Onam brings about a sense of family bonding in Kerala, which is equalled only by cricket.
Entire families (for the uninitiated, Kerala mostly follows a close-knit, joint family system) get together on this special day. Or days, depending upon how you celebrate it. Onam is actually a 10 day festival, but the last day, or Thiruvonam, is the most important.
When is Onam, again?
Onam is based on the malayalam calendar, and the tenth day of Thiruvonam is on ‘thiruvonam nakshatram’ in the month of ‘chingam’. Translating this to good, old Gregorian means that this falls on different dates each year.
For 2015, Thiruvonam is on the 28th of August.
The Onam of 2012
In my case, the Onam of 2012 was a very special episode for me, because I was celebrating it with my family after 5 years. The gravity of work and travel had kept me away from Onam for a long time, but since I had recently resigned from my previous employment, I was available for it this year.
If anyone said that hometown vacations are relaxing, I might give him or her the chokehold, or a finger at least. The fact that you are going to be around for only a few days, means that you have to take the time out to visit all the relatives you can cram into a day, eat till your tummy explodes, and then escort your parents wherever they wish to go. And if it is Onam, you are also bound to have your cousins around, and you cannot refuse their requests to go around town, and showcase their big elder brother.
So there I was, dead tired after completing my resignation requirements, facing all my visiting cousins who are not going to have breakfast unless I agree to take them out-of-town. And my parents, who obviously didn’t want to be left behind when their eldest son is in town, will need to join as well. Between breakfast and a total breakdown, I choose the former. Thus we began the road trip to two of the oldest forts in northern Kerala.
The Bekal fort – Kasargode
The Bekal fort in Kasargode was made popular by the movie ‘Bombay’, with an anxious Manisha Koirala running around the fort during a drizzle, to meet her lover. On this given day, there was no Manisha Koirala or lover at the Bekal. But the rain was there already.
We moved around the fort, taking pictures and getting a good walk and work out, before our legs gave up, and we headed further south to Kannur.
St. Angelo’s fort – Kannur
St.Angelo’s fort in Kannur may not have had its share of Bollywood, but to its credit, there were some good malayalam movies shot here, most recently ‘Anwar‘ and ‘PazhassiRaja‘. And to me, this fort was actually more expansive and detailed, with a very elaborate jail room.
Unlike Bekal, St. Angelo fort was an important part of the Portuguese history of Kerala, having been built by Francisco De Almeida, who was the first Portuguese viceroy of India. Later, the Dutch and local kings ruled this fort, until the British arrived, who continued to maintain it till Indian independence in 1947.
As the story goes, after all this, we were tired enough to head back home to thoroughly enjoy the important sadya (feast), without which no Onam would ever be complete.
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