Onam is the state festival of Kerala that is celebrated by all Malayalees. Being a harvest festival it is celebrated across the state by the Hindus, Christians and Muslims alike. It is associated with a number of traditional customs like the Onam Sadhya, Pookalam, Vallam Kali (Boat race), Puli Kali etc. Being an expat, I look forward to celebrating most Indian traditions and festivals as not only do I get to dress up according to the occasion, it also keeps me connected to my roots. One can never get tired of the bright and lovely colors associated with the various Indian attires.
Onam is celebrated across a few days, but the most important day is Thiruonam which fell on the 28th of August this year. People are either invited to their friends or relatives houses for the customary Onam Sadhya or they host one in their house. I hosted Onam lunch this year at home, especially being Liam’s first.
In order to set the tone for the festivities I made this Pookalam (floral arrangement) with various colored flower petals and leaves. Most women take pride in doing the Pookalam to show off their artistic touch. I was happy to just get the flowers (Indian flowers are very hard to get in the last 2 days around festival times in Oman) and to be able to create a design which looked pretty and smelt heavenly.
Onam is all also about dressing up in the traditional Kerala attire. Being a mom I look forward to occassions where I can dress my boys in their traditional clothes. The colors are vibrant and the photos that come out are dreamy as though from a typical Bollywood movie. Liam is wearing the same kurta his brother wore when Josh was his age along with a traditional Mundu. Joshua is also wearing a kurta and a Mundu (a piece of cloth draped around the wasit).
Rohit is wearing a raw silk shirt (which is typical for men) along with a Mundu and I'm wearing the traditional Setu Mundu which unlike a Saree is a two piece garment draped on to look like a Saree.
Onam like most other Indian festivals is also about greeting friends and family. Onam Sadhya's are hosted in several people's houses and even if they dont stay for lunch greetings are exchanged. The exciting thing about Onam is that even non Malayalees love to dress to the occassion and that in itself is such a joy to be around.
Onam is finally ALL about the Onam Sadhya, a vegetarian feast consisting of a minimum of 24 -26 dishes. It is served on a banana leaf and is meant to be eaten with your fingers. The reasoning behind that is when one eats with the fingers you get to touch, feel and relish the absolute taste of each and every dish being served. From where I come from in Kerala the kids get served first and then all the women and then the men. It is joyous event when all the women folk are seated and are being served by the men (for a change). There is a lot of serving to be done as all the various condiments, pickles, curries and other dishes have to be served on each and every banana leaf. A typical Sadhya includes rice served along with various dry vegetarian dishes like Olan, Avial, Kaalan, Mezhukkupuratti, Thoran and a few gravy dishes which is poured over the rice like Rasam, Sambhar, Erisheri. 2-3 different types of pickles, banana chips, chutney powders are served on the side. The feast is culminated with 2-3 types of payasam which are types of Kerala dessert.
We had a great Onam and I am priviledged to have had another opportunity to host it at home. On behalf of my family we wish you all a great Onam.