Ready-to-eat sadya kits, flowers from neighbouring states, shopping sprees, new releases at the marquee, programmes on television...that’s Onam for many in Kerala. Even as all those have become an integral part of Onam celebrations today, there are many trying to retain the flavours of Onams of yore. Family get-togethers, home-made sadya, pookkalam, games and more are still in vogue in many households.
Sreejith Krishnan and wife, Bhavana VM, have packed their bags for their long Onam vacation. “We save our leave for this break. We can’t wait to catch up with all at home in Thrissur,” says Sreejith, working with an MNC in Technopark.
While Sreejith has his relatives staying in different houses in the same compound in Thrissur, Bhavana’s is a joint family in Aluva, with many of her extended family living under the same roof. “Relatives working outside Kerala also come home during this time of the year. And we have this mega get-together, this time on the evening of Thiruvonam,” Sreejith adds.
Pookkalam with home-grown flowers with Onathappan or Thrikkakarappan, a conical structure made of clay or mud symbolising Vamana, the presiding deity of Thrikkakara temple, kept at the centre of the floral carpet is a must for Onam. “Women in the family perform ‘Kaikkottikali’. Men and women get down to prepare the sadya. Since two of my uncles are professional cooks, the feast is always grand,” explains Sreejith. Catching up with festivities in Thrissur town, especially the Pulikkali procession, is also on the itinerary, he adds.
For Praveen Prasad, the highlight of the festival is a mega gathering at his father’s ancestral house in Kayamkulam. Relatives from far and near gather at their place on the day of Nalaam Onam.
“There were occasions when there were 100 of us for the gathering! Earlier, we used to prepare the entire sadya at that house. Now, we have a pot luck with some dishes prepared at home and the rest brought by relatives from their homes. After the feast, we have Thiruvathirakali, games such as tug-of-war, uriyadi and treasure hunt and performances by children. It is all done well with mic sets and all. We look forward to this occasion every year because it is very precious,” says Praveen.
Nezin Sreekumar, employed with an MNC, too is excited about meeting relatives who gather at his ancestral house at Karinganoor in Kollam district on Thiruvonam. “Now, we treasure videos of our late grandparents having Onasadya and the snaps we had taken with them. When we have the sadya, we play those videos on our television set. We feel that they are still with us,” says Nezin. He adds with a chuckle that Onam feast at his home is a non-vegetarian affair. “Fish is a must and so we set out by 4.30 am to buy the catch of the day!” he laughs.
Onam means family time for Anandhu Sreekumar S as well. An employee with RR Donnelly, he says that although he misses the Onam of his childhood when he used to pluck flowers growing near paddy fields, one thing that hasn’t changed is the Onasadya. “That is the best part about the festival. And nothing can beat my mother’s pineapple pulissery. When my grandmother was alive, she used to run around supervising everything,” he recalls.
Sandeep Chandran and wife, Gopika P, both working in IBS, celebrate Onam at his ancestral house at Pandalam. “My parents are no more and the house is locked. But even then I enjoy spending Thiruvonam there since a lot of memories are associated with that place,” he points out.
Divya S Nair doesn’t support the idea of depending on caterers for the sadya. “In fact, I look forward to preparing the sadya with the entire family. We have it on three days — Thiruvonam, Avittam and Chathayam. It is also the time to catch up with relatives,” she says.
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