The pandemic and subsequent lockdowns dampened the spirit of Chennai Malayalis to celebrate the annual harvest festival Onam.
As many as 5 lakh Malayalis including around 90 Malayalee associations in the city had always rejoiced and celebrated Onam with various programmes and fervour that could last at least three months. But the Pandemic and subsequent restrictions have forced them to confine themselves behind the doors and celebrate online.
Though it was a harvesting festival just like Pongal in Tamil Nadu, Onam is the reminder of the golden era of governance by the Asura King Mahabali who was known for secularism generosity. Each and every Malayali household spread across the world prepares flower carpets and sumptuous sadya and sings Onam songs on Thiruvonam day to receive Mahabali as he makes a visit to his state from the Netherworld to watch his prajas during Onam.
The legend says Vamana, the incarnation of Lord Vishnu, sent Mahabali to netherworld by stomping on his head after he failed to provide three-feet of land to conduct Yagnya (fire sacrifice)
‘We celebrate Onam this year only online’, says P.N. Sreekumar, General Secretary, Chennai-based All India Malayali Association.
Usually Chennai Malayalis celebrate Onam in grand fashion with three-month long cultural festivities. But this year everything went upside down due to the pandemic. However, we had the opportunity to perform Thiruvathira, making of flower carpet and singing Onam songs on the Doordarsan’s Tamil Channel for a one-hour show that will be aired on Monday. Since Chennnai was in complete lockdown on Sunday, all Malayali families have preferred to conduct Uthradam shopping on Saturday. We have decided to organise some online celebration for our members on Thiruvonam day’, he said.
For Suja Ajayakumar, an entrepreneur, Onam is an emotional matter. She says whatever it happens in the world she will celebrate Onam with new clothes, pookalam(flower carpet) and the traditional Malayali sadya that includes Sambar, Avial, Khichdi, Pachadi, and Kalan
‘Yes, the pandemic has indeed dampened the spirit of Onam. For at least 40percent of Chennai Malayalis Onam was an occasion of reunion of their relatives in ancestral homes in Kerala. But the Pandemic and subsequent travel restriction wiped out all such joyous moments, forcing them to celebrate a low-key Onam this year’, she said.
Subash, a domestic help in Chennai from Kannur, says he could not join his family during this Onam due to the travel restrictions. ‘This year I could not shop anything for my children from Chennai. We have decided to conduct a low key celebration because it’s time everybody is responsible to deal with virus’, he said....