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Festivals –An Indispensable Part of Culture

Festivals –An Indispensable Part of Culture

When do you think of a festival what is the first thing that pops up in your mind? Without any doubt, we can say that happiness, joy, family reunion and meeting with our friends and relatives. Festivals are the essence of every culture, a time to rejoice and keep all the worries aside. Festivals help us to embrace our culture at the same time unite people together. Precious reunions and the overflow of thanksgiving are the particularities of all festivals. The whole concept of coming together and celebrating the festival is really beautiful.

It is really interesting that most of our festivals are associated with celestial objects or astronomy. Some festivals are celebrated according to the phases of the moon. Our ancestors performed methodical observations of the sky for fixing the dates of festivals. For example, Diwali-the festival of lights comes on the new moon day. Eid-ul-Fitr celebration starts on the day following the sighting of the crescent moon.

Festivals are welcomed by all. All the people, the old, the youth, and the children celebrate it with a lot of fun and frolic. The poor and the rich alike celebrate the festivals, the preparation for the festivals is done many days in advance. People get together cleaning up their houses, surroundings and then painting and decorating them.  During festival seasons, the bazaars are decorated very beautifully and all shops and markets draw a lot of crowds.

From ancient times onwards we have associated festivals with new clothes. People buy new clothes for themselves and for their families. The textile shops have good business during festival season. The hawkers and petty dealers of all sorts of goods sit on the pavements to sell their goods. Even the cottage industries make huge profits during festival season. Electronics shops also have a busy time because it is considered very auspicious to purchase new electronic items and utensils during festivals.

Unity has always been an integral part of our culture, all festivals teach us about unity and love. We also exchange sweets, gifts, and greeting cards with our friends and relatives. The reason behind this custom is that we should share our happiness and wealth with others. Doing so we have a state of satisfaction at the same time we can make them feel happy too. As festivals are being attracted by visitors, besides happiness and color they offer economic and social benefits also.

Festivals are advantageous in many respects. They provide entertainment to the people, keep closer to tradition, and shield us from sadness, loneliness, and stress. During festivals, cultural activities and fairs draw the attention of the people. It not only promotes unity in diversity but also promotes the tourism industry of the nation. Festivals provide knowledge of our heritage and tradition. It also gives us an opportunity of familiarizing ourselves with our culture. In short, festivals are part and parcel of our life.

My Favorite Festival-Onam

Onam, the ten-day harvest festival of Kerala is celebrated by millions of Keralites (People of Kerala) across the world. My childhood memories of Onam celebrations go back to my vacations when we cousins along with uncles and aunts would sit on the floor and enjoy the special Onam meal called ‘Onam Sadhya’ served on banana leaves in the living room. It is celebrated in the Malayalam month of Chingam with the date changing each year.  Chingam, being the first month of the Malayalam calendar, the festival Onam is the festival of new hopes and beginnings.

There is a story behind the Onam festival. Once upon a time, there lived an Asura king named Mahabali in Kerala. Under his rule, the country was rich and prosperous. Poverty was unknown to his kingdom. No crimes, no lies. It was the golden age of Kerala. His power extended to the three worlds. The Devas were jealous of him and approached Lord Vishnu for help. Lord Vishnu took the avatar of Vamana. He approached Mahabali for the alms. He only wanted the land that he could cover in three steps. Mahabali agreed. Lord Vishnu suddenly began to grow in big size and covered everything in two steps. For the third step, Mahabali offered his head and Lord Vishnu pushed Mahabali to another world. Mahabali was granted a boon when he departed out of his Kingdom that he can visit once a year to see his subjects. Onam commemorates the annual visit of King Mahabali. 

The preparations for Onam are done many days in advance. For me, every Onam is special, I always ensure that I am with my family for the Onam celebration. In the early morning itself, we went out to pluck flowers from the garden to make pookkalam (flower design) in our front yard. My cousins from Bengaluru and Bombay used to come to our house during the Onam holidays. No festival is complete without a new dress, so as in the case of Onam also. We all wear new clothes after bath. Sometimes I was very lucky, I would get a second round of new dress from Bengaluru or Bombay.

Much like other festivals, Onam is also celebrated with a lavish feast called Onam Sadhya. The usual items in an Onam Sadhya include Upperi, Sharkara Varatti, Inji Curry, Pachadi, Olan, Avial, Kalan, Pappadam, etc. with brown rice as the main dish and end with Adda prathaman. In some parts of the city as well as in Schools and Colleges Onam meals are arranged by different associations and organizations to mark the occasion. A range of activities will be waiting after meals, out of all the activities, swinging on the swing and thiruvathira dance are my absolute favorites. Lots of food and fun, lots of happiness and joy, togetherness and sharing, all these are the highlights of the Onam festival.

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