Indian community celebrates Onam harvest festival in Weyburn

Onam is the annual harvest festival of Kerala, India, and is celebrated for 10 days. According to the Gregorian calendar, the festival falls in the months of August-September. People of Kerala state all over the world unite and take part in the celebrations, including in Weyburn. This year, it began on August 22 and ended on August 31.

The Malayali community in Weyburn celebrated Onam at their homes on Monday, instead of their normal large-group gathering as in the past number of years, due to COVID-19 restrictions against large groups indoors.

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Malayalis (People of Kerala) celebrate Onam by aesthetically laying out flower designs in front of the house with a variety of colourful flowers (pookalam) evoke a sense of plentitude and prosperity, which Onam represents, not to speak of women adorned with gold ornaments and new clothes. Every bit of the Onam celebration is a nostalgic reminder of the bygone glory of the past. The sumptuous sadya (an elaborate feast) is followed by games like kaikottikali (a graceful dance), Tumbi tullal and other folk performances like kummatikali and Puli Kali.

Mythology states that Maha Bali, was a strong and learned king who respected knowledge. Once, Maha Bali was performing a yagna (religious ritual), when a short, young, radiant boy entered the yagna shala (altar). Maha Bali, as the custom, welcomed this radiant youngster and asked him what he wanted. The young boy requested for as much space as could be measured by three footsteps of his.

Maha Bali agreed at once, to the chagrin of his Guru Shukracharya, who cautioned him that the guest was none other than Lord Vishnu (Hindu religion God) himself.

As the legend goes, no sooner were the three footsteps granted, the young Vamana assumed a gigantic form known as Trivikrama and with the first step of his foot, measured the whole earth. Then with the second step of his foot, he measured the whole sky. These two steps covered the whole of Mahabali’s kingdom, the earth and the sky. Vamana then asked the king as to where he should place his third step.

King Maha Bali, the grandson of the greatest of the Lord’s devotees, Prahlada, joyfully offered his head for the third step in utter devotion and surrender.

The Lord recognizing his attitude of surrender blessed him and sent him to Patala with a promise of making him Indra in the next Manvanthara and that He Himself would guard the gates of Pathala.

In Hindu cosmology, the universe is divided into the three worlds: Svarga (heaven), Prithvi or Martya (earth/mortal plane) and Patala (the underworld). Patala is composed of seven regions or lokas, the seventh and lowest of them is also called Patala.

Acceding to the request of Maha Bali’s people, Vishnu granted Maha Bali permission to return to his kingdom from Patala, once every year, to be in the midst of his people. This day is celebrated as the Onam festival.

Onam commemorates the homecoming of the great asura King Maha Bali from Patala Loka.