Sunday, September 5, 2010

Onam - A Journey through the Celebrations !!

Festivals, are something which adds color to our lives. There are many kinds of festivals associated with each religion, caste, creed, culture, geographical boundaries etc, but all of them share the basic underlying principle - to remind us of our culture, and to celebrate the joy of giving, sharing and above all be happy.

This little state of Kerala, is no different and it seems like people are waiting for festivals to come for they flock from different parts to celebrate the occasion.

Onam, the festival which all Keralites celebrate irrespective of caste, religion or regional bias, just passed by and I could see the happiness and the buzz around, be it in my kids school, my office, the city around or in my home.

Let me just take you for a journey through the festival moments around me.

Earlier, Onam was associated with Onam examination at school. More than Onam, the vacation after the pulverising exams were celebrated with vigour. Thanks to the children-friendly ruling of the government, Onam exams are done away with in schools, a decision which reminds us that political leaders can think in terms of welfare of the people too. It is surely a relief for all the kids around. Parents also will be feeling relieved too, as in this part of the world children's education gets into the head of most of the parents.

The advent of Onam began to tickle when my younger daughter, who in Pre-KG, demanded to get some white flowers for her Onam celebration at school. Yes Onam has arrived, the festival of colors, the time when flowers has the maximum demand. She was demanding flowers for making a "pookkalam" meaning a floral decoration using flowers. There is a history associated with it too. Gone are the days when we used to get all kinds of flowers from our garden and from our neighbourhood. We have to now buy flowers from the market and that too at exhorbitant prices. Got her some white flowers and dressed her up in a traditional attire for the Onam celebrations which was going to happen a little prematurely, coz her school will be closed for Onam holidays afterwards.

The school authorities are doing a world of good for these tiny tots by celebrating these festivals, coz they get a feeling of the culture and tradition. The way the little kids had dressed up made me stand and gaze at them once I went to drop my daughter at schoool.

The teachers at her school, assisted by these little ones made a beautiful pookkalam (the flower arrangement)

There was one kid who was dressed up like Mahabali, the King whose name is associated with Onam.

It is a widespread belief that King Mahabali, will visit his country to see the prosperity of his kingdom during Onam time.

There was singing and dancing and the kids were really enjoying and it is really a pleasant sight to see all these innocent kids together, sure to make any one's day.

The way in which the teachers were involving in the celebrations was really commendable, which made me think that this school is still maintaining the standards which I wrote about sometime back, while my elder one was studying there(Click here to read about this KG school)

Once in office, the email announcing the schedule of Onam celebrations came as a welcome relief from the tightly loaded work schedule and tea/lunch time meetings were soon made into a sort of strategic planning for making the events a grand success.

The first among the series of events was the tug of war competition and it is quite surprising that eventhough only 11 people from a house can participate, the whole members of the house gets along with the game and really involves in it.

Once the games are over the onlookers are equally exhilarated as those who are pulling the rope.

The mood at office has started to change. Every one was must have been feeling that happiness. The tug of war competition was held in the evening. The winners were given the traditional prize of Banana Bunch. But the prize soon disappeared into the stomach's of the onloookers and it was fun sharing the prize. People who lost the game also were seen shouting slogans and running around, signifying that victory alone does not matter much and even the losers were happy.

The "pookkalam" competition is scheduled for next day morning. But preparations has to be done the previous night itself. Not a single person who indulged in the pookkalam preparations will ever forget that night, for it is fun to be together among the different kinds of flowers, cutting them, shaping them, sorting them , creating designs and whole lot of things which carries on till late in the night and every one enjoys the moment.

Onam has started to mark its presence.

Even after a late night work out, all of the employees turned up pretty early, almost 2 hours before the normal office hours for creating the pookkalam. The hall where the floral decoration were being made was a symbol of celebration. The smell of the flowers was really special, the dress code of the day was traditional and the people whom we see in formal dresses were looking different in their traditional attire. Team work was on forefront and the event was surely giving a lesson or two on group activity.

Within two hours the time for setting the pookkalam was over. Everyone was happy and the designs looked very beautiful and creative more than enough to give a sense of self satisfaction. Once the work of setting up the pookkalam was over traditional lamp was lit and beautifully placed on its sides.

Watch the creations and get a feel of the beautiful designs.

This "pookkalam" was very vibrant, eventhough there are some design imperfections which are visible on a closer look.

This one was a symbol of perfection

Pookkalams can also be designed to convey a message or two as can be seen here.

The symbol of peace has been delightfully merged with a wheel which is one of the basic inventions which led to the prosperity of man kind symbolizing that our country is progressing forward.

But the best of the lot was this.

See how beautifull the color combination is !! This was an excellent work and looked more beautiful in flesh that in pic, possible because of the third dimension. Quite rightly this bagged the first prize for the event which was awarded amidst the "Nadan pattu" (traditional folk songs) by professionals. Of late the tune of such folk songs are getting more and more into the head of Keralites and is seen as an integral part of all the functions around. Music as always sets up the flare and the complete festive mood sets in. One of the colleagues had dressed up as a Mahabali too.

The traditional "Onam Sadya" (Onam feast) arranged at office was something special as it is really great to have about 900 collegeaus having food together.

It was truly a memorable day at office, the last working day before Onam holidays. Step out of office at the evening to see that the main street is well lit up. People are already taking a stroll through the main city road, the most beautiful thing being the trees on both sides of the road are completely illuminated. Even though this illumination has been there for the past many years, each year Onam is not complete without a walk through this road.

Traffic in this stretch will be blocked for one week of Onam celebrations and people are permitted to move through the main road. Those who are born and brought up in this capital city of Kerala will have many fond memories of this Onam week celebration.

As a kid we used to enjoy the walk with our parents, with the road side balloon vendor providing more color and the balloons and small toys which we get from them is something truly priceless. How many times we may have asked for more and more toys with our parents and it was fun walking all the way back carrying the proud possesions back home and most probably these balloons won't reach home, coz they will break before we reach home.

As we grew up, our perspectives changed and the young blood demanded company of other like minded people called friends for a walk through these beautiful stretch. We enjoyed the colors around cracking jokes and the occasional ice creams, bombay sweets and other delicacies from the road side vendors adding flavour to the occassion. The exhibitions inside the Kanakakkunnu Palace grounds (watch the beautiful palace here), which used to be no more than some traditional art forms was truly worth a visit. How many times we may have met our old friends here.

Time flew past and the walk through these lit up streets, began to look even more colorful with the air and fragrance around tickling the romantic mood when we strolled through these streets with hands gently touching and having no idea of the crowd around, in a world of our own. Yes the romantic moments had started. Life was fast changing and new roles were being played. The celebrations suddenly become more and more beautiful and it didn't take much longer to start donning the next role of life.

Roles reversed and now I am taking my kids for a walk around. The crowd for sure has increased leaps and bounds. When the children demands a balloon, I just think of my childhood, when the young guys walk around in freaking manner, I just think of my college days, and there are couples strolling around in a world of their own, these celebrations are an integral part whatever stage of life we are in.

Consumerism has taken over and the Kanakakkunnu palace grounds are turned into a carnival like place with all kinds of junk rides with no kind of safety measures being temporarily built up for making fast moolah out of the crowd, but it definitely creates a carnival like ambience, quite unlike the olden days.

Traditional art forms being played in the earlier times are now taking a back stage as they did not mean business. But amidst all this, the sight of this giant wheel is a treat to watch, eventhough I really suspect the safety precautions ensured in this makeshift arrangement

Moving out towards the centre of the city all the buildings were beautifully lit up and there is a contest run by the tourism department on most beautifully lit up building.

The municipality building was shining in full glory.

If Onam brought this much color to the city, then it had something more to do at home too. Holidays have started and the celebrations shifted to home. One of the major advantages of festivals was being felt. Almost all close relatives were at home and as expected more the people more the fun.

All at home joined hands to make a pookkalam.

The design is ready in front of the house.

Time to arrange the flowers and lady folks were responsible for this activity and it was a good job.

The final output was pretty good to see.

The kids were happy to see this beautiful pookkalam in front of their house and since they too helped in creating it, we could see the sense of ownership among them too.

Soon most in the family got dressed in traditional attire and it was time for a photo shoot in front of the pookkalam. Not every day all of us have a chance to meet and be with each other, since job locations are different.

It was time for grand onam feast at home. The traditional arrangements was ready.

The moments of dining together, cracking jokes, sharing all the happenings since we last met, gossiping was real fun and the happenings are something which we will not forget in the near future.

One more photo session ensued and all kinds of creativity was being tried out by the budding photographers and the fun continued.

All good things have to end, but good times seems to last shorter than what it actually is. The celebrations was soon over, but not without leaving lots and lots of good memories.

More than the myths, more than the rituals, more than the custom, it is the joy of togetherness, the buzz around and the happiness it provides, which makes the festivals so so special. Long live the festivals!!

The way in which festivals are celebrated may undergo change according to the changing times, but continue celebrating and it sure will serve its purpose.

NB: There was a dip my blogging time during last month, including visiting the blogs I follow too. It was not a deliberate break, but the real tight schedule at office and being host to some wonderful relatives meant, I had to take my blogging time off. In between made some interesting trips too. So some travel blogs are soon coming up and wanna catch up with new posts of my blogger pals too.


Nalini Hebbar said...

Wonderful post...the real taste of Kerala for all those Malayalees away from home for years...thanks...:)

AswathiBabu said...

Liked all the photos and the post as a whole.

AswathiBabu said...

I had tagged your post in my onam post Pls have a look said...

Hello Nalini Hebbar
Glad that you liked it. I felt very nostalgic after the get together during onam. Hence this post. said...

Hello Aswathi
thanks for those nice words and tagging my post. Between I could not find the tagged post. Can you plz give me the link here.

Roshmi Sinha said...

Wonderful post... describing a joyous festival... along with some awesome captures.

Happy Onam!

anupama said...

Dear Subu,
Good Morning!
I must thank you for your comment at my space orelse I would have missed this wonderfyl post of yours.Onam is my favourite festival and for this Onam I was in Thrissur with Amma and Nanda.You must watch pulikkali next time.That is the special ritual of Thrissur Onam.
When teh state level ONAM celebrations concluded in TVPM I was there attending family functions.
You have given the readers a wonderful visual treat.Subu,you desreve many more readers and your hard work should reach the public.Do something.:)
I liked the pookalam of KG SCHOOL;so nice.
I can relate so well to your feelings as I love each and every festival.Here we had Onam pookalam competition on Atham Day!Amazing pookalams were made.
Your office pookalm and teh one at home are equally interesting ;so nice to see the ladies in traditional dress.
This is an excellent post.
Wishing you a beautiful day ahead,

Saumya said...

wonderful read...awesome pics as always!!!

Latha Nair said...

Great post..
First time here-loved what I've seen and read:)
Quite an exhaustive account of Onam celebrations-almost had a ringside view!
Especially loved the pookkalams-wonderful!

Latha Nair said...

Great post..
First time here-loved what I've seen and read:)
Quite an exhaustive account of Onam celebrations-almost had a ringside view!
Especially loved the pookkalams-wonderful! said...

Hello Roshmi
Yes it was truly joyous!! said...

Hello Saumya
Thanks for the appreciation !! said...

Hello Latha.Nair
Welcome to "Passion for Road Trips". Thanks for dropping by and being a follower.
Enjoy your stay here and browse through the wonderful locations of God's own country!!!
best regards


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