Wednesday, September 18, 2013

ONAM FESTIVAL

Onam is the most important festival in Kerala which lasts for two weeks. People  put a floral arrangement using fresh flowers in front of their houses  in circular shape known as 'Pookkalam' in the early morning from 'Atham' star day onwards for ten days up to 'Thiruvonam' star day according to the  traditional practice.On Atham star day itself a colourful procession will be   held at 'Thrupunithura' near Cochin where the temple of Lord 'Vamana' exists declaring the launch of Onam Celebrations. This is also a centuries old custom.From that day onwards for  preparations  to make the event a grand success everybody will be busy with shopping etc.By that date itself  people would have  already made renovations to their dwelling place by throwing out garbage, cleaning around, and  applying  new paint to their houses  if necessary and so on.They will purchase rice and other provisions in bulk  abundance,new clothes for all family members etc.The main Onam day is known as 'Thiruvonam' and on that day almost in all homes of Kerala people will prepare   so many types of dishes and sweets.During four main days of Onam lunch will be a 'feast' with so many varieties of dishes and 'payasam' (a kind of porridge' using jaggery,rice,milk etc).
Poor people would have saved some money for this occasion.Now a days Government pays bonus to the employees prior to Onam and in the private sector also the workers are paid annual bonus in this month just before Onam days.So everybody will be able to celebrate and enjoy Onam Festival according to their wish.Government employees may get five days holidays and in the private sector also four days holidays are mostly  given.
Onam is the Official Tourism week  in Kerala.Government Sponsored Onam Celebrations are conducted  in a large scale in the Capital City of Thiruvananthapuram every year.Small scale celebrations are also held at District headquarters like  Ernakulam(Near Cochin),Kozhikode etc  and other tourist spots.
In Trivandrum every year the programmes will be very spectacular and gorgeous. Programmes are   held  mainly at Kanakakkunnu Palace Auditoriums,Nishagandhi open auditorium in that premises,Sooryakanthi auditorium,Museum auditorium,Jawahar Balabhavan Compound,Public Office compound,Institution of Engineers hall,Poojappura ground,Central Stadium,Vailopalli Samskrithi Bhavan,Theertha pada Mandapam,V.J.T.Hall,Public Library auditorium etc.
There will be display of Classical art forms like Kathakali,Koodiyattam,Ottanthullal,Bharatanatyam,Mohiniyattam,Kuchupudi,Kathak,etc and Folk art forms of all types like 'Theyyam.Padayani,Arjuna Nritham,Garudan Parava,Thidambu Nritham,Chakyar Koothu,Nangyar koothu,Chavittu nadakam etc.Classical Carnatic concerts and film songs musical program 'Ganamela' are held everyday.Kathaprasangam(story telling using orchestra),Professional Dramas,folklore dances like Charadu pinnikali and musical program of folklore songs 'Nadan Pattu' and many more.
On the last day there will be a splendid, attractive and marvellous parade(procession) from Vellayambalam to Eastfort which will be a feast for the spectator's eyes in which a number of decorated 'floats' representing different public and private organisations also participates.
Government sponsored programs are held at Shanghummugham beach,Varkala,Chirayinkeezhu,Aakkulam,Ponmudy,Veli Tourist Village, Kovalam,Madavurpara,Karakulam Kala Gramam etc also which  are all in and around Thiruvananthapuram.
 The world famous 'Aranmula Uthrittathi Snake Boat race on the  river 'Pampa' at Aranmula in Pathanamthitta District takes place on 'Uthrittathi' star day three days after 'Thiruvonam' day.
During the Onam month several Snake boat races are held in many parts of Kerala. 'Pulikali' at Thrissur will be an event which  attracts large number of people from far and near.(People wearing tiger's mask and painted  body like tigers will dance.Thousands of tigers will participate for this event.
 The legend of Onam is as follows.Celestial beings 'Devas' opposes 'Asuras' always.Gods always favoured Devas  because Asuras performed unnecessary calamities and crimes quite often.But there were great wise men among 'Asuras' and such a great personality was  'Emperor Mahabali'  who ruled Kerala several thousand years ago.He ruled the country in such a brilliant manner and tactics that there was welfare,prosperity,content and happiness in the country at its top.All were equal before the law,weight and measures were accurate,there were no thieves,nobody dared to speak  lies.Maharajah  loved his subjects and in turn they loved him.But because of the request of the jealous Devas,  Lord Mahavishnu took incarnation as a dwarf monk in the name as 'Vamana'and approachd  in disguise to the Maharajah and asked for three foot of land.King's 'Guru' and advisor 'Shukracharya'  warned the King about the cheat but  King was ready to accept his fate from the 'God' and so he allowed the monk to measure his land.The monk grew up to the heavens and measured all the worlds with two steps.For putting the third step Mahabali bowed to him and showed his head.He was sent to 'Pathalam', the lowest of the three worlds.He was but given a boon that he could visit Kerala every year during 'Onam' along with Lord Vishnu.People puts  'Pookkalam' in front of their house in the lawn   to greet Mahavisnu and Mahabali.The people want to show the Emperor that they live in prosperity and happiness still now so that he would also feel happy.
Another legend is that 'Thiruvonam' is the Birthday of Lord Vishnu.
Some people say that it is just a harvest festival.
In all Mahavishnu temples special pooja and other rituals are performed during Onam days as a tradition including 'Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple' of  Thiruvananthapuram.
Onam is celebrated in Kerala from pre historic times itself.In a poem written in the second century A.D. there is description about Onam festival.
Onam has become a festival irrespective of any religion at present .It is a nostalgia and everybody wants to celebrate it whole heartedly  and enjoy themselves.
The myths of 'Onam' and the story of Emperor Mahabali reminds us that we should be  perfect and good in our deeds to others.Our sincere efforts and help for the welfare of others will be paid off.We may have to face jealousy opponents.They may expel us from our position but we will win ultimately.
We will be  remembered for our good deeds and even our opponents will praise us in the long run.