The harvest festival of Keralites is round the corner. Onam is the most important and colourful festival for Malayalees, commemorating the visit of King Mahabali and an utopian past that was filled with abundance, peace, equality and harmony during his reign.
With over 35 odd Malayali welfare associations in the city, the festivities are on as ‘Tiruvonam’ day of the Malayalam month of Chingam (the first month of the Malayalam calender) this year falls on August 29.
Speaking about the celebrations in the city, Pradeep Nambiar of Nair Service Society, says, “We are holding a get together on August 26 at the Zoroastrian Club. Over 1000 families are expected to be present for the cultural programmes and the grand feast--’Onasadhya’ with over 25 dishes.”
Whereas Mythri, another Malayali welfare association which has been holding cultural programmes for Keralites in the city for the last 16 years, has decided to hold the celebrations on September 9.
“As part of cultural programmes, we will have traditional dances by students here and also have cine-artists perform on stage. The day-long programme will also see felicitation of some of the achievers in the community,” said Radharkrishnan from Mythri.
A group of Malayali students at the University of Hyderabad, ‘Kairali’ will also hold their celebration in the second week of September.
“Most of the students go home during Onam and every year we hold a cultural evening with traditional dances like Thiruvathira, Margamkali, Oppana and Kolkali etc once everyone is back on campus,” said G Sandhya, a student in the university. Malayali restaurants in the city are also geared up to serve the ‘Onasadhya’ on August 29.
“We are serving over 25 dishes and two payasams. People could also make prior reservations with us,” said Binosh of Ootupura, a city restaurant that serves Kerala cuisine. Adding similar views, Hassan of Malabar restaurant near Nampally, said, “we have special ‘onasadhya’ and we also undertake bulk orders and provide catering services”.
Over the centuries, Onam has assumed a secular dimension and state-sponsored cultural programmes and public festivities have become an integral part of the festival.
Wearing new clothes and enjoying a sumptuous feast called ‘sadya’ comprising rice, curries and scores of sweet and hot delicacies served on a plantain leaf is a main feature of the festival. Sajit Kumar, a city-based corporate employee says, “We have a group of Keralites in our office. So we will arrange a special feast and some cultural programmes at office itself.”
Meanwhile, train tickets to Kerala have become extremely difficult to get, and due to the rising demand, buses are plying extra services everyday to Kerala.