Keralites begin festivities with Onam

The spirit of goodwill and harmony, embellished by exquisite food and variety entertainment was the highlight of the Onam celebrations organised by Auckland Malayali Samajam at Mahatma Gandhi Centre in Central Auckland on September 14.

One of the most interesting and laudable aspects of the Samajam is the dedication with which its members and their families combine their capabilities to ensure the success of the programmes held regularly.

Samajam Vice-President Sasi Nambissan said that scores of men and women were involved in organising the Onam festivities, including cooking 14 dishes at the venue. The event this year was a tribute to the hard work invested by the officials on the Executive Committee, Samajam members and their families and the sponsors of the Onam programme.

“As a part of its efforts to recognise and honour talent, the Samajam invited teenager Jessie Hillel of Wellington to perform at the Onam Festival. Her melodious voice stole the hearts of the audience,” he said.

As reported in our May 1, 2013 issue, Jessie Hillel was declared the Runner-Up at the finale of the second series of New Zealand’s got talent in December last year. Her debut album titled, ‘With Love.’

Programme highlights

Among the highlights of the programme were speeches by President Soman Mathew, Secretary Soumini Varma, distribution of prizes to winners of competitions at the recently held Youth festival and release of ‘Darpanam 2013,’ a well-produced annual magazine of the Samajam managed by Roy Francis.

Committee members Sudhir Nair and Shali Clement managed the five-hour cultural programme with Master of ceremonies Mini Mehanta.

The 40-minute drama depicting the story of ‘Marthandavarma’ led by Vishnu Maglakumari of Kiwi Indian Club, traditional items such as ‘Thiruvathira Kali,’ ‘Oppana’ and folk items by members of the Auckland Indian Malayali Club received wide applause.

According to a visitor, it was unfortunate that there were no Bharata Natyam or Mohiniattam performances at the Onam Festival this year.

“The organisers should have included these numbers, especially since there are talented dancers in the community,” she said.

Grand feast

“Ona Sadhya,’ the traditional Onam vegetarian meal was the effort of a team of 40 men and women, led by Siva Prasad and his wife Seji. Comprising 14 items, the elaborate preparation was sufficient for 1000 persons.

Among the others who undertook various responsibilities were Ratish Kurian, Jessie Jose, Julie Vinu, Titus Stephen and James Mannalil.

The Samajam has the potential to return to its glorious era covering the three year period from 2007 to 2009 during which a number of innovative, educative and entertaining programmes (such as ‘Matha Pitha Vandhanam,’ Youth Festival, ‘Kids Zone,’ and multi-ethnic sports tournaments) were held.

Meaning & Purpose

A number of readers, especially new migrants from other countries and from the North Indian states asked us to explain the meaning and purpose of Onam and how the Festival enlists the participation of all Keralites irrespective of their religious compulsion and social status.

We have pleasure in reproducing the following article by Husaini Ambawala, the then Ethnic Affairs Advisor to the then Labour List Member of Parliament Dr Ashraf Choudhary in our August 15, 2005 issue.

Onam is a Festival that finds the people of Kerala in a state of joy since it is expected to herald a new era of prosperity.

Onam for Malayalees is Diwali for North Indians, Ganesh Chaturthi for Maharashtrians and Baisakhi for Punjabis.

Just but egotistic

It is a Festival that commemorates the Golden rule of Demon King Mahabali.

Everyone, rich or poor was happy, there was no discrimination and everybody looked forward to King Mahabali as their saviour, most just king, protector and benefactor. However, ego was his biggest weakness.

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 feared challenge and asked lord Vishnu to set right the King’s ego.

Lord Vishnu, took the Avatar of Vamana, a dwarfed poor Brahmin and visited Mahabali. Mahabali, who was performing Yajna and asked him to grant land and equivalent to three feet. Laughing at the ‘little Brahmin,’ Mahabali granted the wish.

Vamana suddenly grew gigantic and covered the earth and the sky in two feet. When he asked Mahabali how he could measure the third foot, Mahabali offered his own head. As Lord Vishnu complied, the King went under the earth.

Realising that the Lord had vanquished him, Mahabali asked Him to grant him the boon of visiting his beloved land and people once a year. The return of the Demon King is celebrated as Onam.

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Photo :

1. Lord Vishnu as Dwarf Vamana

2. Jessie Hillel

3. A scene from ‘Marthandavarma’

4. The Drama troupe

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