Onan is a traditional 10-day harvest festival celebrated by Kerala communities in India and all over the world during the month of Chingam (which marks the end to the monsoon season), in accordance to Malayalam calendar). Onam, on September 3, commemorates the return of the great mythical King Mahabali and is the biggest festival in Kerala, South India, celebrated by all religions alike including Hindus, Christians and Muslims.
In accordance to traditional mythology, the state of Kerala was once run by an Asura (demon) King Mahabali. He was considered a judicious, wise and generous king, and his reign was titled as the golden era, in which poverty, sorrow and disease did not exist.
Upon seeing Mahabali’s popularity the gods became jealous and asked the help of Lord Vishnu (preserver in the Hindu trinity); who disguised himself as a dwarf (Vamana) and visited Mahabali asking for three steps of land. Due to his kindness, Mahabali agreed and upon hearing this Vamana expanded to cosmic proportions, conquering the earth and skies with two steps and placed the third of Mahabali’s head, banishing him into the Netherlands (Patala). Moved by Mahabali’s kindness, Lord Vishnu granted Mahabali permission to return to Kerala once a year. This day was given the title Onam.
In order to welcome King Mahabali, beautiful arrays of flowers are laid in pretty patterns, accompanied by a traditional hearty feast: composed of rice and numerous vegetable dishes (samabar, avial, rasam) and dessert (payasam), all served on a traditional banana leaf. Families arrived in decadent coloured traditional clothing, known was sarees and mundu, commemorating their cultural heritage. The beautiful day was filled with an array of traditional events, including dances (thiruvathirai), games (onakalikal) and songs (onam padalgal).
Onam celebrations are not only just about enjoyment and commemoration, but also about educating the younger generation on the values of kindness and humility, the trademarks of Mahabali’s character. To conclude, the auspicious day was further blessed by the presence of Fr John Minh and the joint dedication of about 80 Kerala people of different faiths in Sawston areas.