ASIA SCENE: Splendour of a south Indian annual festival

Sunday September 10 2017

Kathakali dancers performing at the Onam

Kathakali dancers performing at the Onam festival. PHOTO| COURTESY 

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An enchanting festival of the Indian state of Kerala was celebrated last week not only there but also among the diaspora around the world. Onam, a major annual festivity associated with harvesting rice, is also observed as a religious event and the advent of New Year for the Malayali people. The festivity transcends any faith, communal or racial barriers to bring happiness and blessings to all people.

The very word Onam spells out a variety of sporting, cultural, decorative, religious and ritualistic activities. Floats featuring episodes of the epic Ramayana and Mahabharta, boat races, sports competitions, dance events, martial art expositions, and floral decorations are all the order of celebration.

It is a time to spend with family and friends over feasts and wearing colourful traditional attire. It certainly is time for prayers, making offerings to the Gods and seeking blessings for peace, prosperity and happiness.

For Hindu faithful there is a mythological legend attached to Onam. It is believed that in days gone by people of the region lived happily and prospered in the kingdom of their kind and just sovereign, Mahabali. The much adored ruler was granted a boon by the Creator that his spirit would visit his kingdom from heavens once a year for eternity. Thus Onam also marks the ruler’s heavenly visit and his subjects to this day welcome, entertain and offer thanksgiving.

I have nostalgic memories of an Onam at the Kenya National Theatre by the South Indian Cultural and Welfare Society. As we wish a happy and zestful Onam to the revellers, there is an opportunity for a relaxing and enjoyable fun day today at Sir Ali Muslim Club Nairobi. You are invited by the Sunni Punjabi Organisation to visit their SPO Trade Fair. Entrance is free.

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