Hi I don’t know if this is the right forum to post this in but I was wondering if any Indian Catholics can tell me how you celibrate Onam? How do you put Christ in Onam? I am married to a Malayali Indian and this one source of tention I am having with my people now. I would be greatful for your help.

You are saying that Onam is typical of Indian culture? I do not think so.
You know, India is 3 times the size of Europe in people. Has got a multitude of languages, creeds, races and ethnic groups.
Whatever statement you say about India is bound to be necessarily wrong (the same goes with China). It ia very, very hard, to generalize about India.
Now, you refer to the group of Indian Catholics? No way Onam is theoretically admissible. Indian Catholics may go up to a group told to be evangelized by St. Thomas. Next came the Goans, and nexts the other converts.
In practice, of course, I guess (!!!), they are like everybody else.
Happy to contact in post or by private message and email.

It seems that the Archdiocese of Changanacherry has a video clip about Onam. Of course it’s all in Malayalam so I’ve no idea what it says, but as I scanned though it I noticed that a bishop (presumably Syro-malabar) speaks at one point.

What is Onam exactly? What is there about it that would make it impossible to be Christianized?

I had a bit of a fright when I read this - thought the topic had something to do with OnaN . . .


me too … :blush:

You might want to consult with Syriac Catholics or Orthodox about this. I know that there are different ways in which the traditions of India are brought into the Indian Christian experience, but don’t know if this extends to Onam, which is, as you know, a very beautiful ten-day harvest festival in honour of King Mahabali.

The thing is that there are those who say that King Mahabali was a . . . Christian king . . .

Indian Christians DO celebrate this great harvest festival with Hindus such as Syriac Orthodox and Syriac Catholics. The idea that King Mahabali visits homes spiritually etc. has nothing to do with gods that would compromise one’s Christian faith. The Ukrainian tradition has similar beliefs that are connected to Christmas Eve Supper. If Ukrainians weren’t Christianized, they would STILL be celebrating the Holy Supper using the same foods and traditions (but without the Christian ethos and interpretations involved).

I spent most of last evening reading up on this and while the Hindu connections to this festival are unmistakeable, I don’t see why this festival cannot be outwardly observed within a Christian perspective and focus.

There are many pagan festivals that European Christians have either appropriated and Christianized wholesale or else integrated with Christian celebrations.

Diwali is another Indian festival that Bl Mother Teresa observed within a Christian perspective of course. Onam is quite the national festival of India so why shouldn’t Indian Christians establish a way of observing it as CHRISTIANS. To ignore it would mean that Indian Christianity isn’t willing to inculturate itself within India - not a good thing.

I think you should place Christ and His Most Holy Mother at the centre of your celebration of Onam and demonstrate your enthusiasm for Indian culture within the Light of Christ.

Indian Christians from the time of St Thomas the Apostle have been wearing their saris on the opposite shoulder from that which all Indians wear it - and by that sign, all India knows they are Christians but without offending Indian traditions. You should wear your Cross and then participate in this with your husband out of respect for his traditions and also to show that there is nothing that is foreign to Christ or that cannot be Christianized.

He will love you for that and this may be how God wishes to use you to bring him closer to Christ and His Church. Just go out and have a good time with him with all the rich colour, foods and traditions that this holiday entails. Again, many, many Indian Christians celebrate this holiday with their Hindu neighbours and friends.

Asia is a rich field for Christianization via inculturation and there is still much work to be done!


Yes, in the state of Kerala Onam is official. All maids, janitors, guards remind you as they expect gifts. The stores are all closed so you can get hungry as it goes on at least 3 days. Schools are closed. Catholics, Hindus and Orthodox celebrate it. I have had it explained to me but forget. It was last week.

Thank you for your replies. I am married to a Malayali Indian. I lived in Kerala with him and his family till we moved to the States. I dont know everything about their cultural and I thrust the information I get in this forum.

It was Henry Martyn, an Anglican missionary, who went to Armenia and worked all his life as a translator etc.

When he died, the Armenians buried him in the robes of one of their bishops and clergy from the Assyrian Church attended his funeral as well.

That is exactly what we are called to do, especially in Asia.


Thank you for you answers. They were very helpful to me.

Onam is actually Harvest festival of Kerala. It is also a hindu festival. Christians participates in the celebration of Onam.

It is also linked with a hindu myth that there exsisted a kingdom in kerala ruled by an Assur King Mahabali. During his rule all peoples are treated as equals. There is no theft , burglery in that kingdom. There is no poverty in that kingdom. Happiness are seen every where. Then Devas (same like angels in christianity) became Jealous about this kingdom and they asked God Vishnu to put an end to this. And God vishnu took incarnation as Vamana and put his foot on the head of the King Mahabali and send him to Patalam (A place similar to pulgatary- We cannot say it as a hell or Not heaven) and God vishnu allowed mahabali to visit his people once in a year and it is belived that Mahabali comes to visit his kingdom during onam time.

Christians participates in the happiness and celebrations of hindus in onam. A

Church in India is mingled with indian traditions. An Indian christian monastrial life exsists in India.A monastery Kurisumala Ashram started by benedictain monks successfuly mingles catholic monastrial life with indian traditions.




About Another catholic ashram named Santivanam Ashram


Christianity is a multi cultural and multi ethinic religion. It is presented to Europeans in their Greeko Roman Latin culture. It is presented to Africans in African culture and Russians in Russian culture, Chinese in chinese culture and Indians in Indian culture. But christian faith is same throughout the world and there is only one leader to the catholics (Pope). Culture is way of life of people. A person can easily understand the matters of faith if it is presented to him in his culture.

Few more Catholic Ashram.

Darsana Asram run by CMI (Carmelite Monks)




Getting close to celebrating the birthday of Bl.Mother on Sept 8th ;

a season that also coincides with the end of the rainy season and harvest time for the people of Kerala and the celebration of the festival mentioned above - Onam , now a state festival , which has made it a rather frenetic occasion for all, including Christians, who too try now a days , to participate in accordance to the dictates of the prevailing culture .

Has been trying to figure out what might be the root word for the festival , that it might be a shortened term for ’ onnavanam’ meaning , we are to be one …the legend /mythology behind the festival has also themes that seem to mimick Christian truths - including
the term 'Mahabali ’ meaning great sacrifice , who is that gets lied to and sent to the nether world, by envious gods , to only returm once a year ;

true, it can be seen as just personification of the season change and the harvest time …
or …deeper and not so very innocent connections …

which might mean , the resposnsibilty for us all, who are to be the bearers of the Water of Life, of the truth and light that the gooodness of God has brought into all cultures , inspite of the enemy efforts to thwart and distort the truth , that we need to yearn and ask for the grace for the fidelity to the truth from admixture of errors , even if in an unintentional manner .

Thankfully, our Mother of Mercy , whom The Lord in His infinite goodness shares with us , has her birthday in the same month and around teh same time on Sept 8th ;

She , as the New Eve , Mother of us all, thus can be invited in as the reason for our celebration , even if only at a personal level , to include the recitation of the Hail Mary’s , in gratitude for the gift of salvation , in union with all in our lives and with the Holy Father , thus bringing meaning to the theme of oneness, which is what is also revealed in the Divine Mercy theme ;

St.Thomas said to be esp. devoted to Bl.Mother and may be this festival too can be as a gift of that Mother, to the chidren of Thomas, for the twin celebrations of Mercy - both around her birthday and the Divine Mercy Feast on Octave of Easter ;

the flower decorations etc can represent the concentric circles of truth that St.John Paul 11 talks about , of the gift of the bounty and beauty of nature ofcourse and the rejoicing in the truth, that The King Of Kings reigns and rules , how grateful we can be from having been delivered from the errors and lies of darkness , for all the efforts of those who travesed the seas …and those who continue to share the goodness of that truth in our lives through their selfless services , esp. all our priests , Bishops etc .

The Hebrew langauge is said to have brought back from extinction by efforts of a few ;

may the prayers of many hearts , in union with the Holy Father , be our means of helping to continue to sustain the truth ;

may our joining in heart , as mentioned in the Divine Mercy theme, - ’ bring them to Me ’ . thus joining with all who we are to pray for , united with the Holy Father , thus to help bring many into the spring time of the peace of being with Him , in Him !

Peace !

The Kerala state of India has historically been one of the few places on this earth to be blessed with a level of religious tranquility. In Kerala there exists in population, about 50% Hindus, 20% Christians, 20% Muslims, and 10% Other Religions (Jews, Sikhs, Jains,). Onam, which we Syrian Christians celebrate every year has nothing to do with Christianity. It is an ancient Hindu holiday celebrated in the state of Kerala. Since it is considered a state holiday and a very joyous time, the Christians and Muslims take part in it, only to the extent of merriment but of course not the Hindu religious ceremonies that take place.

In North America and other parts of the world where Kerala Christians have traveled, we have brought Onam with us. At our Community centers, we stage numerous events like dances and songs related to Onam to commemorate the event. Onam is basically a harvest-fest like ceremony revering an ancient Hindu King by the name of Mahabeli who was of great virtue and kindness.

This is a depiction of Mahabeli which is used today.

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