It’s Onam on Sunday
Esha Nambiar, 23, gets into a semi-fasting mood the day before Onam. No, not for any religious reasons. It’s just that she needs to have extra space in her stomach to consume the traditional Onam feast the next day. The sheer number of traditional delicacies served is mind-boggling.
And on Onam day before the feast, Esha along with her family offers prayers at the Matunga temple.
A festival mainly celebrated by Malayalees, Onam this year falls on this Sunday (Sept 7). It’s Kerala’s harvest festival and has a mythological tale surrounding it. It’s celebrated to mark the return of demon king Mahabali who comes to visit his people on Thiruvonam day every year from the netherworld to where he was banished by Lord Vishnu. Under Bali’s reign, there was prosperity and the his kingdom was a welfare state.
As per the mythology, Mahabali, the grandson of Pralhad. was a righteous king. Pralhad was a devotee of Lord Vishnu and Mahabali too eventually became one.
Bali was a powerful king who defeated the gods and won over the heaven. Fearing his astronomical power, many gods pleaded with Vishnu to save them.
Vishnu then took the avataar of Vamana (a diminutive Brahmin) and approached the charitable king who asked him what he wished to have. Vishnu sought three measures of land (to be measured by his feet). Not knowing that Vamana was Vishnu, Mahabali granted the wish.
Vishnu soon grew to his lordly size, and with one stride covered all of heaven, and with the second, all of earth. Where shall I put my foot next for the third measure, Vishnu asked Bali. The humbled king went down on his knee and urged Vishnu to place the divine leg on his head. He knew Vishnu would send him to the nether world, and hence placed a demand that he be allowed to return to his beloved land and people once every year.
Thiruvonam falls on the day the demon king returns to his kingdom to visit his people. And people celebrate the day wearing new clothes, a visit to holy shrines and a sumptuous feast. Most houses in Kerala will have floral carpets adorning their courtyards on that day.
“Many people come here in the morning to pray before Lord Guruvayoorappan,” said S Anand, trustee of Asthika Samaj, Kochu Guruvayoor Temple in Matunga. Post prayers, the temple serves a lavish meal.
Hotels in Mumbai too celebrate Onam. Some like Mani’s Lunch Home in Matunga make it a point to serve around 19 traditional dishes on plantain leaf. “We get around 700 customers who would love to be served on banana leaves on that day. Preparation for the feast starts a day in advance,” said KN Narayanaswamy, owner of Mani’s Lunch Home.
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