This year Onam festival in Kerala lost its glitter because of Covid-19 pandemic!!

Kerala: Onam,2020 greetings

Onam festival, Kerala, slideshare  

Onam pookolam (rangoli) with flowers, Kerala

The festive activities, fanfare, hustle and bustle of Kerala's  most popular traditional 10 day festival, Onam  (31st  of August).often referred as the season of plenty are missing this year  Not only in Kerala but also in other states like Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra,  various  festivities associated with countless temples were either very much restricted or held briefly. Across Kerala one could notice  lack of  enthusiasm during the Onam festival season; but it never dampened their religious fervor. The prevalence of Covid-19 pandemic since the early beginning of this year has turned many parts of the world upside down, affecting the global  economy, jobs, businesses, day-to-day life, etc. India, second most populous country in the world faces high risk in the present pandemic  situation.

Onam festival marks the annual return  of King Mahabali to the state  of Kerala (from Pathala Loka)  he once ruled. People there hold him in high esteem and give him warm welcome on this day. He was banished to the neither world by God Mahavishnu who took the avatar of a Vamana (dwarf) sage and demanded from him three strides of land. When granted, the lord grew in size touching heaven and earth.  With two strides, he measured the earth and the sky, for the third stride king Mahabali, being a man of word, gave his head to the God who pushed him down the earth. The lord, pleased with his amazing charity, blessed him with a place close to him and allowed him to visit his land (Kerala) every year in the Malayalam month of  Chingam (22 nakshtra). The 10th day - Onam day is the most important one.

In India where there are numerous religious and temple festivals because of Covid-19, the places of worship in this land  have taken a beating and they look deserted, devoid of  glitter and the glow of devotion. With temple festivities relegated to the backseat, the most affected are those vendors associated such festivities and temples. They are in a state of despair, stoically experiencing agony because of government restrictions on temple celebrations that will normally  attract lots of people to the temple. The crowded places will be prone to easy spread of  the virus. and people welcome the initiatives taken by the state and central governments. The poor people' family  members are  living a hand to mouth life with little or no income. In India, some states report low incidence of virus infection and some high incidence of infection as each day passing by. In such a health-risk  scenario, till the end of this year, the people have to forget about religious gatherings and participation in the temple festivals.

As for Onam festival in Kerala, this year countless Hindu temples such as the ones in Thrissur, Guruvayur, Sabarimala, etc have  no big gathering of devotees because of concerns of safety and spread of virus that can be contracted easily.  During the Onam festivities, common people could miss embroidered resplendent off-white kasavu saris, mouth-watering nentheram chips, plenty of floral designs, etc. The most disheartening news is snake boat races (Vallam Kali), in the placid rivers of Kerala are not held.  Kaikottikali dance by women,  Pulikali (folk dance in the disguise of a tiger) and other dance and art forms native  to Kerala are off the list. On the festival day,  women look impressive  with  Kasavu  sari (native to Kerala) and men look dapper in white Veshti (dhoti) and shirt. At home, the extended course of meal  (Sadya- 26 veg. food preparations) of big meal is reduced to half as the relatives and family members are very much restricted to visit them causing the family atmosphere gloomy.The cultural events are not allowed. .
In short, everywhere, the spirit of Onam is way down. The state Chief minister aptly said, ''Festivals will be there in coming years also. But we can’t open our gates to the waiting enemy now, so we have to be extra vigilant,”The pandemic virus being around, the festivities have become a low-key affair and the people across Kerala, Tamil Nadu, etc have no qualms about it, considering the safety of the local communities who will be  at risk when facing a churning crowd. Though they do not like self-quarantine as one of my elderly realities put it. "It is like being in a prison  and I can not go to the temple when desired; my soul is jailed."  The celebrations that began on 22 August will come to a close on 2nd September.