Saturday, September 6, 2014

Happy Onam




There has been no human society which did not have some myths and rituals.  Myths and rituals are a kind of psychological defence mechanisms.  Onam, Kerala’s most celebrated festival, revolves round the myth of a primitive king, Mahabali (more affectionately called ‘Maveli’), during whose reign there was no evil in the kingdom.  A kingdom without evil is a fascinating myth.  The associated rituals are meant to bring people closer to one another and to the environment.  Onam stresses on social functions and art performances as well as floral decorations. 

But the traditional ways of celebrating the festival have been replaced with modern ways dominated by new rituals.  The high priests of the new rituals are traders of different shades, ranging from the unavoidable supermarket to the redundant jeweller, from the film industry to the television channels. 

Onam is no more about equality and fraternity, goodness and generosity.  It is about shopping and entertainment. 

While there is nothing wrong about shopping or entertainment, there is much harm in redefining certain rituals.  The original rituals of Onam reinforced relationships among people as well as between people and nature.  Children went around gathering flowers from wherever flowers could be plucked.  In the process they merged into the nature.  They also met and spoke to the owners of the lands from where they collected the flowers.  The adults came together to participate in or to be spectators of the various events and performances related to the festival.  Flowers are now bought from the market and that too not for making the traditional floral carpet for Maveli but for participating in a floral carpet competition with substantial prizes.  Entertainments are brought home by the TV channels; or at best the family makes it to the nearest mall where people ineluctably remain strangers.  

What remains is the nostalgia conjured up by the traditional songs and dances telecast on the channels.  The nostalgia gives us a longing for the good old days.  But we know they won’t return.  We don’t want them to return, really.  It is impossible to give up our gadgets and luxury.  It is impossible to be generous to the needy neighbour.  It is impossible to be good. 

So we shall be content with the old myth of Onam and its new rituals.  Happy Onam!


26 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Thank you, Amit. I do celebrate it in a meaningful way.

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  2. Happy Onam! So true , The very meaning of festivals and rituals have changed. But I believe some changes in means of celebrating does no harm as long as the essence of festivals remains intact.

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    1. But the essence is changing, friend. Of course, change is a natural law and I'm not questioning it. If only people could understand the deep meaning of the festivals they would be far more useful in living more happily and fully.

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  3. Though a rituals of festivals change, important is celebration :). Happy Onam.

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    1. Thanks, Meenal. The celebration is going on :)

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  4. Happy Onam. Yea..everything has changed, but still malayalees of all religions try to make something out of it. It is true that there is no joint family kind of atmosphere, but many families do get together, bring food items separately and make a potluck onam. even that is also happiness for them.

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    Replies
    1. Nice that the spirit of Onam is still alive.

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  5. Happy Onam :)
    There's only that nostalgia left for me too!

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    1. Nostalgia is important. It can keep you rooted. Happy Onam to you too.

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  6. Happy Onam to you… Thought provoking post!

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  7. Another admirable post... Happy Onam to you :)

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  8. Happy Onam wishes to you and your family. Yes it irritates me too bollywood songs blaring during religious functions. We mostly do what is done in television now rather then what is traditionally done.The essence of rituals bore people these days and are being replaced by technology and its gimmicks.

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    1. Thank you, Nima. As we move ahead it is going to be worse, I guess.

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  9. Replies
    1. Wish you too a very happy Onam, Remya. I'm sure the celebrations are still on in Kerala.

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  10. Happy Onam Tomichan! Agree Onam is nothing like what it was. I celebrated my first Kerala Onam about 16 years ago. It was the most boring and lonely one. Compared to that, the Onam's celebrated in Mumbai has always been more like what it should be. The whole family and extended families getting together to prepare the Onamsadya. Even this year, it was a family event. So, guess, the people in Kerala should work hard to preserve the tradition.

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  11. It's so nice to read post about the local festivals. My friend is a malayalee and she often tell me stories about how they celebrate Onam festival. My Onam wishes to all of you this coming holiday this year. Cheers to all!

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