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Covid-19 robs sheen off Onam, but Keralites celebrate festival with gaiety

Though high voltage festivities were missing, houses were as usual decorated with beautiful "pookkalam", the floral carpets and sumptuous 'sadhya' was prepared by homemakers on the Thiruvonam day today to mark the homecoming of righteous king Mahabali.

A man lays out flowers for sale by a roadside anticipating customers during the Onam festival in Kochi, Kerala state, India,. (Source: AP Photo/R S Iyer)

Amidst continuing concerns of increased COVID-19 cases and high Test Positivity Rate (TPR), Keralites on Saturday celebrated a low-key Thiru Onam, avoiding the usual mass festivities, but without losing the traditional gaiety and pomp.

It is for the second consecutive year that the pandemic has taken the sheen out of the biggest festival of the southern state and forced the people to celebrate it indoor. In fact, Onam was affected since 2018 when the state witnessed the flood of the century in August that year. The state had witnessed similar natural disasters including landslide during the Onam season in 2019 also.

Though high voltage festivities were missing, houses were as usual decorated with beautiful “pookkalam”, the floral carpets and sumptuous ‘sadhya’ was prepared by homemakers on the Thiruvonam day today to mark the homecoming of righteous king Mahabali.

The practice of elders gifting ‘onakkodi’ (new dress) to other family members, preparation of tongue-tickling banana chips and putting up Oonjal (high swings) in the courtyards also continued without any fail, especially in villages.

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However, majority of people avoided mass family gatherings and visits to the houses of friends and relatives considering the health department directives.

The display of traditional art forms and games, which was a colourful part of the Onam festivities, were missing this year also.

Though major hotels have prepared Onam feast with an array of traditional delicacies promising home delivery, the number of takers were generally less, industry sources said.

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The Atham festival, which heralds the start of the 10-day Onam festivities, was also held in the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic.

An array of dignitaries including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu, Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi, Priyanaka Gandhi, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal wished people of the state happy Onam.

“Best wishes on the special occasion of Onam, a festival associated with positivity, vibrancy, brotherhood and harmony. I pray for everyone’s good health and wellbeing,” Modi tweeted.

First published on: 21-08-2021 at 14:19 IST
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