Festival of unity and solidarity make Keralites unique

Onam festivities from August 25 to September 6, 2017

Venkat Raman 

One of the most colourful festivals that bring joy and solidarity to people of all ages, incomes, religions and social dispositions arrived early in New Zealand, with Parliament marking the celebrations on Thursday, August 3, 2017.

Auckland Malayali Samajam President Benny Jacob, Convenor of the Festival, said that the Malayalees from all over the country were present on the occasion.

Commemorative Stamp

“Representatives from Whangarei to Christchurch were present in the Banquet Hall of Parliament to witness amazing performances of traditional dances like ‘Mohiniyattam’ and ‘Thiruvathirakali,’ Kerala drum performances such as ‘Chendamelam’ and ‘Shinkarimelam,’ ‘Maveli,’ and ‘Athappookkalam.’ A commemorative stamp was released to mark the occasion,” he told Indian Newslink.

Ethnic Communities Minister Judith Collins released the Stamp in the presence of National MP Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi, Indian High Commission Head of Chancery Sandeep Sood and other guests, Mr Jacob said.

“Onam celebrations in Parliament made all Malayalees feel that their culture and traditions are recognised by the New Zealand Government and that they must stay united to pursue their efforts to get the community recognised in various fields,” he said.

Auckland Celebrations

Mr Jacob said that the Auckland Malayali Samajam will conduct this year’s Onam Festival at Mahatma Gandhi Centre, 145, Eden Terrace, Auckland on Saturday, September 2, 2017.

“About 3000 men, women and children are expected to attend the celebrations, called, ‘Ponnonam 2017’ (‘Golden Onam 2017). The highlights of this year’s celebrations would be ‘Shinkari Melam,’ ‘Ganamela,’ and ‘Onasadya,’ the traditional food feast of about 25 dishes served on banana leaf,” he said.

Guest passes for the event will be available free for current members of the Samajam and to guests on payment, he added.

State of Joy

Husaini Ambawala wrote the following article in Indian Newslink, August 15, 2005 issue. Ten years on, it has relevance and added value of nostalgia. At that time, Mr Ambawala was Ethnic Affairs Advisor to then Labour MP Dr Ashraf Choudhary.

Onam is connected with the Golden rule and period of the Asura (Demon) King Mahabali.

According to historic records, people in his Kingdom enjoyed equality, peaceful co-existence and security. Crime was virtually absent and houses were seldom locked.

However, the King had one weakness – he had a big ego.

The legend has it, that Aditi (mother of Gods in Heaven) was worried about the King’s growing influence over the people, and the Gods, fearing the challenge, asked Lord Vishnu to intervene and put the King in his place.

Vaman Avatar

Lord Vishnu took the Avatar of a dwarfed Poor Brahmin (Vaman) and went to King Mahabali, who was performing a Yajna. Vaman asked the King for three steps of land measured in his tiny feet.  Mahabali laughed and granted him the wish.

Vaman started growing in size.  His one foot covered the entire earth, other foot the skies and he asked the King where to put the third foot.

Realising that he cannot go back on his promise, Mahabali offered his head and was pushed to the world beneath the earth. It was then that he learnt that the Dwarf was Lord Vishnu. He asked the Protector of the Universe to grant him the boon of returning to earth once a year to see his people. His visit is marked as Onam.

Traditional Items

Onam festivities usually include ‘Thiruvathira Kali Thumbi,’ a traditional dance, songs, drama and most important of all, the ‘Return of Mahabali.’ A member of the community is chosen to represent the great King. This is a very special time for people in Kerala. After three months of Monsoon, Nature is in her bounty, rivers and brooks are full of water, and flowers are aplenty, all of which set the perfect scene for celebrations.

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