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March 07, 2011

കാര്‍ണിവല്‍ ബിയോണ്ട് കമ്പാരിസണ്‍ !


Enter ‘Chingam,’ and the entire land is enveloped in an enchanting
aura of Onam, the festival of festivals.
The sky is all azure and the air soft
and soothing, after the rattle-prattle of
‘Karkitakam.’ The harvest being over,
farmers have hung their sickle and are
heaving a sigh of relief. Onam is round
the corner – it is their time to rejoice.
To one and all in Kerala, and Malayalis
the world over, Onam is the springtime
of fulfilment.
One of the major features that
make Onam unique is that it signifies
the communion between man and
nature. Attiring herself in her finest,
nature appears all alluring and strikes
the celebrative chord in man. Neither
too hot nor cold, the climate assumes
a perfect balance between the two
and provides a congenial background
for the festive season to set in. After
the monsoon showers, the lakes and
lagoons, rivers and streams, are full but
friendly, furnishing an apt arena,
beautiful and beckoning, for boat
races and other water sports. And
Keralites on their part avail
themselves of the ‘hard-earned’
holidays for relaxation, recreation and
rejuvenation of every sort. needless
to say, they have been sweating it out almost round the year and now is the time to cool their heads and heels, soul
and sinew, from the heat and dust of the toilsome months that passed by. And they do so in a spirit of spontaneous

gaiety. Onam scenario is incomplete without the vignettes of urchins who flit about in the wee hours of dawn looking for

flowers to decorate ‘Athappookkalams’ – earthen mounds decked with floral carpets on the frontyard of every household.
The custom-bound practice of making earthen icons and floral designs enable the children to imbibe a sense of the

aesthetic, an unconscious urge to enjoy the beauty of the blossom, besides nurturing a bond with mother earth right from

a tender age. May be, ‘pookkalams’ have become glossy sponsored items, particularly in metropolitan cities and
modern townships, and flowers purchased rather than gathered. But then, flowers are flowers either way, and what

better way is there to greet Mahabali than with flowers! The myth of Mahabali too has an element of uniqueness about it.

As the legend goes, the benign king was banished at the pinnacle of glory to the nether world for being the epitome
of the noblest traits in man and god. His was an ideal state, a virtual paradise on earth. And Onam symbolises a solemn

thanksgiving by a grateful people who pay homage to their mythical ruler year after year with joy and jubilation.
Onam is synonymous with food, sumptuous food, to be exact. Known as ‘Onasadya,’ Onam feast is a multicourse
affair served on plantain leaves and savoured in the company of dear ones. It is a gourmet’s delight, to say
the least. Not by feast alone do Malayalis celebrate Onam. The occasion provides an opportunity for them to display
their prowess in the diverse fields of art and craft. Be it on the sprawling grounds in the open or ring-like interior
platforms, they present quite an astounding variety of per forming arts across Kerala. Ranging from Thumbithullal,

hiruvathirakkali and Ammaanaattam to Onathallu, Karadikali and Kathakali, they involve a host of artistes who vie among

one another to enthral the audience and transform the whole heartland into a veritable playhouse. Malayalis go on a

shopping spree during Onam. With the advent of Atham, which marks the beginning of the prime ten-day celebrations,

the festive spirit catches on and virtually every town and village turns vibrant with hectic activity round the clock.
Traders from neighbouring states, and even from the north make a beeline to Kerala long before Onam. They pitch their

stalls in all major cities, mostly by the wayside, and fill them with fabulous clothes. And most of them have a field-day, for

Malayalis spend extravagantly on Onam purchases. ‘Kaanam Vittum Onam Unnanam,’ says an age-old adage.
Onam also involves a lot of buying of new clothes and presenting them to dear ones. In olden days such giftclothes
were called Onakkodi, preferably yellow ones, considered harbingers of good luck. The elders often go ecstatic over
the golden times when Onam was celebrated on tradition-ordained lines. In the past the festivities started at the fag end

of Karditakam, the last month of Malayalam year, and lasted more than a month. Times have changed and a large
part of Onam has of late been commercialised with several sponsorships going into its programming. Such sponsorships,
governmental or through corporate or media channels, have only enlarged its scope, range and overall appeal.
Onam is out and out an exuberant outflow of excitement, a boisterous celebration of life by an entire people. For

Malayalis living in other parts of the world, Onam is an integral part of their lives. Wherever they are bound to, they carry

along with them an unfading souvenir of Onam, a nostalgic piece so to speak. It is more or less an ethnic trait of
a collective consciousness, a sort of plural pride and passion for one’s heritage. And that is exactly why Onam has

emerged as a carnival beyond compare. Onam conjures up quite a number of images and impressions on the mindscape

as though caught through a kaleidoscope – the rapturous reunion of relatives, the fond memory of a gift, the thrill atop a

soaring swing, the breathtaking spectacle of a racing snake-boat, the pulsating crescendo of a ‘Panchavaadyam’

orchestra, the lingering relish of a long-cherished feast, or the all-embracing spirit of camaraderie that cuts across
constraints and barriers. True, Onam manifests itself into a manysplendoured audio-video montage of a magnificent

festival.

ഫീച്ചര്‍ കടപ്പാട് : കേരള കാല്ലിംഗ്, The writer is PRO, Kerala Raj Bhavan,
Thiruvananthapuram

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