This is Onam-time and a mass, well if not ‘mass’, a mini-exodus of Keralites from different parts of the country to Kerala is expected. The festival is also popular among the Malyali diaspora based in the Gulf Arab nations of UAE, Qatar, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Oman. As an outsider in the region, you may have often wondered what Onam is all about. Let’s try to explore.
What is it all about?
For laymen, this is the first question likely to strike. Well, Onam is basically a ten-day harvest festival, consisting of a culmination event. Having said that, it is not so easy to understand Onam, as it has a mythological angle. It is widely believed that the just king Mahabali once passed a test set by lord Mahavishnu, who came disguised as a poor man, Vamana. As a favour, the king was given a chance to visit his subjects in Kerala once a year. This ‘once a year’ came to be known as Onam.
How is it celebrated?
The best trademark is the pookalam decoration in front of homes and shops. It is made using small pieces of blossoms of various colours. It is very similar to the North Indian version of Rangoli. It is considered to be a welcome note for king Mahabali. Other interesting features are the Snake Boat Race of Arankula; and the Pulikkali Tiger Play, wherein men paint themselves with colours resembling tiger skin and dance.
Something to eat?
An Onam celebration would never be complete without a good mouth-watering feast called Onam Sadya. Unless you are a real glutton, you will not be able to wait till you arrive at the last course. A trial of just two-three curries with payesam towards the end will get you the feel of what the festival is all about. Restaurants offer great varieties, but the best food will be available at your friends’ homes. In case you have contacts in Kerala, tap them now.
Just go for it!
Go to any part of Kerala, and you will find festivities at their peaks. With the main festival occurring on Sunday, you can book your bus tickets with TicketGoose.com and head to Kerala, be it Kochi, Kovalam, Tiruvalla, Kottayam, Malappuram or Kozhikode. Once you visit, you will realize that Onam in “God’s Own Country” is truly unique.