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Kochi is all set to welcome Mahabali

It is believed that during Onam, Mahabali, the erstwhile king of Kerala comes on a revisit to his kingdom. And people in Kerala celebrate Onam to the hilt irrespective religious and linguistic differences. Onam is that time of the year when the Malayalam calendar begins and the nature blooms to its fullest glory. Usually Onam falls during mid-Chingam, the maiden month as per the Malayalam calendar. However, the celebrations begin much in advance. With `Atham' the real countdown to 'Thiruvonam' begins. Mother Nature is also in her best of times during this period of the year. It is during the harvest festival of Onam that flowers blossom, crops ripe and vegetables and fruits attain full growth.

According to mythology prosperity prevailed during the reign of Mahabali and as the gods became envious of it, Lord Vishnu in order to put an end to Mahabali's regime appeared in disguise as little Vamana. He requested land equal in size to three of his footsteps. On being agreed Lord Vishnu assumed his full dimensions both physically and ethereally. And with the first step he covered the entire celestial world and with the second the world of the demons. Realizing that his third step would take the earth affecting his people, Mahabali pleaded with Vishnu to take his third step over him to spare his wards. But as a mark of respect to the sacrifice that the benevolent monarch made for his people, Mahabali was allowed to visit his kingdom once every year. And it is during Onam that Mahabali annually returns to see the welfare of his kingdom and people.

For Kerala and her people, Onam is not just another festival but it is `the festival'. More aptly it is perhaps the only time of the year when every Malayalee jets out on a shopping spree. Resultantly, Onam has come to be regarded as the biggest shopping festival in Kerala. And only few weeks to go for the biggest festival of Kerala to happen, the countdown to the festival has already started rolling. Reportedly, the entire state is getting spruced up in a run up to the festival. Over the years, Onam has turned out to be a megabuck extravaganza.

It's during Onam that every segment of business enterprise strikes it rich in Kochi. It's also during Onam that almost all heads turn and their wallets quiver on having a look at the tempting offers that galore all around. Be it apparels, home appliances, automobiles, mobile phone and other such consumer durables, everything surfaces with a special festival offer tag. Perhaps no other festival than Onam is awaited and celebrated in this part of the world with so much of enthusiasm. The whole affair is taken up very intensely and in a wholesome manner

More importantly, people have understood that it's during this festival season that the manufacturers and dealers come up with too many fascinating offers. In short Onam happens to be the shopping festival of mega offers and freebies. As usual, this year too Onam is likely to pave way for some of the biggest and wide-ranging trade fairs and shopping festivals in the city.

The State Bank of India has announced a special festival offer by slashing the interest rates on their home loans. LG Electronics has once again surfaced with an offer called `kudathil endanu' which provides each shopper a chance to win a good number of surprise gifts. Hyundai Electronics is also offering a sure gift for every purchase. Akai Consumer Electronics has announced a `Sure Shot 4 Offer' and while Sansui have hit the market with a bundle of offers including an expensive Benz car as its bumper prize. Those buying Yamaha bikes can pocket gold worth Rs 2000 this Onam season. Toshiba has announced an `Onappulari' offer on the eve of Onam while Tata Motors has launched a `Swarna Onam' offer for their passenger cars. Besides all major FMCG brands have already announced special offers for Onam.

These days, those who take to the streets on a shopping spree make it a point to include Kochi in their itinerary because in Kochi one can find everything, from the most traditional to the ultra modern objects with equal appeal. As always, this year too things like lucky draws, instant on-the-spot contests, surprise gifts, gala exchange schemes, gift hampers, spot financing etc are likely to fascinate the shoppers in Kochi. All prominent city based textile dealers are making busy preparations to welcome the Onam shoppers with such temptations like lucky draws, surprise gifts and combo offers.

Since the custom of gifting new clothes known as `onakkodi' to the beloved ones is an important facet of Onam, all leading retailers of textile are likely to rub their shoulders in an attempt to grab the attention of Onam shoppers.

Though it's the peak season for the native flower growers in the state, the excessive demand for fresh flowers will provide ample business opportunity for flower growers from the neighbouring states of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. Over the years the `pookkalam' competition has also become a rage with Kochiites. And understandably this year too, several cultural organizations in the city are making arrangements to conduct `pookkalam' competitions on a large scale.

With the corporate world beginning to sponsor the arrangement of floral carpets in a big way, this colourful wing of the festival has, of late, become a mega-buck, celebrated event. Needless to say, the absorbing fragrance and eloquence of Onam finds its fulfillment in elegant floral carpets that adorn the courtyards of every Malayalee home from atham day till the day of thiruvonam.

In fact, Onam is the only religion that unites Malayalees irrespective of their varied schools of thought and the first thing that every Malayalee associate with this most celebrated festival is the delectable thoughts about the traditional feast called onasadya. In the recent past, the sadya aspect of Onam has become very popular. And to tap the potential market the hospitality industry in Kochi are making elaborate arrangements to serve the traditional onasadya in all its traditional grandeur.

Another major area where brisk business is already happening is in the area of consumer electronics. "Right from the first day of Chingam the market has picked up quite well this year and we are looking forward to a very good harvest during this season" smiles a leading dealer of consumer electronics in Kochi. According to industry sources almost fifty per cent of the annual business of colour televisions takes place during Onam.

In Kochi, the presence of major housing finance companies, cellular operators, automobile giants and makers of consumer durables is likely to make a big difference to all the Onam trade fairs this year. "As usual, entertainment programmes like fashion parade, musical soirees, fun games etc are going to be some of the added attractions in many of the fair venues this time", reveals an event manager in the city.

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