I would wake up bright and early and put on my brand new set saree (a traditional South Indian outfit which is unique to Kerala due to it being white with gold borders and design, as seen below). Adorning myself in gorgeous jewellery bought from India from the recent trip, I would make my way with my family to the celebrations taking place in town.
Originally a Hindu festival, it is a celebration that brings together people of all religions. Legend says that Kerala was once ruled by a king named Mahabali and Onam is a celebration of his return from the underworld. This is a rough translation of a song that’s often sung on this day:
“When Maveli ruled the land,
All the people were equal.
And people were joyful and merry;
They were all free from harm.
There was neither anxiety nor sickness,
Deaths of children were unheard of,
There were no lies,
There was neither theft nor deceit,
And no one was false in speech either.
Measures and weights were right;
No one cheated or wronged his neighbor.
When Maveli ruled the land,
All the people formed one casteless races”
There are many beautiful rituals and practices that take place over the course of the celebration and I’m going to briefly tell you about my favourite aspects of Onam:
This is a work of art. In a group, you gather flowers and create a beautiful floral carpet in front of your house in an attempt to attract Mahabali to visit your house.
ഓണസദ്യ (Feast of Onam)
Quite simply the most magnificent thing about Onam is the banquet that everyone eats together. Around 26 vegetarian curries is served with rice on a plantain leaf.
As a lover of dance, I always loved taking part in this performance. The dance is performed in a circle and is traditionally carried out by women.
വടംവലി (Tug of War)
This is exactly what the title says but twice the fun.
There we have it. A breakdown of one of my favourite festivals of Kerala.
This year will be the first time in my life that I’m not celebrating Onam with anyone. I loved going and seeing everyone in the Indian community but things have changed over the year. Relationships and ties were broken and the sense of happiness is now tarnished with the question ‘what if..?’
Oh how I wish I could spend Onam in God’s own country…
ഓണാശംസകൾ (Happy Onam) to all those reading my blog!