Harvest festival Onam celebrated
: People in south Indian state of Kerala are celebrating Onam on Wednesday, the rice harvest festival that also marks the homecoming of legendary emperor Mahabali.
Onam is an ancient festival of the Hindus but over the time it has acquired a secular character in Kerala.
The rice harvest festival and the festival of rain flowers, which fell on the Malayalam month of Chingam, celebrated the Demon King Mahabali's annual visit from Patala (the underworld).
President Pranab Mukherjee and Vice President Hamid Ansari greeted the nation on the occasion of Onam.
In his message, Mukherjee said: "On the joyous occasion of Onam, I offer my warm felicitations and heartiest greetings to all my brothers and sisters belonging to Kerala."
"This unique festival brings out the rich cultural heritage of Kerala in it's best form and spirit. The auspicious occasion is marked by a resolve to lead our lives by imbibing the virtues of truth, love, piety and humility.
"May this harvest festival instil in us the spirit of national integration and inspire us to work for further development of our country," he said.
In his message, Ansari said: "I extend my greetings and good wishes to the citizens of our country on the joyous occasion of Onam which marks the beginning of the harvest season."
"Celebrated with traditional gaiety, this auspicious festival plays an important role in uniting us in a common brotherhood. May the festival usher in peace, prosperity and happiness in the society and contribute in the nation's progress," he said.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh also greeted the people on Onam.
In a message, Singh said that Onam, which heralds the beginning of the harvest season is an occasion to celebrate the splendour and bounty bestowed by nature.
"The festival is a joyous tribute to the farmer and inspires to cherish our environment. May the festival bring joy, peace and prosperity to all," he said.
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Sushma Swaraj tweeted: "Happy Onam to you all."
Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi posted on Twitter: "Happy Onam to everyone! May this festival bring prosperity and enhance spirit of harmony and brotherhood in our nation."
Apart from political leaders, Bollywood stars also wished the country on Onam via the micro-blogging site.
Filmmaker and actor Farhan Akhtar said: "Happy Onam. Wish you all peace and joy."
Actor Madhuri Dixit-Nene wrote a small message on her Twitter homepage and said: "Happy Onam to all!!"
Singer Shreya Ghoshal wished her fans by saying: "Wishing all a very happy Onam. May loads of happiness and prosperity usher in ur lives."
Bollywood actor Anupam Kher tweeted: "Happy Onam to all. And I start my new Malayalam film NAYANA. Jai Ho. :)"
Actor Raveena Tandon said: "Happy Onam to all my friends!! God bless! Love and Happiness,may this be a super duper year for all!!"
Wishing his fans on the day of festivity, actor Neil Nitin Mukesh tweeted: "Wishing everyone a happy ONAM. God bless."
Filmmaker Madhur Bhandarkar said: "Wishing everyone a happy and prosperous Onam :)"
Onam is unique since Mahabali has been revered by the people of Kerala since prehistory.
As per mythology, Kerala was once ruled by the generous and virtuous ruler - King Mahabali or Maveli.
It was a period of all round prosperity, which became a reason to arouse the envy of the devas (gods in Heaven) and also due to the fact that King Mahabali was an asura; a member of the demon clan, who are bitter enemies of the devas.
And in the actions that followed, King Mahabali was sent to the nether world by Vamana - an incarnation of Lord Vishnu; one of the triumvirates.
Before sending to the nether world, Lord Vishnu granted Mahabali the permission to visit his subjects once in a year.
This occasion is celebrated by all Keralites as Onam.
And the agrarian backdrop of Onam is attributed to that time of the year (the Malayalam month of Chingam), when farmers of Kerala enjoy a good harvest, resulting in granaries full of rice grain and happiness all around.
Onam celebrations are held for ten days, beginning with the athamasterism in the Malayalam month of Chingam - corresponding to the months of Aug-Sept.
Flower carpet decorations, feasting and snake boat races are part of the festivity besides Kaikottikkali dance.
Pookkalam or floral design is the hall mark of Onam festival. Kerala Tourism has presented an innovative pookkalam, a fascinating video gallery, composed of 600 amazing video clips that flaunt the breath and spirit of Kerala.
Onam also gets a royal touch with the elephant ride that takes place at Thrissur, the cultural capital of Kerala. Decked in gold, the favourite animal of royals of India looks even more magnificent.
In Kerala, everyone is seen wearing brand new clothes and greeting each other on the occasion.
The food of Onam is special and 'sadya' is a dish that is served on plantain leaf comprising rice, curries and different types of sweet.
Several fairs, shows and other functions are also planned during Onam.