Friday the 13th of September (oops, didn’t mean to scare you there!), Sid and I planned to catch up with our friend, Ajay, who just came back from his hometown Calicut the previous week. Ajay always tells us stories of how beautiful Kerala is. I have also heard a lot about Kerala and would definitely love to go there one day. So, as we were eating away in a cafe that had a 6-week Kerala dinner special on the menu, along with few small gifts from India including a pretty little clutch purse, Ajay also brought us a handful of stories from back home. And I just found myself whining about how the clutch would go so well with an Indian outfit. Ajay was clearly missing home despite having been back for merely a week. Ah well, home is home that will always be missed no matter where you go. He was also regretting the fact that he left at the same time an annual festival was about to start, the festival of Onam. This conversation ended on a full stomach and we decided to head back home. The next morning, Sid and I got a message in our group chat with Ajay. He had sent us a photo about an Onam celebration in Melbourne and only wrote, “An excuse to wear your Indian outfit!” Of course, neither Sid nor I knew much about this festival. I was reading more about it online and it seemed very interesting. With that, we decided to join Ajay for the Onam Festival which was to be held on the 15th of September.
Activities begin early in the morning. People clean their house, take early bath, wear new clothes and participate in special prayers organised in individual homes and then in local temples. Later a very special and the biggest of all days Pookalam is prepared to welcome Maveli. Clay mounds in the shape of pyramids representing Lord Vishnu and Mahabali are prepared and placed in front of the Pookalam.
In the noon the grand feast of Onam called Onasadya is prepared. The strictly vegetarian meal consists of 11 - 13 mandatory dishes and is served on a banana leaf. The eldest member of the family presents gifts and new clothes to the family members.
Various cultural events are organised all over the state to mark the day. Dances, games, shows and get together are the other highlights of the day. Patassu (fire crackers) are also burnt to celebrate the occasion.
There are some rituals also marked for the eleventh and twelfth day called Avittom and Chatayam or Chathayam respectively. But the major celebrations get over on the tenth and the most important day of Onam.