No gatherings, little enjoyable, a low-key sadhya: Malayalis’ Onam plans amid the pandemic


Onam, a competition celebrated with a number of fanfare, fervour and feasting by Malayalis in Kerala in addition to internationally, will likely be a low-key affair this yr, due to the pandemic. From dressing up in conventional apparel to feasting on sadhya, the annual celebrations have all the time occurred within the presence of household and pals. However in 2020, the mighty harvest competition could witness a muted 10-day festivity — that has already begun on August 22 and can finish September 2. There, nonetheless, is one thing to sit up for.

Whereas the celebrations can occur, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has urged individuals to remain at dwelling. “Police ought to be sure that social distancing is maintained by individuals who exit procuring. No public celebrations ought to be allowed,” he has stated.

As such, individuals have begun to improvise this yr.

For Sreebhash S Kutty from Vallikkunnu village in Kerala’s Malappuram district, the temper of the harvest competition is palpable from even earlier than the precise celebrations start. “The competition vibe is large in Kerala yearly. Actually, 10 days earlier than the competition, the preparations begin with a bang; individuals start cleansing their dwelling, adorning it and making some elaborate plans,” says the 35-year-old.

ALSO READ | ‘Onam is like an emotion’: Non-resident Keralites miss going dwelling amid the pandemic

As a part of the celebrations in Kerala, boat races (vallam kali), girls’s dance (thumbi thullal), tiger dances (pulikali), vibrant masked dance (kummattikali), music and dance routines are organized.

Whereas Sreebhash recollects how yearly Onam introduced collectively kin and pals, he rues that this yr, amid the pandemic, will probably be “minimal celebrations” on August 31, the primary Onam day, also called ‘Thiru Onam’. “Since everyone seems to be confined to their properties, get-togethers received’t be potential. Even the 15-20 dishes which might be normally part of the standard Onam sadhya, will likely be decreased to about three-four dishes that we are able to make at dwelling with the accessible substances,” says the MTech skilled, who lives along with his mom and sister.

onam festival 2020, pandemic onam, onam 2020, when is onam 2020, indianexpress.com, indianexpress, Anuja Nair (left) throughout one in every of her Onam performances. (Supply: Anuja Nair)

Giving us a peek into her celebrations, 31-year-old dancer Anuja Nair says that nothing is ever boring in regards to the competition that celebrates the homecoming of the legendary King Mahabali, “even when you find yourself not within the state of Kerala”. “Pune’s Onam festivities witness beautiful cultural occasions which deliver collectively kin, pals and communities for conventional dances, flower decorations and conventional apparel competitions,” says Anuja about Pune’s Kerala Samaj cultural occasions.

The standard flower preparations within the type of intricate floral carpets — additionally known as pookalam — are made from yellow and white flowers, and are designed in entrance of homes and neighborhood centres.

onam festival 2020, pandemic onam, onam 2020, when is onam 2020, indianexpress.com, indianexpress, Anuja Nair made this pookalam throughout earlier yr’s celebrations. (Supply: Anuja Nair)

Anuja is dissatisfied with the truth that this yr’s small-scale celebration “received’t actually be a celebration”. “There’s no enjoyable to Onam with out the presence of cousins, some video games, alternate of items and residential visits by friends,” she says.

Although the competition holds a number of significance historically, for individuals like Reshmi Nair, it has all the time been about “having a luxurious feast with household and kin beneath one roof”.

onam festival 2020, pandemic onam, onam 2020, when is onam 2020, indianexpress.com, indianexpress, Reshmi Nair (first from left) together with her household throughout Onam 2019. (Supply: Reshmi Nair)

“It’s that in the future for Mallus (Malayalis) when meals brings everybody collectively, no matter their faith or caste; everybody is just appreciative and pleased with their tradition,” says the 27-year-old.

The principle attraction of the competition is the ‘sadhya’, which is an elaborate feast comprising seasonal greens, mango and lime pickle, tamarind chutney and lots of different conventional recipes together with avial (a korma-based recipe with a mixture of potatoes, carrots, beans, uncooked mango and different issues), pachadi (made from coconut, curd, chillies and pineapple), amongst others, served neatly on a banana leaf.

“We will likely be getting ready the Onam sadhya for certain, but it surely received’t be as elaborate because it was, because it’s simply going to be me and my mother and father this time. The essential dishes like rice, sambar, parippu (kerala type dal), pachadi, avial, inji curry (ginger curry) and toran will likely be there, adopted by payasam. Had it been a daily Onam, there would have been extra aspect curries,” Reshmi remarks.

onam festival 2020, pandemic onam, onam 2020, when is onam 2020, indianexpress.com, indianexpress, Reshmi Nair will miss the grand Onam sadhya. (Supply: Reshmi Nair)

Whereas within the unlockdown section in lots of components of the nation — together with Delhi and its close by areas — sure restrictions have been lifted, there may be nonetheless a cap on the variety of friends and gatherings. “There received’t be any gatherings, because it’s not protected proper now. I’m undoubtedly going to overlook that,” says Reshmi, who lives in Faridabad.

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