The 10 days of Onam commenced on Atham day (last Wednesday) and will go up to the Thiruvonam day in the Malayalam calendar month of Chingam. -OK Mohammed Ali/TIMES OF OMAN
Muscat: With just a day left for Thiruvonam, the most important day for Onam, the 10-day-long harvest festival of Keralites, people from the south Indian state of Kerala were seen thronging hypermarkets in Muscat for some last minute shopping.“There are long queues at the counters. People are rushing to finish their last minute shopping. Without an Onasadhaya, the sumptuous feast which includes 30 to 35 dishes, and Onakodi, the new dress, how can a Keralite celebrate Onam?” asked an official from one of the hypermarkets. Onam is the state festival, which unites all Keralites irrespective of caste, colour or creed. The festival marks the homecoming of mythical king Mahabali, who emerged from the netherworld to visit his people in Kerala. Onam is all about being happy and engaging in fun-filled activities.The 10 days of Onam commenced on Atham day (last Wednesday) and will go up to the Thiruvonam day in the Malayalam calendar month of Chingam.
“Many have sent money to India to make use of the better exchange rates following the fall of the Indian currency this week. However, we cannot miss celebrating Onam,” Aswathy Shibu, a Keralite homemaker, told the Times of Oman.
“At least, an Onasadhya is must. There is even a saying that Keralites go to the extent of selling all their possessions for one Onasadhya,” added Aswathy.A traditional Onasadhya meal comprises different varieties of curries, upperies – things fried in oil; pappadams which are round crisp flour paste cakes; uppilittathu – pickles of different varieties, chammanthi – the chutney; payasams and prathamans or puddings of various descriptions. Fruits and digestives are also part of the meal.
Onasadhya has to be served on a tender banana leaf, laid with the end to the left. The meal is traditionally served on a mat laid on the floor.
A strict order of serving the dishes one after the other is obeyed. Besides, there are clear directions as to what will be served on which part of the banana leaf. Blue-collar workers from Kerala were also seen doing their last minute shopping of vegetables at the hypermarkets.“Onam brings out a feeling of nostalgia. Even though we are staying alone here, we try to make it as colourful as we can. We invite everyone in our camp to share the feast and happiness. When we are so far from our families, it is only friends who we have to share our celebrations with. Workers from different nationalities also join us. In this region, Onam is not an exclusive festival for Keralites, it is for people from all nationalities,” said Reghu Ramachandran and his friends from a labour camp in Ghala.Simultaneously, as Indian schools, social clubs and offices were organising Onam celebrations, there was a huge demand for fresh flowers to design Athapookalam, the decorative floral carpets.“It was quite difficult to get fresh flowers. The main part of celebrations is to create a floral carpet. But we struggled a lot to get fresh flowers for our children. They had a floral carpet competition in the school,” said Rajesh Ravi, a Keralite.
A flower carpet is a distant cousin of the Rangoli in North India and Kolam in Tamil Nadu. Traditionally, the making of the floral carpet begins on Atham day, 10 days before Thiruvonam. Originally, the floral carpet consists of 10 small round steps. The 10 steps or rings are believed to represent ten different deities in Hinduism. Meanwhile, almost all the hotels and restaurants have come up with special Onasadhya at affordable prices.“Last year it was around OMR2.500. This year it will be around OMR3. Already, there are a number of bookings,” said an hotelier in Ruwi. However, the price varies from hotel to hotel. In big hotels, the Onasadhya will cost around OMR8.