Sunday, 21 September 2014



I have just come back from the singing and clapping of the girl's home prayer time with a newly henna-ed hand, and I am feeling fairly exhausted after a day of chicken coop building with ten young girls who are all very eager to help but aren't that interested in listening. But I thought, you know what, I think everyone would like to know about Onam (and if you didn't before, you do now right?), and right now there is power, the computer is free and I have a spare moment- there's no time like the present! So this is what we woke to, two Sundays ago... 

Ten kilos of fresh flowers nestled safely between the seats of the jeep, waiting to be arranged into eye-catching patterns, and when we went into the kitchen we thought a food bomb had exploded. Welcome to Onam, Our Home style.  

Onam is an exclusively Keralan celebration and the legend behind it is thus...

Once upon a time the state was ruled by a demon king called Mahabali. In a hefty contradiction of terms this king was incredibly popular amongst Keralans- all were happy, peaceful and prosperous. Good times abounded. But the demon king had one shortcoming (and it wasn't that he was a demon...I feel like I am missing something here)- he was egotistic. And so the gods decided he was getting a little too big for his boots (and they were also a bit jealous that everyone liked him so much...even gods aren't above a little pettiness you know) and so they banished him to some place far, far away. Shrek was there. So the king was gone, but the gods did have to admit that he had done a lot of good for the people of Kerala and so they granted him the right to come back and visit his people once a year. That day is Onam and it is a day of feasts, flower arrangements and general merriment to welcome back the demon king on his annual visit.

That, as far as I can gather, is what it's all about. What it meant for us was a good hour of everybody's Onam morning spent plucking the petals from flowers to make impressive bursts of colour on the floor...

...quite a few flower fights when the dull repetition of pluck pluck pluck next became too much and the kids went nuts...


...and a solid ten hours of cooking in the girl's home kitchen to produce the 11 different curries that would grace our fresh banana leaves for the Onam feast later in the afternoon.

Food and flowers, that's what it's all about. And making merry with family and friends. And then a lazy afternoon nap when everyone is full to bursting and all the excitement has died down. Kind of like Christmas, without religion or presents.

So there you go, the story of an obscure Indian festival to file away in that box in your brain that is reserved purely for the 'things that are quite interesting but serve absolutely no purpose in day to day life'. You're welcome.

Now, I have to go. We have a chicken coop to finish.

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