Onam is generally the festival of joy. But this year, the rampant floods have given the people very little to cherish. However, the southern state is slowly trying to pick up pieces and get back on its feet after the devastating floods which killed more than 400 people and left lakhs homeless.
Survivors of Kerala's worst floods in a century on Saturday set aside their misery, even if only temporarily, to celebrate Onam in numerous relief camps across the state, relishing the traditional Onam 'sadya' or lunch.
The second day of the harvest festival, called Thiru Onam, fell on Saturday.
Camp officers ensured the availability of vegetables and other commodities after men and women in the camps insisted they would cook the 'sadya' themselves instead of accepting what was being offered by NGOs and clubs.
Of course not all the 26 dishes that constitute the 'sadya' could be readied but people appeared to be happy with what they could prepare.
Children in the camps gathered whatever flowers were available in and around the camp sites to prepare floral carpets.
Ever since monsoon rains began lashing Kerala on May 29, a total of 417 people have died. This month, unprecedented floods caused widespread destruction and forced more than a million people to flee their homes to take shelter in relief centres.
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Friday evening said 8.69 lakh people were still sheltered in 2,787 camps, big and small.
"We refused a sponsored Onam 'sadya'. Our own lunch turned out to be a huge success," said Parvathy, a middle aged woman who has been in a camp in Alappuzha for the past five days.
At a camp supported by a state-run engineering college, student volunteers joined the Onam celebrations.
In Kottayam, residents of Aymenem and Kumarakom said the Onam 'sadya' provided them huge relief after unending stories of human suffering.
"The bonhomie lit up our lives especially when we prepared our own 'sadya'," said a woman who was getting ready to return to her home.
Added Devika, at a camp in Kozihikod: "The tragedy has helped us learn many things which we never ever thought we would learn. We feel we have passed the litmus test."
Bringing solace to a relief camp in Kodungalloor on Saturday was superstar Mammootty, who urged everyone to keep a positive frame of mind.
"You are going to rebuild your lives. Remember, many of you were saved by people who never knew you. Likewise, while a million people were affected by the floods, 30 million Keralites were not. Just like you were saved by unknown people, unknown people all across Kerala will come to your rescue when you rebuild your lives.
"Also, the Kerala government is there with you. Just be positive," he said.
Earler in the day, President Ramnath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi wished people and expressed that Onam will give courage to people of Kerala to make a new beginning.