A Day That Erases Religious Lines

City Express gets talking to Keralites in the city on the traditions and feast during the harvest festival of Onam

Published: 08th September 2014 06:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 08th September 2014 12:24 AM   |  A+A-

HYDERABAD: Indians love celebrating the nth number of festivals listed in the calendar and one among them is Onam. Though celebrated majorly by the Keralites, the festival erases the line between the religions as people from all the religions with celebrate it with equal fervour.

For the uninitiated, the festival celebrates the homecoming of King Mahabali. It is said that the King Mahabali was a great king of Kerala in whose reign, the locals enjoyed prosperity and peace. However, the gods became concerned over his growing popularity and decided to do something about it. Lord Vishnu in his Vaman avatar, tricked him into giving whatever land the king possessed and sent him to a lower world (patal lok). But he did give the King Mahabali, a boon that would allow him to visit his land once every year which is how Onam came to be celebrated.

Over the years, the festival in essence has remained same with few changes being added by Malayalee families. Hyderabad boasts of a large number of Keralite community, most of whom celebrate the festival away from their hometown.

One such Keralite is Vardha S Nair, an engineering student who says, “Our day begins with making Pookalm (flower rangoli) which is made to welcome King Mahabali. On this day, we make various kinds of special dishes which are served to the King in a banana leaf.”

Onam is also synonymous with women and men dressed in traditional garb. However, with more and more girls donning the western garb even on festival days, this tradition is slowly waning. Agreeing, Vardha says,

“While Pookalm and food are made in traditional way, much emphasis is not been given to wearing Onam dress/saree overtime.”

This is something commonly observed by others in the community. Anu Sherin Philip, a corporate employee comments, “Though we are supposed to wear the Kasav sari and men, the Mundu veshti, we don’t emphasise more on that. As people get more busy with work, the tradition of making pysum at home is also not followed anymore. We either get it from outside or make it using instant mixes.”

Though there are lot of families in the city, there are some who stay alone and choose to celebrate the day with friends. “I wore the new dress I bought for Onam and distributed the sweets among my friends. I could not get the permission to visit the temple,” says Vandana S, student at College of Food Science & Technology, Bapatla, missed the celebrations as she stays in a hostel. It is not only students and families, but hospitals too which marked the day with fun activities like rangoli making. At the Care Hospital, Hospital administrator Dr Annie Thakore who is celebrating the festival away from her home for the first time says, “the hospital is now her family”. “In Kerala, at home, we make thoran, upperi, avial,chips and share it with our friends and family. This year, I celebrated it at Care where we took part in the ‘Pookalam’ floral rangoli competition. I may be far from my family but the people at the hospital are also like my family,” adds Dr Thakore.


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