Onam: A festival of celebrating unity in diversity
India is a land of immense diversity in terms of caste, creed, religion and cultures and this diversity makes the nation a unique one. ‘Onam’ is one of the major festivals in the southern state of Kerala that celebrates this diversity irrespective of caste and religion cutting across the barriers of such differences. Originally a Hindu festival, Onam is celebrated with great grandeur and prosperity to welcome the Asura king ‘Mahabali’ who returns during the celebration to visit his people whom once he ruled according to Hindu mythology. It is a strong belief to stay happy and enjoy the festival in its full glory to give a warm welcome to the king Mahabali during his visit. Beautiful and fragrant ‘Pookalams’ (flower art) are created in the front courtyard of every house as part of the celebration. Special delicacies including curries, sweets, salads, rice, etc. are served for lunch which is enjoyed together by the family. A special meal platter called ‘Sadya’ which is a flavourful amalgam of dishes like the sweet payasam, mix vegetable curry called Avial, other curries and papadam, banana chips, pickle, salad, buttermilk, to name a few is relished by everyone together. The peculiar and beautiful feature of the Onam festival is that it is rejoiced by people across religions and castes. Hindus together with Christians and Muslims in harmony with each other make the celebration of this festival a great example of brotherhood. Unity lies at the heart of sustainable development and hence serves as a transformative pathway to achieve global SDG goals. Unity in diversity as part of Onam celebration is just one of the examples of communal harmony and partnerships in celebrations across the country.
Every year, the people of Kerala celebrate Onam with much zeal and enthusiasm. The festival is even more special this year and in its full glory after a gap of two years of pandemic and the people are ready to bask into the celebration. Community Agro-biodiversity Centre of MSSRF at Wayanad also celebrated the festival together with great excitement. From early morning, everyone gathered together and made the beautiful and colourful ‘Pookalam’ in the premises to commemorate the festive occasion. Men in white dhotis and Women in graceful Kerala sarees graced the premises for the celebration. A short ‘Tiruvadhira’ dance was also performed as part of the celebration. Everyone exchanged their wishes and delicious ‘Sadya’ with lip smacking dishes was relished by everyone together. In the afternoon, plenty of joyful and entertaining games and activities were organized for the staff including ‘Bindi on forehead’, ‘tug of war’, ‘lemon spoon race’, ‘matki phod’ and many more. Participating together in such exciting activities together made the occasion a memorable one especially where staff from other regional centres from Kerala also joined. Towards the end, entertainment got doubled with singing and dance performances as well. Dr. Shakeela V., Director and Dr. Anil Kumar also expressed their gratitude for everyone and wished everyone a cheerful and festive Onam ahead.
M S Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) established in 1988 is a not-for-profit trust. MSSRF was envisioned and founded by Professor M S Swaminathan, agriculture scientist with proceeds from the First World Food Prize that he received in 1987.