Onam, the most important festival of Kerala, has now acquired a national status. At the time when agriculture was the main occupation of the people of Kerala, Onam started being celebrated as a harvest festival. Though the tradition continues, Onam has acquired a new visage, with Kerala turning into a consumer state. Onam was never a religious festival. So it is celebrated by all Keralites, irrespective of caste and creed. And the celebrations usually end up in a shopping spree.

With every passing year, the avenues to celebrate Onam is widening. This is the time when the Government and even the private sector companies pay up bonus, with an early disbursal of salary, to their employees. And they go on a shopping rampage. Onam is the time the earning members of the family present new clothes to the other members of the family. So shopping for clothes start off well in advance. The regular shops put in extra efforts to increase sale of their commodities, by giving discounts and other offers. Trade fairs and exhibitions also come up in different parts of the state, with lucrative spreads from different parts of the country. The South Indians have always had a liking for products of North India. This is applicable mainly to clothes. And we can find many of the stalls in these fairs and exhibitions are monopolised by such commodities.

Clothes are not the only item on demand during the festive season. Even consumer durables like television, refrigerator, mobile phones, washing machines, etc. are in great demand. This is the time many manufacturers choose to introduce new products. They woo the customers offering attractive discounts and easy instalment facilities.

With more and more Keralites moving abroad in search of greener pastures, the inflow of funds into the state is steadily increasing. And this may be why the consumer goods manufacturers anticipate around Rs. 700 crore sales this year. And there has been a substantial rise in the sale of consumer goods.

Though this is a continuing phenomenon, festival seasons like Onam see an abrupt climb.

Even the print and television media make their contributions. Newspapers and televisions are inundated with advertisements on various products, exaggerating their qualities. Television channels rope in celebrities and popular shows, thereby increasing the viewership of the advertisements squeezed in in between. With extra money in hand, the consumers do not think twice in taking the plunge.

Not to be left far behind, the government also sets up Supplyco fairs throughout the state to help people buy quality things at a reasonable price. Onam month is auspicious for weddings. And this is the time jewelers make a killing.

With promises of quality gold and exchange offers, the consumers are easily persuaded. Even with the sharp rise in the price of gold, its fascination and demand has not decreased. Though shopping for clothes and other consumer items is a continued process, Onam season and the concept of onakkodi never lose its charm.

Ambika Varma