The festival of Onam also known as the rice harvest festival is one of the biggest festivals in Kerala, celebrated with great joy and enthusiasm. Goa’s large Keralite community will celebrate this festival today, in keeping with the traditions and customs as followed by their ancestors. NT BUZZ brings you the details of the festivities of Onam
SHERAS FERNANDES | NT BUZZ
The festival of Onam or the rice harvest festival is a significant one to the Malayalees in Kerala and across the world. Popular legend says that the festival was initially celebrated to commemorate the Vamana avatar of Vishnu and the return of the mythological King Mahabali. In Kerala, Onam is celebrated over a period of 10 days, the last day being the most important of all.
Like all festivals, Onam too has traditions and customs that are associated with it. And Indian festivals are known to revolve around food. At Onam, a special full course vegetarian meal consisting of minimum 21 dishes is prepared to celebrate the day. The highlight of the vegetation meal or the ‘Onasadhya’ is that it is served on a banana leaf. Student of Don Bosco College, Panaji Divya Susan Mathew eagerly waits for Onam moreover for the Onasadhya. “Delicacies are especially prepared for this festival that is served on a banana leaf, payasam being the most integral part of the whole course. Such a wide variety of delicacies are only prepared once a year that is during Onam festival,” says Divya.
Post the meals, people indulge in recreational activities and celebrate the festival as a community participating in various games like tug of war for men, while the women take part in the ‘kaikottikali’ and ‘thumbi thullal’ performances. On this day the Malayalee community generally take to wearing their traditional outfits of the gold bordered ‘mundu’ (a kind of dhoti) and ‘neriyathu’(saree).
The festival is celebrated with great pomp and gaiety in Kerala irrespective of religion, caste and creed. The people commemorate the occasion in respect of Mahabali, whose rule was regarded as the golden era of Kerala as he had brought peace and prosperity to his kingdom. The people believe that Onam is the time when Mahabali comes to Kerala annually to see his subjects.
Different cultural performances are held during the 10-day celebration including dances, making of floral carpets and lots more. Traditional dances like the Thiruvathirakali and Kummattikali are also performed during the festival. In Kerala, many folk songs have been dedicated to this festival while ‘Phulikali’, a tiger dance is performed by the locals.
In Goa, the Malayalee community has grown over the years. With several organisations formed, the community organises programs to celebrate Onam across the state. President, Kerala Cultural Association, Vasco, Ravishankar T celebrates this festival annually to awaken the true spirit of festivity. Ravishankar says: “Onam celebration is more like a communal function involving the reunion of family and friends. Over the past five years the celebration in Goa has become similar to that in Kerala.” The festival is celebrated for 10 days while festivities are held only on Sundays in Porvorim, Panaji, Bicholim, Ponda, Sanvordem, Margao, etc.
The community gets together for a traditional meal followed by a host of cultural programmes. Comparatively, Onam in Kerala is celebrated at a large scale than any other state in India with the involvement of almost all people, regardless of creed. Vasanti Vinod of Caranzalem celebrates Onam annually at her residence and makes the best of the festival by spending time with her friends and family. “This year I will be preparing at least seven to eight dishes including rice, gravy and payasam. In some households of Kerala, women rest while the men cook on this day while in Goa I have rarely seen this happening. Women indulge in the flower arrangement of ‘pookalam’ at the entrance of their houses as a welcoming gesture to King Mahabali,” says Vasanti.
With most schools and colleges reopening today few are unable to celebrate the festival with their family as expected. Assistant professor, Nisha Nair annually visits her native place in Kerala to celebrate this festival with her family. For Keralites this festival fosters a reason to unite with their families and visit to their ancestral houses. “In Kerala, families reunite at their ancestral houses and celebrate this festival together. A traditional lunch is the highlight for Onam,” says Nisha.
Onasadhya, a vegetarian feast consist the following delicacies
l Parippu Curry (lentil curry)
l Pulissery (curd based dish)
l Aviyal (mixture of vegetables and coconut)
l Thoran (coconut based vegetable dish)
l Peechinga Thoran (Ridge Gourd dish)
l Puliyinji (simmering fried ginger)
l Inji Curry
l Mathanga Payaru Erissery (combination of vegetables and pulses)
l Kaalan (a dish made using yogurt, coconut, and vegetables)
l Olan (a dish made using white gourd, coconut milk and ginger)
l Kootu Curry (vegetable curry)
l Mixed Vegetable Theeyal or Mushroom Theeyal
l Pachadi (a dish made of cucumber, coconut and yogurt.)
l Carrot Kichadi
l Mulaka Pachadi (a dish made of tamarind, green chilli)
l Mezhkkupuratti (a stir fry dish)
l Moru Kachiyathu, Vellarikka Moru Curry (a dish made of seasoned buttermilk)
l Injithairu (a dish made of yogurt and ginger)
l Pappadam (Papad)
l Achaaru (Pickle)
l Upperi (banana chips coated with jaggery)
l Sharkara Varatti (banana chunks coated with jaggery)
l Payasam: Cherupayaru Payasam, Semiya Payasam, Sharkkara Payasam, Aval Payasam, Nurukku Godhambu Payasam (pudding)
l Pradhaman (a dessert made of steamed rice flakes)