Onam 2022: Celebrating Community Living & The Spirit Of Togetherness

For a community that was starved for celebrations, September literally has been a carnival. First was the Ganesha Chaturthi that we celebrated with much gusto. Over the last weekend, we celebrated Onam, albeit a little late from the actual festival date.

This time the Malayalee community decided to do something different, I guess to make up for the 2 years we went without any community get-togethers. Spread over Friday and Saturday, the event saw enthusiastic participation from residents across the community.  This year for me was a unique experience too.

Pookalam

On Friday evening, we had a Pookalam competition between blocks. Pookalams are designs made with flower petals. They are an important & significant feature of Onam. Though beautiful to look at, there is a lot of hard work that goes in. One can’t use full flowers, but only petals or leaves that at finely cut. These are used instead of colors to form a design which is called Pookalam.

That evening, the entire society was filled with the heady smell of flowers and oil lamps, heralding the festivities.  A few ‘enthu-cutlets’ including me from our block participated. We had fun prepping for the event. From meeting a couple of days before to decide on the concept and colors, to go shopping for flowers and gorging on yummy Masala Benne Dose and separating the petals in preparation for the Pookalam, we enjoyed every detail.  Here are some pictures of the Pookalam & all of us dressed in our traditional finery.

Our Pookalam also had a concept – a story that spoke of the spirit of Venezia.

Thiruvathirakali

Saturday began with the procession of Mahabali within the society. This was followed by the Thiruvathirakali – a traditional dance performed in Kerala by groups of women in a circle around the lamp to celebrate the female energy. Though this dance was previously performed a few years ago, this time a mega-event was planned. Around 90 women from the community danced together. It was both a beautiful sight to behold and a pleasure performing as part of the group.

Though not a professional dancer, in my younger days I have performed many dances and choreographed a few too. However, for some unknown reason, I have stopped dancing now – it just does not excite me. When this Mega Thiruvathirakali was being planned, I was unsure of joining. Then friends coaxed me into joining as, if nothing else, we would just have fun together. So I did and it turned out to be an experience of a lifetime. For around 12 days, we practiced every day. After a hectic work day and handling responsibilities alone at home (my husband was traveling), I was surprised at the eagerness with which I looked forward to the practice sessions at night.  The ‘teachers’ who are friends too made it so interesting for all of us, patiently making sure we could pick up the steps.  The entire practice session was full of fun and banter from ordering the costumes to practicing how to wear the Kerala set mundu.

On the final day, the energy and vibe was something else. Around 90 women from all age groups – from 5 years to senior citizens – all dressed in the Kerala White & Gold, laughing and complimenting each other, helping each other with the gajra or final adjustments to the mundu. It did not matter if we knew each other well or not at all.  At that time we were all sisters wanting to dance together and enjoy ourselves.  Believe me – all of us looked so beautiful. I am sure our vibe carried on to the audience too. Though the dance was a slow one, each of us danced it with passion and ended it to thunderous applause.  It was no mean feat to pull off the coordination of 90 women who practiced across different batches. Compliments are still pouring in from family and friends who are seeing the pictures and videos. Kudos to our teachers who made it so seamless! Their patience and dedication helped us create this wonderful memory that each one of us will cherish! And to keep these memories fresh forever, we had a dear friend clicking these amazing photographs.

After this high, many of us had a sumptuous Onam Sadya and went home to sleep it off! The evening brought in the party spirit with music and an open dance floor, where everyone danced their heart out.

Onam is indicative of new beginnings and prosperity. This year’s experience definitely was the beginning of something new. Here is hoping that we can celebrate Dusshera/Durga Puja, Diwali, Christmas & New Year too with the same gusto!

This blog post is part of the blog challenge ‘Blogaberry Dazzle’ hosted by Cindy D’Silva and Noor Anand Chawla and sponsored by BakezbyDaizy.

23 Comments

  1. A video of that dance would have completed this blog! 🙂 Nice to see how traditions have been kept alive. I love understanding the ‘why’ behind each festival and your write up was lovely to read.

    1
    1. Thank you Pooja. Was actually waiting for an edited version from the drone. In the meantime, i have uploaded a part the video captured from one of the block. Hope you enjoy it!

  2. although it’s not been long… I felt nostalgic reading your post Vasu and re lived it for sometime… the experience was truly amazing. n the part I love the most in your post is the Fusina Pookalam story… its so sweet n creative…💖

  3. Wonderful article Vasumathi. I share the same sentiments as you in this and am sure it resonated with many people here. I enjoyed reading it. Bravo 👏
    Mallika

  4. I was always curious about Onam festival as it falls few days before another festival we celebrate in Bengal Durga puja. One of my friend in Kerala celebrate this festival with great enthusiasm and today you most took me for a virtual tour to this festival. Thank you so much

  5. This is such a great festival to be in and to see. I love the dresses, the colours, the tradition, and all that you did and its deeper meaning. I hope this kind of festivities would be passed on to next generations as more and more millennials tend to forgo this kinds of traditions.

  6. Onam is such a beautiful festival with all these beautiful flower rangolis and the awesome Onam Sadhya! Celebrating it with your community makes it all the more special. These happy memories will surely last till the next year!

  7. Where is the dance video? And i was looking out for the Sadya, picture 🙂 You look so elegant and beautiful in the ivory and gold saree. I too had one long ago, forgot about it. Will search now.

  8. With all these beautiful flower rangolis and the awesome Onam Sadhya, Onam is such a beautiful festival! My south Indian friends celebrated Onam in India this time, so I missed celebrating with them here in Gulf. Loved your post. I am not able to play a video of yours.

  9. The festivities are celebrated with so much grandeur. I loved the flower decoration and the concept of different colors. You also look so beautiful. It was so amazing to read and experience this festival through your blog.

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Vasumathi

Blogger, Content Creator, Knowledge Facilitator, Hobby Photographer & Mom To A Naughty Dalmatian.