Speech at the Onam celebration organised by Bhopal Malayalee Association Bhopal dated 28-8-1985
Onam, like other festivals in different parts of the country is born from the hearts of the people. It is an expression of their joy and happiness.
India is a country with a rich cultural heritage unique in diversity and its unity. Its many facets which depict India’s history, religion and her great spiritual heritage, contribute to the making of our civilisation. From the earliest days, this civilisation has been sustaining and reinforcing itself by assimilating new ideas. It is this cultural heritage which binds us together.
You go to any part of India, you will find festivals as expressions of joy and happiness. They are closely interwoven into our cultural heritage. Our music, our paintings, our dances are expressions of happiness in different forms. You will find a common rhythm in them and in almost all cultural activities. Be it in Kerala or in any other part of the country, there is a basic similarity of rhythm in our aesthetic expressions. At the same time, there is great diversity in presentation.
Kerala has its own traditions, its own rich heritage which has contributed considerably to the enrichment of Indian culture. The greatest contribution is that of Shankaracharya who presented to the world one of the profoundest spiritual and philosophical treatises.
Provincial festivities of this type help us to understand the contribution of each State to the national heritage. Every festival is an occasion for people to come together and understand each other. The festivals of West Bengal, Gujarat and Maharashtra help us to understand their contribution to our heritage. Through Onam we recall an ideal social order of a remote past and remember an exemplary ruler in whose reign there was no crime, no injustice, no unhappiness, inequality. The gods became jealous of such a ruler. They went to the Supreme Being and requested him to get rid of King Mahabali. The Supreme Being, disguised as a dwarf Brahmin, Vamana, went to Mahabali and begged for three feet of land. Mahabali readily promised to give him the land from his kingdom. Vamana covered the whole of the earth with his first step and the whole universe and pathala, the nether world, with his second step. When there was no place for the third step, he asked Mahabali, “Where shall I measure my third foot ?”. Mahabali requested the Brahmin to put his third step on his head. And, so he did. When Mahabali was about to be pushed down, he made a request to the Supreme Being, “Allow me to make one annual visit to my people”. Every year, on Onam Day, Mahabali is believed to visit his people. The people try to show him that they are living as happily as they did in the good old days. So, Onam has become an occasion for expression of joy and happiness with complete abandon.