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Ode To Sari-1   Part-2   Part-3   Part 4 Part 5 Part 6 Part 7 





 Aug 2015

Sari, the timeless Indian traditional clothing that finds numerous mention in our ancient Hindu scriptures, deserves to be celebrated. Hence our segment- "Ode to Sari".  Living in America, we don't not get enough opportunities to don this alluring 7-yard long Indian traditional garment, but we certainly don't miss an opportunity to co-ordinate and plan our sari parties, especially on traditional Hindu festivals .  

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 My fascination with Onam, the most important festival of Kerala, in South India. started when I met Siji Philips at my workplace. Herself a Christian who was born and raised in Kerala, Siji says you can't live in Kerala and not celebrate Onam, a Hindu festival. I guess its something like Hindu Americans celebrating Christmas. Siji introduced me to three aspects of Onam that I find riveting-

1. The story- 

Onam is celebrated to rejoice the return of King Mahabali. King Mahabali who ruled Kerala of ancient times, was known so because he was regarded as the king of kings. The kingdom prospered in his reign and the people were happy and safe. He was known for his generosity in giving. Once, to test the king, Vishnu took the form of a poor brahmin man and asked him for land. The king agreed to give him as much land as he wanted. The brahmin informed him that as much as he can cover in three steps. His wish was granted. Except that little man then turned huge, covering the entire land in his first step, the entire space in his second and asked the king where might he place his third step. The king realized this was no ordinary brahmin. Suspecting that he was lord Vishnu himself, the king bowed to him, offered his own head to place the third step on and requested him to show his true form. The lord obliged and the king lost his life at the hands (or rather- foot) of God. But not before granting Mahabali a boon at having passed the test, a boon that allowed him to visit Kerala once every year to be among his people. You guessed it- that time of year is Onam, the festival that is celebrated with enthusiasm and elaborate preparations to greet the beloved king. The second day of the festival, Thiruvonam, is the day when king Mahabali is said to visit the people that he so loved. 

2. The Food-

The people of Kerala are very passionate about the prodigious Onam lunch, called the onasadya or simply sadya. The meal includes some dozen items including avial, pineapple pachchady, payasam, etc. The elaborate meal is served on banana leaves. In fact, there is a saying in Malayalam, "Kanam Vittu Onam Unnanam", meaning- "sell property but have the Onam lunch".

3. The Kerala Sari-

Women of Kerala wear subtle and sophisticated Kerala saris that are extremely popular. These cotton saris are plain white or off-white with golden borders. These have become the attire of Malayalli women on onam.

(Photo credit: Siji Philips, seen below with her husband and daughter on Onam this year, Aug 28th 2015. On the right is Siji and her friends and family enjoying the sadya on banana leaves)


It was Mary Jacob's turn to host the monthly ladies night out evening in Dallas, Texas this September. Since she is originally from Kerala she decide on keeping Onam celebrations as the party theme to honor the biggest festival of Kerala even though she herself is a Christian. Needless to the say, the evening was a success as the ladies all came in cream colored saris with traditional borders. Some of the women were in authentic Kerala Saris which others flocked around to admire. The food from Kerala was delectable (watch out for recipes here very soon by Mary Jacob) and the ladies enjoyed placing jasmine flower buds (commonly used to make fresh flower-ornament in Kerala) on their hair.

(Photo below: From front-left: Mary Jacob (host), Jaya Chilakamarri, Susmitha Anganagari, Anita Reddy, Jyothi Charyulu, Supriya Patil, Sonal Kulshrestha, Kaylani Bhat, Bijal Haria, Geeta Sule, Debjani Banerjee, Manu Shahi, Sravi Wadawadigi, and Hina Dave.)

Authentic Kerala Saris (below and right). Photo Credit: Susmitha Anganagari, 2nd from left.

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Women with jasmine flower buds adorning their hair- Sonal Kulshrestha, Geeta Sule, Debjani Banerji. Photo Credit: Anitha Reddy 

By Sonal Kulshrestha
(Sonal is a programmer by profession and a writer by passion. She lives in Texas, USA)

(Do you have sari party pictures to share? If so, share them with‪#‎MySariParty‬ or #OdeToSari and we'll publish them on desideewar.com) 

ode to indian culture

Ode To Sari-1   Part-2   Part-3   Part 4 Part 5 
Part 6 Part 7 
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