Thiruvananthapuram, Aug 19 – Thousands of artists are busy preparing cultural shows, shopping sprees are on and liquor shops are stocked with alcohol worth Rs.300 crore – all arrangements are in place as Malayalis get ready for the Onam celebrations.
Onam is a weeklong festival in Kerala and the first Onam day falls Sunday, when Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan officially launches the celebrations at a colourful programme here.
And with Rs.1.67 crore earmarked for the occasion, the festivities are sure to be grand. While the capital city will host the main functions, celebrations will be held in all other 13 district headquarters as well.
‘In Thiruvananthapuram, cultural events would be held in 18 venues from Aug 22 to 28. All the traditional Kerala art forms would be staged and a record 4,000 artists would take part,’ said state Tourism Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan.
Since 1961, Onam has been the official festival of the state and is celebrated by all Malayalis irrespective of religion or caste.
On Onam it is widely believed that Kerala’s mythological king Mahabali, known for his benevolence, comes to visit his people and ensure their well-being and prosperity.
A traditional 24-course Onam lunch served on plantain leaves is the highlight of the occasion apart from beautiful ‘pookalams’ (floral designs) adorning most homes.
The festive season is when Malayalis splurge – buying clothes, goodies, gifts and even electronic goods. Price rise has impacted spending power with even bananas touching Rs.35 a kg.
But P. Kuriakose, a 70-year-old retired government official in Kottayam, says rising prices shouldn’t dampen the spirits.
‘Last Onam the price of rubber was around Rs.100 per kg and now it is Rs.180 per kg; so people should have no major reason to complain. We lose some and win some and there can be no ideal situation. Over the years, life has taught me that there is no need to be cribbing all the time,’ Kuriakose said on a philosophical note.
But coming as some relief is the state government’s decision to pay the salary for August in advance.
State Agriculture Minister Mulakara Ratnakaran has promised that the government would ensure adequate supply of vegetables at moderate prices – the most vital ingredient in all Kerala kitchens during the first three days of Onam.
While most families look forward to having the Onam ‘sadya’ (feast) at home with family and friends, there are a few who see the festival as an occasion to go on a holiday.
Reshmi Jayakumar, a homemaker here, said that unlike the previous years, her family has decided to celebrate the traditional Onam lunch on Thiruvonam, the second day of Onam Monday, at a resort near the famed Kovalam beach.
‘Gone are the days when everyone used to sit around to prepare the Onam lunch and for which preparations would begin a week earlier. Now all are busy and so the entire family decided that this time we will go to a resort,’ said Reshmi.
And for tipplers, the Kerala State Beverages Corporation has stocked liquor and beer worth over Rs.300 crore at all retail outlets to see that the stock does not run out as sales peak during the Onam season.
Movie buffs won’t be disappointed either. As many as 10 Malayalam films would be available for their entertainment.
The meteorological office here has also brought some good news — Onam week would be sunny and rains would stay away, much to the relief of Malayalis who see heavy rains for days at a stretch during the monsoons.
Feasts and get-togethers apart, there’s something else Malayalis will watch out for – Lok Sabha MP from Thiruvananthapuram Shashi Tharoor’s wedding with Sunanda Pushkar.
While the wedding takes place at his ancestral home in Palakkad Sunday, a reception is to be held here on Thiruvonam day Monday.