Tuesday, August 28, 2007

For Onam

It was Onam yesterday. A big day for us Mallus. And one thing I like about this festival so much is that it has no shades of religion attached to it. There's nothing specifically Hindu, Muslim or Christian about it. It is actually the festival of plenty. And anyone wanting some plenty in their life can feel free to participate in the spirit of Onam. A spirit of giving and gaiety and colours and bonding.

Any mention of Onam would be incomplete without mentioning Mahabali, the noble king who comes back to visit his beloved subjects for a day, on the day of Thiruvonam. The myth of Mahabali is truly a 'shory' worth telling.

Kerala was a beautiful stretch of land ruled over by Mahabali, the Asura king. But Asura though he was, Mahabali was the embodiment of goodness. A wise, judicious, benevolent, and extremely charitable ruler, he was respected and loved by his subjects. His age was truly the golden age of Kerala. Rich or poor, all were equal in Mahabali's time. No discrimination was practised whatsoever, according to caste or creed. There was no crime, no corruption, nor any sorrow, poverty or disease in Mahabali's land. Truly idyllic times, with the entire populace happy and content.

Such was his charisma, that the Devas began to fear for their supremacy. And Aditi, the mother of the Devas, sought Lord Vishnu's help to curtail Mahabali's popularity and fame, and maintain her sons' superiority. Accordingly, Lord Vishnu assumed the form of a Vamana (a brahmin boy) and went to Mahabali, at the site of a yagna he was conducting. Since Mahabali was known for his generosity, Vamana requested alms- a piece of land- of him. Mahabali agreed. Sukracharya, the guru of the Asuras, smelt a rat, and advised Mahabali against it. He told Mahabali that the Vamana was none other than Lord Vishnu in disguise, and advised him to decline his request, also warning him that the boon would bring about his downfall.

But Mahabali was not known for his generosity for nothing. He told Sukracharya that he could not take back his given word, and directed the Vamana to state his request. The Vamana asked him for enough land to cover three paces of his foot. An ever charitable Mahabali, eyeing the diminutive stature of the lad, asked the Vamana to ask for more. But Vamana persisted in his request for just 3 paces of land. On Mahabali's consent, the Vamana grew and grew... with one step, the Vamana covered all of Earth, and with the next, he covered the Heavens. He looked at Mahabali and queried for a place to keep his third step.... At which Mahabali, realising that his vanity was his downfall, bent and offered his head to the Vamana, to place his third step.

Vamana sent Mahabali to the Netherlands, but before going, the ever loving King asked the Lord for permission to come and check that all was well with his beloved subjects, once in a year. The Lord agreed, and Onam is the day when Mahabali visits his beloved people. And the people, unite in their desire to show their much loved, erstwhile king that all is indeed well with them.

Thus it is that the people, irrespective of caste and creed, put on new clothes, eat good food and have enjoyable times for Onam. To keep their king happy, who sees only good things and good times, all through his beloved land, as in the days of his rule.

******* ********

And so Sonny boy celebrated his first remembered Onam. With a feast prepared by Ammamma ( Since Amma and Accha had no holiday on Monday, a compromise was reached, with the Onasadhya being eaten on Sunday) and eaten on green banana leaves procured by Acha.
Truly delicious. Mmmmmm... Kaalan, pachadi, payar varavu, rice, sambar, kootu, pappadam, nellikka achar, and payasam. Noodle payasam, as Sonny boy would say.

But the other aspects of Onam were not compromised with. Early in the morning on Monday, flowers were elaborately arranged in a pookkalam. Where Sonny 'helped' Amma SO MUCH, making her tell him so many times not to drop those red dahlia petals over the yellow marigold, PUHLEEEEASE! With the growing diameter of the pookkalam, Amma's exasperation grew, till Sonny boy was made to stay indoors, out of harm's way, so that Amma could finish and get on with getting ready for office.

Baths over, Acha, Amma, Ammamma and Sonny boy, attired in new clothes, (did a long jump over the pookkalam in the corridor), went to the temple, and prayed for good times, health and prosperity. And then, dropping Ammamma and Sonny boy at home, Acha and Amma went to office.

End of 'shory'.

No discrimination, no crime, corruption, sorrow, poverty or disease..... Wonder if Mahabali could come back and rule over us once again...? ????

Here's wishing that Mahabali days come back for all of us, soon, in this big bad world of today. May days of happiness and contentment abound in our lives !


Gauri said...

Hope you all had a wonderful Onam too.

Would love to see pictures of the Pookalam. Sonny boy sure enjoyed helping mom with that right ? :-)

Usha said...

Kaalan, pachadi, payar varavu, rice, sambar, kootu, pappadam, nellikka achar, and payasam. Noodle payasam
drool drool drool

Enikku adu atharayum venum....( did i get anywhere near the correct sentence?)

aargee said...

That was nice to hear the story. Though I knew it, it was very nice to read it again :) And yeah...those mouth-watering recipes..great! I really miss that vazha ilai and stuffs.

noon said...

Really enjoyed the story. Thanks for posting that.
Also please please post a picture of the pookolam - I love pookolam each time I see it...I did one at a friend's place last year for their navaratri - borrowing the idea from your Onam festival.
Yes wish Mahabali days would come again!

Random Vignettes said...

Oh happy onam! niice story btw :)

upsilamba said...

JLT, it was such a pleasant surprise and a nice gesture on your part to drop by and wish me a happy Onam.

It was heartfelt. Thank you.

Here's wishing you and your family many such years of Onam glory, prosperity and togetherness.

Much love to you.

Moppet's Mom said...

Hey, happy Onam! I am ashamed to say I only realised it was Onam here when folks sent me texts and emails wishing me...!

Swati said...

Happy Onam to Amma , Acha and Sonny Boy.

WhatsInAName said...

hey happy onam, girl :)
Would love to see the snap of that pookolam!

Poppins said...

Happy Onam ! All I care about is the Sadhya :) Yum

Squiggles Mom said...

Happy Onam! I didn't know the story behind it so thank you for that. This shall be Squiggles's next story!

Just Like That said...

Gauri: Sonny boy had a field day helping and inviting the neighbouring little friends of his to help Amma as well!! :-D

Usha : Bulls eye! Tamil, Kannada, Hindi, French, English, Malayalam.... we have a linguist in our midst! :-)

Aargee: even the most mundane of stuff would be special in a vazha ela. And if we were at home in Kerala, we would go out knife in hand to cut the leaves as well...
Welcome to my blog! :-)

Noon: Since our camera was travelling, we could only click a couple from the mobile. Let me see if I can salvage something from that..

RV: :-) Thank you.

Upsi: Pleasure was all mine. Why no posts from your end?

Moppet's Mom: You're in Bangkok, and Moppet's not yet old enough to grasp the significance of festivals. So you're excused. :-D Sonny boy's first Onam,, we did nothing. not even payasam! Had the onasadhya from a friend's. MIL would have been scandalised if she knew. Which is why she doesn't know about it to this date.;-)

Swati : Thanks :-). Talk has it that a certain grin is lighting up all roads around Airport Road these days, The mouth just doesn't keep shut, you see, dreaming of a certain trip home... Keep smiling!

Win: Will do if I can manage... Thanks. :-)

Poppins: Especially if you haven't slogged much over it. :-D

Squiggles' Mom: Its a nice story isn't it? Since you didn't know the story, another tidbit for you- Mahabali also happens to be Prahlad's grandson and Raavana's grandfather. Happy story telling!

artnavy said...

happy onam and did u dress up in the traditional off white?

Just Like That said...

Art: Sadly, no. Didn't fancy wearing that to office, esp as I intended slipping off in the afternoon..;-)
Was tempted to, esp after seeing Chak De. the girls looked dreamy in cream, didn't they?

dame's diary said...

Hey JLT,

Sorry I was away and I couldn't wish you "Happy Onam" on time!Hope you had a good one.


dame's diary said...

Onam was fun indeed eh?
Post pics of the pokkolam please :)