New Delhi, September 11: “May this festival further the spirit of happiness, well-being and prosperity in our society!” Prime Minister Narendra Modi greeted nation on the holy occasion of Onam.
Onam is the 10-day harvest festival celebrated on a grand scale with joy and enthusiasm in Kerala. This year, Onam began on September 1. The story of Onam originates in the tale of King Mahabali - the grandson of Prahlada. The story is quite interesting. It is believed that the gods, threatened by King Mahabali of Kerala, approached Lord Vishnu for help. Lord Vishnu asked the king for three footsteps of land and he obliged. But when Lord Vishnu took two large steps and did not have space for a third, the king offered his own head to for the last step, pushing him to the netherworld. However, King Mahabali asked for one last wish - to visit his people every year. Hence, Onam is celebrated as King Mahabali's annual homecoming.
Onam is celebrated on 10 days which are sequentially known as Atham, Chithira, Chodhi, Vishakam, Anizham, Thriketa, Moolam, Pooradam, Uthradam and Thiruvonam. There are four important days during the period that are celebrated as first Onam or Uthradam (September 10) to fourth Onam or the last day of Onam that falls on September 14. It is the beginning of the Chingam, the first month of Malyalam calander (Kollavarsham). The most important day falls on Thiru Onam. The celebrations begin almost 10 days before Thiru Onam. Atham marks the beginning of the rituals. The days, calculated as per the Malayalam calendar, are days of festivities and celebrations during which fun activities are organised. These range from Pookkalam (flower arrangement), Vallam Kali (boat races), Onathallu (martial arts) and more. During Onam, houses are decorated and elaborate Onam Sadya meals, served on banana leaves, are prepared on this festival.
In Dubai, Indian expats from Kerala are drumming up the community spirit for the 10-day Onam festival. As there are an estimated one million Keralites in the UAE, celebrations by Malayali expats in the UAE go on for several months as they organise get-togethers over the weekends stretching up to December.
The Indian Association Sharjah will celebrate Onam at the Sharjah Expo Centre on November 15, said its president E.P. Johnson. He also said that more than 17,000 people are expected to take part in the day-long grand celebrations.