Maximilian Schroff – Weekly Report No.3
Before starting a trip for a whole month to India, firstly this sounds like a very long time. But now I have come to the end of my third week and realized that the time flies. And after just getting used to this completely new life, I have to leave soon. But I won’t let this idea destroy my now even more precious time.
In the letter to Jay and Len Vögele of last Friday, I have mentioned the Onam Celebration. In the following I want to go into more detail about this very special Celebration.
The earliest record of the festival is found during the reign of Kulasekhara Perumals around AD 800. And according to the legend an Asura (demon) king called Mahabali ruled Kerala. He was a wise, benevolent and judicious ruler and beloved of his subjects. Soon his fame as an able king began to spread far and wide, but when he extended his rule to the heavens and the netherworld, the gods felt challenged and began to fear his growing powers.
Presuming that he might become over-powerful, Indra, king of all gods, pleaded with Vishnu (similar to devil) to curtail Mahabali’s powers. Vishnu transformed himself into a dwarf called Vamana and asked Mahabali for help. Thereupon Mahabali granted him a wish.
Vamana asked only for three paces of land and the king agreed to it. Vishnu in the guise of Vamana then increased his stature and with the first step covered the sky and with the second, the netherworld. Realizing that Vamana’s third step will cover the earth, Mahabali offered his head as the last step.
Vishnu’s third step pushed him to the netherworld, but before banishing him to the underworld Vishnu granted him a boon.
Since he was attached to his kingdom and his people, he was allowed to return once a year from exile. Onam is the celebration that marks the homecoming of King Mahabali. It is the day when a grateful Kerala pays a glorious tribute to the memory of this benign king who gave his all for his subjects. And is celebrated traditionally for ten days and combined with the harvest festival.
Last Sunday, 22.08.2015, 500 people celebrated Onam together in St.John’s.
Four teams were formed and we played, sang and danced together. There were various competitions starting by designing a pookalam (I have plucked blossoms the evening before until 11.30 pm) to a dance contest and even to simple competitions such as sack race.
This was a wonderful experience and I consider myself very lucky that I had the opportunity to be at this special time of the year in St.John’s.
And in case somebody of you is going to be in India once, then you have to create a pookalam (special arrangement of flowers) yourself, even though it is very exhausting, the result is breath taking.
With kind regards from India,