by Malayalis across the world.
Onam was also celebrated on 16th September 2013 on University grounds, with a number of South Indian students decked up in the traditional Keralite sarees and mundus (the equivalent of dhoti, sarong, and lungi). The entrance of the university was decorated by students with a pookalam.
Onam is celebrated in honor of King Mahabali, and is in fact a ten day celebration, leading up to the final day of Thiruvonam. Each of the ten days has a special name; Atham, Chithira, Chodhi, Vishakam, Anizham, Thriketa, Moolam, Pooradam, Uthradom, and finally Thiruvonam respectively.
|Students decorate the traditional pookalam customized with our University's Manipal logo|
Students dress in traditional Keralite wear for the special occasion
Photograph by Shahnah
The festival is observed in various ways over these ten days. These include the sadya (a grand feast comprising of an array of Malayali and South Indian delicacies, served on banana leaves), the pookalam (a lavish decoration of colourful flowers made inside or outside the house), the puli kali (a traditional folk art performance done to entertain people), and the vallam kali (an intensive and competitive boat race).
Onam continues to be an important facet in the lives of Malayalis, since it is the only festival that brings together every single faith followed in the state.
“For me, Onam is a day where a Malayali feels overwhelming pride and joy for Kerala and other Malayalis,” said Varsha Abraham, second year of engineering student. “It’s a festival that reminds us how rich our heritage really is.”
By Lavanya Narayan
The writer is a final year Media & Communication specializing in Print & Online Journalism