In his message, President Pranab Mukherjee said, "On the festive occasion of Onam, I convey my heartiest greetings and best wishes to fellow countrymen, especially to my brothers and sisters from Kerala."
    
He said Onam coincides with the harvest season and marks joyful completion of human efforts with a prayerful optimism for the future.
    
The President said people regardless of religions or community celebrated the festival with an equal joy, which underlined the secular fabric of our society.
    
"This unique festival brings out the rich cultural heritage of Kerala in its best form and spirit. On this day, may the joy of Kerala extend to the whole of India," he said.
    
Vice-President Hamid Ansari in his message said that the mood of rejoicing is vividly captured in the rituals and festivities associated with the festival, which transcends all barriers.
    
"I extend my warm greetings to all on the joyous occasion of Onam... May this festival bring prosperity and harmony in our lives," Ansari said.
    
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh also greeted the people on the occasion, saying he hoped the festival would bring happiness and prosperity for all.
    
In his message, Singh said, "Onam is a celebration of life and hope and a remembrance of the legendary and joyous past. The festival... is a mark of the secular traditions of Kerala."

Malayalees celebrate Onam

Traditional fervour and gaiety marked the celebration of Onam festival in Kerala though soaring prices of essential commodities in the run-up to the grand event dampened people's spirit.
 
People in their new attires visited temples and offered prayers early in the morning. All major temples, including the famous hill shrine of Lord Ayappa at Sabarimala, Sree Krishna Temple at Guruvayour and Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple here witnessed heavy rush of devotees.
 
Onam is celebrated to honour King Mahabali, who according to legend ruled the state once, under whom the people were equal, prosperous and happy.
   
People believe that it was on this particular day of Thiruvonam in the Malayalam calender month of Chingam when Lord Mahavishnu took his fifth avatar as Vaamana, appeared in the kingdom of King Mahabali and sent him to nether world.
 
According to legend on Thiruvonam day, the spirit of King Mahabali visits the people of Kerala. Hence the day is marked by feast and festivities.
       
Flower mats (Pookalam) were laid in houses and family members enjoyed the grand feast (Onasadya). Cultural programmes organized by various institutions also marked Onam celebrations.
      
However, high price of food items cast a shadow on the festivities. The saying that 'Kannamvittum Onam Unnaanm' (One should have a good feast even by selling his land) seems to have come true during this Onam, with skyrocketing prices of food items dampening the festive spirit to a great extent.
 
Long queues of people were seen at the fair-price shops opened by State Civil Supplies Corporation, Horticorp and Consumerfed, as part of government efforts to control spiralling prices in the open market.
       
People also complained that various outlets opened by these agencies did not have enough stocks and 'many' had to return with empty bags.
       
High price of vegetables, the main ingredient of the various curries served during the feast, literally put the households in tight spot.
       
However, unmindful of everything, the tipplers in the state took to their own way of celebrating the festival, evident by the long queues in front of liquor shops and the rush in bars.
   
Similarly, in the last few days, unfazed by rising prices of goods, large number of people had made a beeline to shops selling electronics gadgets, washing machines, fridges and clothes, as most of them had offered festival discounts for their products.
       
The annual tourism week celebrations, being organized by the Kerala State Tourism Department as part of the Onam festival started on Saturday last.
       
Various dance, music and stage events as part of the tourism week would be held in different places in the city.  The festivities would come to a close on September 20. Events are also being organized in all district headquarters as part of the tourism week.
 
The day also saw protest in front of secretariat here with some tribal leaders staging a sit-in dharna to highlight the alleged government failure to check the death of infants in Attapaddy tribal belt of Palakkad district.

(Agencies)

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