King Mahabali, Kerala's famed demon king, has taken a shine to Ho Chi Minh City.
The latest Onam celebration, a festival that celebrates the legendary king's return to earth to check on the well-being of his subjects, was the biggest and most spectacular that has been held in the city in the last decade.
Onam signifies a period in Indian mythology when King Mahabali ruled Kerala with unparalleled kindness and fairness. All his subjects were treated equally and people lived righteously no lies were spoken, there was neither theft nor deceit. They wanted for nothing. However, he was banned to the netherworld because the goodness of a demon king made the Gods insecure. Before departing to his new abode, Emperor Mahabali extracted a boon that he returns once a year to check on his subjects' well-being.
The people of Kerala celebrate their harvest festival to mark his return with a show of abundance and joy as well as acts of charity.
"It is that time of the year again when we put our best food forward, individually and collectively, to assure King Mahabali that we are still beneficiaries of his legendary generosity; that we are living in peace and harmony. Wherever we are, Keralites gather the entire community around us to welcome Mahabali in joyous celebration," said the invitation set out by the community to HCMC residents.
At the Vietnam News Agency auditorium in District 3 last weekend, expatriates from the south Indian state of Kerala were joined by the larger Indian community, expatriates from many other countries as well as hundreds of Vietnamese residents in a cultural gala that included Indian music and dance of many genres, many regions and in many languages, a grand traditional feast prepared by a specially-invited chef and a record-setting floral arrangement that was lovingly and painstakingly prepared over several hours.
This year's celebration took cultural collaboration to new heights, with a team of students from the HCMC University performing the Thiruvathirakkali, a traditional Kerala dance, after weeks of preparation. A Vietnamese dance troupe also performed pieces from several popular Indian films in four South Indian languages.
Anand Narayan, playback singer, entertainer and compere of one of the best reality music shows in India, was brought back by popular demand, and he was accompanied by Lata Krishna, an upcoming playback singer with several hit songs under her belt.
The duo presented a wide range of choice selections of songs ranging from semi-classical to folk and rhythmic "dance numbers" that had the audience clapping their hands, tapping their feet and clamoring for more late into the night.
A souvenir handout described the dishes served during the feast and the sequence in which they are usually had, helping foreigners enjoy the food even more.
The event, which had Farindo Trade Service as its main sponsor, raised US$2,500 for the GiaDinh School for Autistic and Developmentally Delayed children and awarded raffle prizes that included three air-tickets to India from Jet Airways, weekend stays for two at theIndochine Palace, a five-star resort in Hue, and dining vouchers from all major Indian restaurants in the city.
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