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Today, with 25 million people, Kerala is not only one of the most densely populated of all Indian states, but also the most advanced in 
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Onam festivities

Sep 10.  Heavy rain and overcast skies are playing spoilsport with Onam festivities this year in Kerala. With rains continue to lash almost all parts of the state, Onam shopping this year has meant walking on slushy streets. 

But the spirit of Onam looked undaunted as a large number of people was seen shopping unmindful of rains.

‘The rains did affect Onam. Festivities lost vigour. The streets look very dull,’ said Aparna Warrier, a homoeopathic physician, as she readied for the festivities.

Onam is the biggest and the most important festival of the state of Kerala. It is a harvest festival and is celebrated with joy and enthusiasm all over the state by people of all communities. According to a popular legend, the festival is celebrated to welcome King Mahabali, whose spirit is said to visit Kerala at the time of Onam. 

Onam is celebrated in the beginning of the month of Chingam, the first month of Malayalam Calendar (Kollavarsham). This corresponds with the month of August-September according to Gregorian Calendar. 

Carnival of Onam lasts from four to ten days. First day, Atham and tenth day, Thiruonam are most important of all. Popularity and presentation of rich culture of the state during the carnival made Onam the National Festival of Kerala in 1961. Elaborate feasts, folk songs, elegant dances, energetic games, elephants, boats and flowers all are a part of the dynamic festival called Onam. 

Government of India has taken due notice of this vibrant and colorful festival. It promotes Onam internationally in a big way and celebrates 'Tourist Week' for Kerala during Onam celebrations. Thousands of domestic and foreign tourists visit Kerala to be a part of Onam

‘We have completed most of our shopping. We will have sadya (Onam feast) for four days. Therefore we have to go out to the market for buying provisions and the rain is a real dampener.’

The rain is a more serious matter for street vendors. For them, it makes a difference between earning or not earning anything that day.

‘I am coming to Kerala for the last 10 years. This year sales are very dull due to the rains. All people are going to big shops for making their purchases,’ said Pir Muhammed, a native of Erode in Tamil Nadu selling garments on a roadside in Kozhikode.

‘I paid Rs.8,000 to the local authorities to get the licence to put up this temporary shed. I don’t know what how it will end,’ said Muhammed, frustrated with the ways of nature.

In the rubber belts of central Kerala, this Onam is being welcomed with an upbeat mood as the price of rubber now stands at an all time high. ‘Last year, during Onam the entire region was in the grip of chikungunya epidemic. It is true that now the rubber price is at all time high. But no one is ready for a spending spree as we don’t know when the price will crash,’ said Martin Kurian, who owns a four-acre rubber plantation at Kanjirappally in Kottayam district.

On the hospitality front, hotels are getting ready with the special feast for Onam. But with holy month of Ramadan coinciding with Onam, some hotels in areas with sizeable Muslim populations have dropped the plans for feasts during the daylight hours.

‘This year Ramadan coincided with Onam. I don’t remember when this happened before. This is a period of fasting for Muslims, therefore we have cancelled our plans for Ona Sadya (Onam feast),’ Karun Radhakrishnan, general manager of Hyson Heritage, a hotel in Kozhikode told IANS.

‘Usually most of our customers for the Onam feast are Muslims. This year they will not turn up as they are observing Ramadan,’ he added.

Kerala, which tops the chart for per capita alcohol consumption in the country, is also ready to meet the surge in demand for liquor in the season. The liquor shops under the Kerala State Beverages Corporation (KSBC), the sole wholesalers of Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL) and beer in the state, are all well stocked. The KSBC officials say they expect sales to touch Rs.2 billion during the 10-day festival. Last year, KSBC’s sale during Onam was Rs 1.44 billion. 

To add to the festivities, the government is also organising a large number of Onam programmes across the state. The government launched its state-level celebrations at state-capital Thiruvananthapuram Tuesday. According to the tourism department which is organising the programme, the main feature of this year’s celebrations will be the village sports items connected to Onam which are on the verge of extinction.

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