Onam – A Different Thinking

Posted on 8/28/2017

The much awaited Onam festival of this year is getting nearer and the preparations are on the way in Kerala. And it is a fact that the expatriates here in Kuwait are also preparing to welcome the King Mahabali in an equal pace. Quite a number of articles have been written on Onam giving emphasis on the mythology underlying the festival, spreading the tastes of different foods through words to fill the mouth of readers with water. But, however, I would like to approach this festival from a different angle.

‘Onam is the festival of Kerala.’ This has been the sentence quoted by students as well as teachers in schools to start the write up with, for so many years. While majority of such write ups start with this sentences, there could be a minority who use the word ‘malayalees’ instead of Kerala; the rest of the structure remains the same.

From a broad perspective, it seems that this is an ordinary and simple sentence comprising of simple words as well. But, through a micro-approach, you can see that the depth of this sentence is so vast that it can engulf the cultural values not only of Kerala but of India as a whole. In other words, this simple sentence picture the entire culture of a state than a much complex sentence can do. The sentence uses the word either ‘Kerala’ or ‘Malayalees’ and not a particular religion or cast.

The Preamble of the Constitution of India signifies that India is a secular country. The core ethos of India has been a fundamental unity, tolerance and even synthesis of religion. The Preamble reflects the of life adopted by Indian citizens for themselves. This Preamble was written with a well-thought mind behind it. It confirms the unity and integrity of our nation through the people. There are no rooms for rivalry, no scope of arguments in relation to beliefs; rather it give a clear message of equality. The all-time famous thinker Maxmuller observes the concept of religion as ‘an attitude towards superhuman power’ and later ‘as a mental faculty of
disposition which enables man to apprehend the infinite’.

Getting back to the importance of secularism - whatever be the concept of religion - it is this text which towers up India over other countries of the world. A country which gives prime importance to secularism is beyond the purview of comparison with others. This magic of secularism can be seen in the festival of Onam. Onam is the festival of Kerala, not a festival of a particular religion of Kerala.

As everybody knows the day ‘atham’ marks the approach of Onam. Though Onam comes on the 10th day from atham, people start celebrations from the day of atham itself. Onam falls in the first malayalam month of Chinga, which comes after the month of Karkitaka. Karkitaka is the month of heavy rain, less agricultural activities and produce, pushing people towards the dark side of their lives. This face of lives is changed with the approach of Chinga, the month of harvest and prosperity. The dark clouds of rain gives away to bright and blue sky, thick greenery all over the villages, flowers and butterflies appear, sweet sounds of various birds fill the atmosphere, happy faces of people – the nature gets a new face well before the day of Onam. The nature is dressed up in colour and bouquet to welcome the day.

The concept of King of Asura-Mahabali-shall be kept aside for the time being, since mythological approaches always keep the reality far away from the nucleus, hence a black and white approach to be subject is adopted here. Back to the day of Atham, the sight of children clad in colourful costumes wandering around looking of various flowers to prepare the traditional ‘pookkalam’ (a round design made of flowers in front of every houses) arise the feeling of unity, happiness and togetherness of the society. No discrimination can be seen on account of richness, religion, beliefs or other factors. There is only one mind for all – the mind of happiness. The making of pookkalam continues for the next ten days and on the day of Onam (called Thiruvonam, the day of Mahabali’s visit) people celebrates the day with traditional rituals and rich foods. The celebrations continue for 4 days. Counting from the day of Atham, it is a celebration of 14 days. The days filled with joy and happiness, the days of togetherness, the days of oneness, the days of energy, the days of blessings and glory! No boundaries created by religions of beliefs…!
To add up colour to the festival, it has been reported that for the last 2 years, Onam is being celebrated in forests by the inhabitants. The news is from Marayoor, a place well known for the thick forest, the area is having. Here, Onam celebrations last for 6 days with traditional dances and music. It is the Forest Department of Kerala who brought this festival to the notice of the inhabitants; until that point of time they were totally unaware of this festival. With the extension of the celebration even to the interior areas, the concept of festival is getting more meaning and depth.

Satheesh Varijakshan, Gulf Bank, Kuwait

Satheesh Varijakshan, Gulf Bank, Kuwait

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