Welcome to you!
Oh Demon King Mahabali!
To Gods Own Country, Kerala!
Year after year on this Onam day!
Every house welcomes, decorated
With a design at the threshold
Made of flowers of many colours,
And around it dance the women
Clapping hands and singing songs.
The parade is here for the king!
On this beautiful Onam welcome,
Elephants walk regally in a line,
Held above are silk parasols of,
Red yellow blue green magenta,
With dangling gold coins bright!
Reflects the sun so glittering,
Ornate gold plates of fine patterns,
That they adorn on their foreheads,
Right down to the tip of the trunk.
Flutters lightly in the breeze,
Their rich satin robes so vivid.
White creepers painted on their legs
Contrasting grandly with the grey.
Men dressed up painted like tigers,
Bodies yellow with black and red,
They dance chasing the hunted goat,
Men dance after them hunting them,
All to the beat of the pulsating drums.
Kathakali* dancers royally float,
Blown up skirts and grand headgear,
Dazzle to wind right into our hearts.
Then the fireworks light up the skies,
Rockets spraying coloured diamonds,
With a noise that wakes up the Gods!
Come join us for a fabulous sadhya*,
Of *Avial and Kalan and Erricherry,
Thoran and Theeyal and Injipuli,
Neychoor and Paalada payasam,
Crisp pappadums* and banana chips,
Served on a freshly cut banana leaf,
Disposable, Biodegradable, Eco-friendly!
Onam: The annual harvest festival is a ten-day long celebration of colourful processions, snake-boat races, pulikali(tigerdance) , floral-rangoli(designs) , feasting, singing and dancing.
Mahabali: A legend of King Mahabali, a mythical ruler of Kerala lends added colour. The rule of the demon king was a golden era. The Gods got jealous; sent down Vishnu in the form of a dwarf who asked Mahabali for 3 paces of land. As soon as he agreed, the dwarf grew very tall. With the first step he claimed the heavens, with the second the netherworlds. He would have destroyed the earth with his third step but Mahabali offered his head as the last step to save Kerala and her people. He was then appointed the king of the netherworld with a promise that he will be allowed to visit his people once a year on Onam.
Sadhya: feast of special vegetarian cuisine served on a banana leaf. Each item has its assigned place on the leaf. The names of the dishes evoke nostalgic memories in all Keralites living away from home.
Kathakali: the famous dance art of Kerala that is the toughest dance to learn on earth.
© Nalini Hebbar/openmind/2009 - all rights reserved
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