Thiruvananthapuram: Flowers brought in truckloads from Tamil Nadu, take-home 'sadya' and even plastic floral carpets, Kerala's traditional harvest festival Onam, just three days away, has largely become a 'ready-made' event in "God's own country."
Onam commemorates the Utopian past of Malayalis when they were subjects of mythical king Mahabali, who was banished to netherworld by Lord Vishnu at the behest of envious "Devas." But people feel that the festival has lost much of its beauty and grace.
Eminent poet and environmentalist Sugathakumari says Onam has become yet another "consumer utsav" for Malayalis. "For generations, Onam was not just another festival for Malayalis. It was the celebration of our culture and tradition," she said.
"But, everything has changed now. It has become the celebration of discount sales of textile shops and competition to lure viewers by local television channels," she said.
Despite heavy rains battering the state during the runup to the festival, people have begun to throng shops to buy new clothes and gifts. Though "dry" days are ahead for the tipplers in Kerala with the Government deciding to drastically reduce liquor availability, the deadline for downing shutters of bars have been stretched to mid-September after Onam.
Many of them search for handy solutions for preparing feast and laying floral carpets, the inevitable adjuncts of Onam for Keralites. A wide range of ready-to-use things from hotel-made 'sadya' (traditional feast) with plastic 'plantain' leaves to serve the mouth-watering dishes have become the inthing of the season.
Big hotels and caterers lure gourmets with elaborate lists of dishes they offer with charges ranging from Rs 150-450 per leaf. Many caterers offer home delivery during 'Thiruvonam' day on September 7, the most auspicious day of the festival, when Mahabali revisits his subjects.
As fast-paced urbanisation and deforestation have taken a huge toll on local flowering plants, Keralite rely almost entirely on Tamil Nadu and Karnataka for flowers to make 'pookkalam'.
Dealers source a variety of flowers from places like Thovalai in Kanyakumari district in Tamil Nadu, which was once part of the princely state of Travancore.