This time of the year is where we all have been eagerly waiting to welcome “Mahabali”, as you all are aware much awaited COMA Onam celebrations is around the corner, behind the scenes our volunteers are working hard to make the Onam celebration a grand success. We hope all of you will get to enjoy this beautiful festival with your family and friends.
Reflections or Ramblings (Edition-2) by Hari Narayanaswami.
I won’t expect anyone to disagree with me if I say there is a world of difference between Kerala and Ohio. We are at least 7000 miles apart to start with and Ohio winter is not too far out in case you haven’t noticed! But, usually in August as the summer starts waning and the sunny evenings leave an orange glow in the western sky, with few clouds hanging around in the sky to add a shade to the glow, Ohio does remind me of my late summer evenings in Kerala. I used to enjoy the leisurely walk in my neighborhood on those late May evenings, with the glow of setting sun still hanging in the sky, an anticipation of upcoming rains hanging somewhere silently in the breeze and the unbridled cacophony of birds sharing their day’s stories as they settle back in nests. (There weren’t these many vehicles honking away to glory and spoiling the ambiance at the time)
Undoubtedly the best time to be in Kerala is during the Onam. With the monsoons having taken a break, the nature looks like having emerged fresh from a shower and somehow everything suddenly looks positive all around. Something like a Christmas cheer settles in. Everyone appears to have forgotten the many difficulties of the scorching summer and the torrential rains of monsoon. Flowers are blooming, sky looks pristine blue and full moon nights are simply gorgeous. No wonder Keralites chose their biggest festival to be at this time. My pet peeve used to be the school quarterly tests, ‘ona pareeksha’, that were invariably scheduled right after the Onam vacation as the prime spoiler.
When did Keralites start celebrating Onam? The myths associated were interesting but the historical timeline of them didn’t exactly make sense to me. One myth said Kerala was created when the sea withdrew for the length Parasurama threw his axe from Gokarnam.
According to Purana, this is supposed to have happened in the third of the four Yugas called Threta Yuga. Kerala’s favorite emperor Mahabali, the key legend of Onam belonged to the Krita Yuga, few millennia before Parasurama. Obviously the stories didn’t gel though I still loved both these myths. Thinking outside of this myth, one has to wonder where exactly did these key characteristics of Onam like the reminiscence of a golden past, the hope and anticipation that those days will come back once again, actually originate from? I had to dig into Kerala’s history to find a sensible answer that at least made logical sense to me.
Kerala’s trading history goes way into the past and the region is considered to be the source of spices and essences used by Egyptians, Babylonians and even King Solomon of Israel. Ptolemy in 2nd century AD refers to ‘Kerala puttar’ and famous ports in Kerala like Musiris and Thondi. The history of spice trades with Arabs, Romans and Chinese could be traced back to late centuries of BCE. However, the first time Kerala saw a really powerful empire that unified it to a good extend was in the 8th entry CE. This was the second Chera Empire of the Kulasekharas that was established with the capital of ‘Mahodayapuram’ which is supposed to be somewhere near today’s Kochi. The first Chera empire in the early centuries of AD is mentioned in the Sangham poetry of Tamil Nadu. Their capital is known as ‘Vanchi’ is supposed to have been close to today’s Kodungalloor.
A number of famous kings including the vaishnava saint Kulasekhara Alwar as well as Sthanu Ravi Varma were part of the second Chera dynasty. Most of the Kings were scholars, people oriented and supporters of art and literature.
The glorious period of the second Chera dynasty, a flourishing period of no war and total social amity, lasted until beginning of 11th century when the Chola kings decided to invade. Though the Chola king Kulothungan didn’t completely overthrow the Chera state, he did manage to weaken it significantly, move them out of Mahodayapuram and destroy that city. After the dissolution of the dynasty, the land of Kerala was broken down into small chiefdoms called as ‘nadu’ and were ruled by local chieftains.
My romantic thinking leads me to believe that this is the time period when the Onam festival originated. A festival of hope for a distressed people living in difficult conditions, reminiscing on the glories of the past when there was no shortage for food, a powerful and able administrator was in charge and there were no worries of safety and security. Whether I am right or wrong about this, the Onam festival has to say something about the spirit of this ‘God’s own country’ where people come together as one in times of need, overcoming all their divisions and spreading hopes of a better tomorrow. On a lighter note, look at how many decades Keralites have voted alternatively right and left in elections and each time expected a new beginning with their Government. We, Keralites never lose hope!!
Onam greetings to each and everyone of you and looking forward to see you at this year’s COMA Onam festival!
Trip to United States of America – By Malathy Nair
COMA Onam Celebration
The wait is over! Tickets for COMA Onam Celebrations 2019 is open now. The event is on Saturday, September 14th at Westerville North High School. In addition to the sumptuous Sadya, many cultural and fun programs are planned. The venue will be open from 11:00 AM and Sadya will promptly start at 11:30 AM. Cultural programs will start at 1:30 PM.
Click below for more details and purchasing tickets: https://www.comaohio.org/onam-2019/
If you are NOT a COMA Member yet, click on the below link to become a member and receive reduced ticket prices for Onam and Christmas events.
We would like to remind you all that Malayalam class will resume on Sunday, September 22nd (Time: 11:00 AM to noon) at the same venue as last year, Lazelle Woods Community Center, 8140 Sancus Blvd, Columbus, OH 43215). We are very excited to start the adult class and are looking forward to another great year. For registration, please send an email with your/child’s detail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Giving back to Kerala:
As communicated earlier, COMA has started an initiative to give back to Kerala. We are very happy that the idea is welcomed by our community and thankful to all of you who supported with your generous donations. If you missed the earlier communication, please see ‘Giving back to Kerala’ for more details and payment methods. Please remember that together, we can make some real meaningful differences in people’s lives.
Meals on Wheels Volunteers
- Jul 14 ‘2019 – Roopesh Sathyan, Sandeep Nair, Sunitha Sandeep
- Jul 18 ‘2019 – Ashish, Abhi, and Adithya Muthiraparambath
- Aug 11 ‘2019 – Valsan, Hrishi, and Niranjan Namboodhiri.
- Aug 25 ‘2019 – Mary Eapen,Keziah Uthup and Marissa Uthup
- Sep 8 ‘ 2019 – Saira Nawaz,Razvi Razack
North South Foundation Columbus