A few decades back, Onam, the Kerala festival was celebrated in memory of the mythical king Mahabali. In the present scenario, it has turned out that Onam is more of a celebration in memory of those bygone decades and onam celebrations of the past.

Here is a black and white photograph of young women in the traditional Onam attire, on the oonjal (swing), which appeared in a newspaper for the Onam of 1993. One of them is my cousin, on the right. I guess they were studying at the Alphonsa College in Pala (Kottayam, Kerala) at that time.

onam black and white

Now let us see how the japanese school girls, in an english seminar on India, picturized the onappookkalam. Look at the animated faces and the colorful pookkalam!

onam japanese painting

This is a glimpse from the English Seminar where I introduced India to the Japanese highschool students. The students were supposed to prepare articles/newspapers on different themes of the country. One of them worked on the “festivals of India” theme and they liked the flower carpet prepared during the onam fetival of Kerala, the pookkalam, and included it in their article.

japanese student drawing thiruvonam

Date: Oct 2005. Taken 4 years back, while I was at Sapporo, Japan.

Onam this year (2009) is on the 2nd of September. Happy Onam Wishes from Rocksea & Sarah!

Role of plywood in Kerala History

When I look back into time, one of the memories associated with onam are those when we had the school term examinations before onam. I was in class 6, but new to the school and getting settled. [Every other year I used to change schools, don’t know why!] I had given little attention to the onam exam but I wanted to score something for pass marks…

One of my new friends, I think his name was Nelson, told me that it is easy to pass the history exam. How? I just needed to fill the answer paper with whatever words flowing through my mind. The history teacher will give marks according to the number of pages I fill in. That is cool, I thought. BUT I didn’t know how to simply fill in the pages with some unassociated words?!

Nelson had an answer to that too! I just had to copy those words from his answer sheet! And so I wrote the exam. Onam holidays came and went, and I had forgotten everything about it. One day after the school had reopened, the history teacher called me to the staffroom. He had my history answer paper in his hands! He went straight to my answer on Mamankam. [Mamankam is a medieval festival of Kerala, which was mostly celebrated under the auspicious of the Samoothiris (Zamorins), by the banks of the Bharathapuzha river]. The teacher asked me what was the role of “plywood” in Mamankam? I was like 😮 I just stood their dumbfound. Later I got the answer sheet. I saw that among all the other dumb words… I had placed plywood as an integral part of Kerala history!

mamankam in kerala history

Onam / Thiru Onam: Festival of Kerala, celebrated in the month Chingam (Aug-Sep), of the Malayalam Calendar. In memory of a mythical King MahaBali (Maveli) who ruled Kerala eons back. Legend is that Kerala reached the zenith of its glory under his rule and he was so famous that gods became jealous and send God Vishnu to send him down to the netherworld. Anyways, before sending him down, Vishnu gave King Maha Bali a boon to visit his people once in a year. This day we celebrate as Onam, to welcome Mahabali. One of the most attractive aspects of thiruvonam is the pookkalam or the floral designs we make.

Check here for an earlier article on >> onam with nature and oru ettukaliyude onappookkalam

note: cartoon sketch of mamankam by sarah

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