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Important Facts For Prelims

Onam Festival

  • 01 Sep 2020
  • 3 min read

Why in News

Recently, the festival Onam was celebrated across Kerala.

Key Points

  • The Festival: Onam is a major harvest festival in Kerala and is celebrated to honour the home-coming of Asura king Mahabali who brought about peace and prosperity in Kerala.
  • Time: It is one of the three major festivals of Kerala, celebrated during the month of Chingam, the first month in the Malayalam calendar, Kollavarsham.
    • The other two major festivals of the state are Vishu and Thiruvathira.
    • The 10-day harvest festival begins on Atham (first day of Onam) and concludes on Thiruvonam (last day).
  • Celebration: Onam is celebrated by making Pookkalam (the flower rangolis). Other rituals are also performed which includes-Vallam Kali (the boat races), Pulikali (the tiger dances), Kummattikali (mask dances), Onathallu (martial arts), among others.
    • The main attraction is the traditional Onam sadhya (grand feast).
  • God vs Demon Story:
    • Battles between demons and gods are familiar to people everywhere. Gods emerging victorious over evil is an inseparable part of these battles.
    • In India, too, these victories are celebrated in different parts of the country over the years. E.g. Rama is good, Ravana is evil. Durga is good, Mahishasur is evil.
    • However, an exception to this has been the battle between Mahabali (Asura or demon) and Vamana (avatar of Vishnu), where Mahabali is revered as the unchallenged King of Malayalis.
      • There are a few isolated places in India where demons are worshiped. E.g. There are some areas in Bihar and Bengal where Mahishasur is king of Asur tribes.
    • Historians see these fights between god and demon in the context of fights between brahmins and non-brahmins and tribals in the past.

Asur Tribe

  • Asur is among the 9 Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups found in Jharkhand and are Austro-Asiatic in origin.
    • Besides Jharkhand, members of the tribe live in pockets of Bihar, West Bengal and a few other states.
    • The 2011 Census put the number of Asur at 22,459 in Jharkhand and 4,129 in Bihar.
  • The Asurs claim to be descendants of Mahishasur, the buffalo-demon whom Goddess Durga kills after a spirited fight lasting nine nights.
    • It’s this mythology in mainstream Hinduism that’s celebrated in the form of the nine-day-long Durga Puja, but observed as ‘Mahishasur Dasain’ among the Asurs, who hold a period of mourning during which they largely stay indoors.
  • They celebrate festivals like Sarhul, Karma, Dhanbuni, Kadelta, Rajj karma, Dasahara Karam.

Source: PIB

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