Thiruvananthapuram: Keralites on Wednesday celebrated their biggest and most-awaited harvest festival, Onam with traditional fervour and gaiety, shrugging off the frightening memories of horrendous floods that had washed away their festival dreams last year.
Tight security in the wake of a terror attack warning and incessant rains in some places did not dampen the overall festive mood and ecstatic spirit of the people.
Special security arrangementwas put in place at all major festival venues across the state based on a recent information received by the Army thatthere may be a terror attack in southern parts of the country.
Though Onam has a Hindu myth behind it, it has assumed a secular dimension over the centuries and people, cutting across caste, class and religion, are taking part in the celebrations in unison.
Wearing "onakkodi' (new cloths), people decorated their homes with 'pookkalam' (floral decks) to welcome mythical king Mahabali, the righteousdemon king who is believed to visit his subjects on the auspicious 'thiruvonam' day of the Chingam month in the Malayalam calendar.
Legend has it that the Devas (Gods), who were envious of Mahabali's popularity, managed to get him pushed down to the netherworld with the support of Lord Vishnu.
But he was allowed to return to Kerala on Thiruvonam day every year and Keralites celebrate Onam as the homecoming of the mythical king reviving the memories of his bygone reign known forpeace, prosperityand equality.
Sumptuous feast, popularly known as 'sadya', was prepared in homes with a large number of traditional dishes and sweet delicacies serving on plantain leaves.
Special 'thiruvona sadya' was offered at major temples including Sree Padmanabhas Swamy Temple here for devotees to mark the occasion.
A host of traditional sports like 'onapanthu' and 'thalapanthu' (ball games), 'vadamvali' (tug of war), 'uriyadi (breaking the swinging earthen pot) and 'oonjalattam' (playing on swings) followed the feast in many places especially in villages.
Local clubs and residence associations have organised several such games and cultural programmes to entertain people and to make the festival a memorable occasion.
As a rampaging monsoon had claimed over 400 lives and destroyed houses and livelihood of people with many housed in relief camps, festivities were the last thing to come up in the minds of Keralites last year.
Though over hundred people had lost their lives and a large number of houses were destroyed or damaged, the state government has decided to go ahead with its Onam celebrations this year as it would help people overcome the traumatic experience and focus on putting their lives back on track.
PresidentRam Nath Kovind, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah were among the top leaders who wished people a happy and prosperous Onam through social media.
Interestingly, all of them chose the language, Malayalam, the mother tongue of the Keralites, to wish people during the occasion.
In a tweet, Kovind said "greetings and good wishes to fellow citizens, particularly to our brothers and sisters from Kerala in India and abroad, on Onam.
May this harvest festival bring immense joy and prosperity to each one of us."
Modi tweeted that the Onam may further the spirit of happiness, well-being and prosperity in the society.
The day also witnessed a hunger strike in front of the office of the state Public Service Commission (PSC) here by a group of Malayalam language lovers demanding the agency to conduct all recruitment examinations in Malayalam.
The week-long Onam celebrations, organised by the stage government got off to a colourful start last evening with the musical performance of national award-winning playback singer,S Chitra