Onam in Kerala

A short account of Onam, a festival from Kerala India and the legendary Snakeboat races that occur every year in celebration.

Kerala, where i come from in India, has just finished celebrating Onam, the closest thing we have to carnival. Every year for a whole week people celebrate harvest-time by welcoming back King Mahabali, a legendary ruler of ancient Kerala. Mahabali was an exemplary ruler, who put the welfare of his people above everything. Unfortunately he became so popular that the Gods became upset and banished him from the kingdom allowing him to return once a year just for a day which is celebrated as Onam. This year it was August 23rd and everyone was slightly distracted by the wedding of Shashi Tharoor, the famous tweeting minister, also from Kerala, to his third bride, Sunanda Pushkar, a Kashmiri, on Onam morning.

People cook magnificent feasts and lay down carpets of flowers in front of their homes to welcome Mahabali back. There are ceremonial dances and one of the highlights of the whole festival are the famed snakeboat races. Last year this time  i was in Alleppey with friends and attended the renowned Nehru boat race there. These races are awesome spectacles, i remember being taken to watch them as a child, when some of my uncles used to participate in them. Here are two videos to give you a taste of this extraordinary event.

Onam is celebrated by Hindus, Christians and Muslims alike.

As a fellow Malayalee (from Malayalam, the language spoken in Kerala) based in Dubai tweeted yesterday:

arun4Officially kick-starting Onam celebrations at home. Watching ‘Kerala Cafe’, devouring Masala Dosa & sipping Scotch in true #Mallu style.

Below is a humourous video about celebrating Onam in the diaspora:

And here are three images from Kerala Tourism showing the splendours of this unusual little coastal state:

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