Onam - The Festival of Harvest

Every year Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organisation,Kerala organises the Onam festival at Prasanthi Nilayam with great devotional fervor. The entire Mandir would be aesthetically decorated and wears a festive look. The Onam festival will be celebrated for about four days with the entire Sai family from Kerala and from around the world making it to the Lotus Feet of Swami.

The festivities begin in Sai Kulwant Hall with Mangala Vadyam by well-known Nadaswara Vidwans in the Divine Presence of Bhagawan Baba. Thereafter, Sai Kulwant Hall reverberates with NadaswaraVadyam and Pancha Vadyam music on all subsequent days of celebration.

Cultural programmes by the Balvikas Children from the state of Kerala would mark the festivities. On the day of Onam Bhagawan would be received in a traditional Procession from Poornachandra Hall with Poorna Kumbam amidst vedam chanting Bhagawan blesses the gathering with His Divine Message exhorting the devotees to emulate and imbibe the sacrificial qualities of Emperor Bali . The four-day festivities transform Prasanthi Nilayam into Kerala what with the entire Kerala assembling at Prasanthi Nilayam for Divine Blessings on the auspicious day. Emperor Bali performed the action of supreme surrender to Lord Indra at the end of the battle by offering him all his possessions, body, mind and soul on this day in the sacred land of Kerala. The battle between Bali and Indra represents the mind battling to control the senses. Vamana opened Bali's eyes to help him realize the Divine and Bali sought a boon from the Lord that He should visit Kerala every year on this day of Shravan. This day is celebrated as Onam by Keralites. This day also extols the merits of gifts, renunciation, charity, however little, to any one, for all are reflections of God Onam is the harvest festival of Kerala. On this day, homage is paid to their illustrious king Bali, who had surrendered himself to the mighty little god Vamana. It is believed that Bali re-visits his empire that day. It is an enchanting sight to see the Keralites in their traditional dress offering their worship to the Lord. They are blessed with the privilege of touching the lotus feet. Swami graces the occasion and showers his blessings on them.

sourced: http://www.sssct.org/pages/festival/Onam.htm

Onam is a four-day harvest festival celebrated in Kerala. It falls in the Malyali month of Chingam, marking the end of the life-giving monsoon and the advent of spring.

Mythologically, the event celebrates the annual visit of King Mahabali. According to a legend in Vishnu Purana, Mahabali was a king, and through severe penance had gained dominion over the three worlds. He was an able and just ruler and his people adored him. The gods however, shorn of their powers and deprived of their abode and the spoils from sacrifices performed on earth, asked Vishnu for help. He agreed, and took his fourth incarnation of Vamana, the dwarf. Accordingly, he was born to Sage Kashyapa and his consort Aditi. When he attained maturity, he went to the court of Mahabali, who was in the midst of a sacrifice. The virtuous Bali saw the Brahmin and immediately asked him what he desired. Vamana begged for as much land as he could encompass with three steps. Bali agreed to the humble request but as soon as the sacrificial water was poured on Vamana's hands, he became a giant. With one step he covered the earth, with the second step the heavens. As there was no place to claim his third step, Bali offered his head as a resting ground. Vishnu put his foot on Bali's head and pushed him down to the netherworld.

However, in recognition of his virtues, Vishnu made him king of the Asuras. At Bali's request, Vishnu allowed him to return to earth to visit his people once a year .It is believed that Mahabali visits his people in Kerala during Onam. It has now been historically established that a king named Mahabali ruled over the region of Onam modern Kerala around the 4th century AD. He was a powerful and just king and his dynasty ruled over Kerala for about 150 years.

It has now been historically established that a king named Mahabali ruled over the region of Onam modern Kerala around the 4th century AD. He was a powerful and just king and his dynasty ruled over Kerala for about 150 years.The return of their erstwhile king is celebrated by the Keralites with tremendous enthusiasm and vigour .Kerala wears a festive look during these four days. Every house is cleaned and decorated. Door ways are adorned with rangoli and flowers. Pukkalam, or floral decorations consisting of garlands and flower petals, are an essential inclusion in all decorations since traditionally, flowers are used to welcome people. Flowers are also symbolic of innocence and freshness , which the season brings with it. Every day the old flowers are replaced with new ones. According to a local belief, the better the house is decorated, the greater the chance of King Mahabali entering it. Here Bali signifies the harvest, and the visit of Mahabali actually symbolizes a good harvest. As Kerala is still largely agricultural, people celebrate this event with enthusiasm. Sumptuous feasts are also prepared on all days during Onam.

Although the festival centers around the myth of Mahabali and Vishnu, it also celebrates the advent to the harvest season. It is not just the commemoration of the return of a great king who bestowed prosperity and happiness on his people, but also the veneration of the harvest that indicates wealth and joy. On all the four days, the family prays to Vishnu and sings songs in praise of King Mahabali who, through his humility, won Vishnu's honor and respect. Women sing and dance in the evenings. Vallom Kallies or the snake boat races form an important part of Onam celebrations. Some of the sites famous for these races are Aranmula on the Pamba river in the Kuttanad region, Papiyad near Quilon, and Thayathangadi near Kottayam.

The slim boats are about 100 feet long with a capacity of about 150 men. Black in colour, the boats are usually made of anjili (Artocarpus hirsuta), but sometimes teak and kadamb (Naucleacadamba) wood is also used. Both ends of the boat curl out of the water to about 15 to 20 feet. The curled ends are shaped like cobra hoods and it is from this shape that boat has derived its name. The boats are made by traditional boat builders who inherit this art from their fathers and pass it down to their sons. Everything is hand made and crafted with great care. The boats are ornately designed and decorated with green and scarlet silk umbrellas; their number denotes the affluence of the family to which they belong. Gold coins, ornaments and tassels are hung from the umbrellas.

Preparations for the race begin days in advance. Many practicesessions are organized which cease two days before the race.The boats are launched into the water a day before a race which is held on the third of the four days of Onam. On the day of the race, the boats are smeared with coconut oil to smooth their passage through the water. Just before the race begins, priests perform a small puja to Vishnu and Mahabali and confer blessings on the boat and the boatmen. Flowers are offered to the gods and then placed at the helm of the boat as a sign of good luck. Each long, graceful, snake-like boat is rowed by 100 oarsmen to the beat and rhythm of cymbals, drums, and songs. The winner of this race is bestowed many presents. In the evening, girls dance around the traditional brass lamp, with much rejoicing.

According to a legend related to the origin of these boats, once some bandits robbed a small boat carrying offerings to a Krishna temple. Krishna appeared before the devotee in a dream and advised him to build a larger boat which, when rowed by 100to 150 oarsmen, would glide swiftly and outstrip any pirate. And so the speedy or snake boat was designed.

sourced: http://www.gurjari.net/ico/Festival/main.asp?item=O_005

Onam, the principal festival of Kerala, is celebrated against a setting of lush green vegetation. This picturesque harvest festival brings ten days of colour feasting, boat races, song and dance to the state. According to legend, the state's most colourful festival, Onam celebrates the golden age of King Mahabali, the mythical ruler of Kerala. The festival is to welcome the spirit of King Mahabali, and to assure him that his people are happy and wish him well. The myth goes like this:

The Devas or Gods were worried over the wise and good rule of Mahabali, the Asura king, thinking that he might become too powerful. They sought the help of Vishnu (the preserver in the Hindu trinity) to curb Mahabali's power. Vishnu, in the form of a dwarf called Vamana, approached him and had been offered a boon by the king. The Vamana asked for three paces of land and the king agreed to it. Soon the dwarf began to expand and with the first step, he covered the sky, blotting out the stars, and with the second, he straddled the nether world.

Realising that the Vamana's third step will destroy the earth, Mahabali offered his head as the last step. The Gods were glad, but since Mahabali was so attached to his kingdom and the subjects and was very much loved by the people, he was allowed to return once a year. Onam (Thiruonam) is considered to be the day when King Mahabali comes from exile to visit his beloved people. The festivity begin ten days before Thiruonam, by putting floral decorations (Pookkalam) on every home. At Trichur (Thrissur), caparisoned elephants take part in a spectacular procession. A magnificent display of fireworks marks the end of the festivities here. At Cheruthuruthy, appreciative crowds gather on the green, where the dancers, resplendent in their brilliant costumes, re-enact the well-loved stories of the epic heroes and virtuous women. Pulikali, also known as Kaduvakali is a common sight during Onam season. Performers painted like tigers in bright yellow, red and black, dance to the beats of instruments like udukku and thakil. The Vallamkali (boat race) is one of the main attractions of Onam, and is best seen at Aranmulai and Kottayam. About a hundred oarsmen row huge and graceful odee (boats). Oars dip and flash to the rhythm of drums and cymbals in each boat. The songs are generally typical in character and concern people well known in Malabar. Above each boat gleam scarlet silk umbrellas: their number denotes the affluence of the family owning the boat. Gold coins and tassels hang from the umbrellas.

In the evening girls perform the Kaikottikkali (Thiruvathirakkali ) in the open, dancing around the traditional brass lamp.

sourced: http://www.kairalee.net/kai_onam.htm

Onam is one of the greatest festivals of Kerala. It is the festival, which the keralites celebrates unitedly without the differecnce of caste and religion. Onam is related with King Mahabali who was ruling kerala in a time.

After three months of heavy rains, the sky becomes a clear blue and the forests a deep green. The brooks and streams come alive, spitting forth gentle white foam, the lakes and rivers overflow and lotuses and lilies are in full bloom. It is time to reap the harvest, to celebrate and to rejoice. The harvest festival of Onam corresponds with the Malayalam New Year, Chingam.

Onam is a time for sports and festivities and in Kerala where one third of the area is low lying, covered with canals, lakes and backwaters; the people take to their boats and country crafts to celebrate. Colorful aquatic festivals are organized along the sacred rive Pamba.

Onam is a celebration of Ten days. People put flower mats in front of their houses, to welcome the King. There will be competition for the laying of flower mats; Keralites all over the world will be celebrating this ten days will pomp and gaiety. They will wear new dresses, will be visiting almost all temples which they can, they will be performing lot of dances like Thiruvathira kali Thumbi Tullal etc. to name a few and the most important thing is the grant lunch they will be having on the Thiuruvonam day. Which is also called the Fourth Onam. Whatever may happen they will not miss the Grant lunch. There is a saying in Malayalam that "Kanam Vittu Onam Unnanam" which means "We should have the Thiruonam lunch even if we have to sell all our properties". They give that much importance to the lunch on the Thiruonam day.

sourced: http://sify.com/samacharreligion/fullstory.php?id=13553929

Onam Festival is one of the most important festival of Kerala or South India. It is a bright and colourful festival that celebrates the bounties of nature and a year of good harvest. The festival stretches on for ten days - days filled with feasting, boat racing, singing and dancing. Rituals along with new clothes, traditional cuisine, dance, and music mark this harvest festival.

Legends Of Onam Festival

According to the legends, Kerala was ruled by the Demon King Mahabali. Mahabali was such a great ruler that his rule was known as the "golden rule of Mahabali". His fame spread far and wide that the Gods feared that he might become too powerful. So they approached Lord Vishnu, to curb Mahabali's power.

Lord Vishnu took the form of Vaamana, the dwarf and approached Mahabali. He asked the good King for three paces of land. King Mahabali was so kind that he looked at the small person and advised him to ask something bigger. But the guru of the demons, Guru Sukracharya, realised this was no ordinary brahmin and told the king to refuse any boons. But King Mahabali refused and granted three paces of land to Vaamana.

At that, the dwarf grew in height till he almost touched the sky. With his first step, he measured the heavens, with his second, the nether world. For his third pace, there was no place and Kign Mahabali offered his head. So he did and Mahabali was pushed into the nether world. But Lord Vishnu was so pleased with this great King that he showed him his viswarupa and gave him a boon. Then the good king Mahabali requested that he should visit his people once a year and see his beloved subjects. Lord Vishnu granted him his boon and on the day "Onam Festival" or "Harvest Festival" of kerala King Mahabali visits the earth is only celebrated as Onam.

Celebrations Of Onam Festival

River Pampa comes alive with decorated floats and water sports on the eve of onam festival in kerala. In Trichur, an elaborate procession of artistically decorated and caparisoned elephants is taken out. A huge crowd gathers to watch the procession. Singing and merry-making mark the occasion. Women wear new saris and make elaborate rangolis, pookkalam , in front of their homes.. The celebrations begin 10 days before Thiruonam. The festivities end in a spectacular display of fireworks.

Boat Races

The bank of river Pampa at Aranmulla attracts large crowds for the annual snake boat races. The precincts of the Krishna temple on the river bank reverberate with the shouts of the cheering crowd. Every village along the river owns a boat and has a specialised crew to steer it. Dressed in white dhotis and turbans, they participate in the boat race. The boatmen row their boats with rhythmic movements to the accompaniment of drum beats and special boat songs.

sourced: http://www.surfindia.com/festivals/onam.html

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