KOZHIKODE: The five-lakh-strong Tulu people of Kasargod have Onam twice a year. The first is the traditional celebration of the home- coming of Mahabali during Deepavali and the second is Keralites’ Onam, which they have adopted of late. The home-coming of Mahabali, known as ‘Poliyandram’ or ‘Baliyandram,’ is celebrated with much reverence in Tulu homes. ‘Mahabali pooja’ is performed in houses, temples and kavus. Deepavali in the Malayalam month of Thulam is on the ‘Amawasi’ day (new moon day). It is called ‘Deep Bali’. To the Tuluvites, Mahabali who is welcomed on ‘Poliyandram’ is similar to God. The festival is on three days starting from Deepavali.
Men must take bath in the morning, fast and get ‘palamaram’. It would be cut, and carried on their shoulders without using coir, barefooted. The tree is believed to have enormous power. A pole made out of the ‘palamaram’ is erected at the courtyard with 21 shafts fixed to it. After sunset, oil is poured into 21 coconut shells, kept on the shafts and wicks put into it are lit. It is a festival of light. The family members throw rice from a plate chanting ‘‘poliyentra ariyo ari..’’and welcome Bali. It is ‘’Baliyentra..’’ among the Kannada or Tulu-speaking community. They also request Mahabali to “muppatte kaalathu nerathe vaa’’ (come early next year.). Lamps are lit near the well, courtyard, cowshed and other important spaces in the house.
“The myth of both Onam and Baliyandram are same, but the time of welcoming Bali differs,” notes Dr Rathnakara Mallamoole, Kannada Assistant Professor at Government College, Kasargod. He says that Onam is increasingly entering the lives of Tulu people due to its commercial potential. “Tulu youth consider Onam as modern and Baliyandram as old,” he observes. B. Purushotama, president of Kannada Samanyuaya Samiti, agrees that Onam has entered Tulu hearts through young people and the advertisement blitz created to sell Onam.