The shining sun, paddy fields, which are ready for harvest, and the mesmerising smell of flowers in the air – these are the reminders of Chingam, during which month falls Onam. The much awaited harvest festival that commemorates the homecoming of the mythical king Mahabali is probably the only one that is celebrated by Malayalees irrespective of caste or creed.
To Malayalee minds, the word Onam conjures up the image of festivities and celebration. Making Pookalams with different varieties of vibrant flowers, beautiful girls dressed up in traditional Kerala attire (Mundu and Neriyathu), temple visits, Onakalikal, Pulikali, Chendamelam and the list goes on. As most would agree, the best part of this festival is the Onam Sadya.
According to folklore, Onam celebrates the visit of King Mahabali, under whose reign the people of Kerala were believed to be the happiest. The floral carpets and a sumptuous meal cooked in every house is believed to be out of respect for him. The customs and rituals associated with every festival have changed over time. People have added and deleted many traditions according to feasibility and convenience. The same is true with Onam as well. Gone are the days when elaborate Onam Sadya is made at home. The Sadya typically consists of Onam specialties like banana chips, different types of pickles, Payasams, mouth-watering curries and other side dishes. From ready-made Onam kits to handy takeaway Onam specials and luncheon offers in hotels, there are a lot of options for Malayalees these days.