About Onam Festival
Onam is the biggest festival in the Indian state of Kerala and is celebrated with great pomp and show. According to a popular legend, the festival is celebrated to welcome King Mahabali, whose spirit is said to visit Kerala at the time of Onam. The festivities of Onam reflects the traditions and culture of Kerala in the most unique way. During the festival, various activities are organized such as the boat racing, music, dance, fireworks and lots more. The grand celebration of Onam attracts the attention of various tourists because of which, Kerala tourism sees a significant boom during the festival.
When it is celebrated
Onam is celebrated in the beginning of the month of Chingam, the first month of Malayalam Calendar. This corresponds with the month of August-September according to Gregorian Calendarn and marks the homecoming of legendary King Mahabali. Carnival of Onam lasts for ten days and brings out the best of Kerala culture and tradition.
Where it is celebrated
Onam is celebrated in the state of Kerala, in southern India. It’s the biggest festival of the year there. The most spectacular celebrations take place in Kochi, Trivandrum, Thrissur, and Kottayam.
Onam is considered to be the state festival of Kerala and is marked as homage to Mahabali, the mythological Asura or demon king of ancient Kerala. The people of Kerala believe that Mahabali comes to his subjects on the day of Onam. The festival also has a social significance as it coincides with the harvest season which takes place during the months of August and September.
Onam brings out the faith of the Keralites and their belief in the unity of religion, customs and traditions. All over the state, people adorn their houses with lamps and wear new clothes. Widespread celebrations take place in cities like Trivandrum, Trichur and Kochi. Even in villages, people enjoy in huge celebrations and fanfare by participating in traditional music and dance events. Young people, clothed in their best apparels, sing Onappaattu, a traditional song and enjoy to the fullest.
Kerala decorates as a bride during the Onam festival, and a lot of amazing activities also performed in the state during the harvest festival. Some games and sports events also are organized daily with the fun. All these games are jointly called Onakalikal. Some are arduous sports such as Talappanthukali, Kutukutu, and battles such as Kayyankali and Attakalam. Archery also one of the most crucial components of Onakalikal.
Vallamkali, the most favourite snake boat race, has been additionally organized in lots of regions of the state.
In some parts of Kerala, people indulge in various games and dances during and post-Thiruvonam. These are known as Onakkalikal. These include competitions such as Ox races, Uriyady, food-eating competitions, Pookalam competitions etc.
A popular ritual during Onam is to prepare the onam sadya. It is a traditional feast served on banana leaves and consists of rice along with 4 other dishes. In addition, traditional pickles and papadam are also served. The dessert usually consists of ‘payasam’, a sweet dish made of milk, sugar and other traditional Indian delicacies and dry fruits.
Onam festival holds an important significance for the Hindus, but this occasion is enjoyed by every religion. The grand festivities and gala of this ancient festival eliminates all the religious disparities and propagates harmony in the society. Apart from the hindu rituals, it is witnessed that the Christians of Kerala also celebrate this annual festival in great zeal.
Their rituals includes lighting of Nilavilakku which is followed by an arati and waving of flowers over the Bible which is called Pushparati. Along with this they also have a meal together with Hindus which signifies the communion of brothers and sisters irrespective of faith and beliefs.
Ten Days of Onam
The festival of Onam lasts for ten days. Each day is called by a different name and there are specific celebrations on each of the ten days. There also are post Onam celebrations in Kerala which adds two more days to the celebrations.
Day 1 (Atham)
This is the first day of Onam when Mahabali supposedly starts his preparation to head towards earth. It is marked by the beginning of designing Pookalam, the size of which eventually grows with each day. The statues of Vamana and King Mahabali are also installed in houses.
Day 2 (Chithira)
The second day adds another layer of flowers to Pookalam and cleaning of houses starts on Chithira.
Day 3 (Chodi)
Along with the addition of flowers to Pookalam, People start their shopping at this day.
Day 4 (Vishakam)
This day marks the beginning of several competitions.
Day 5 (Anizham)
This is the day when Vallamkali Boat Race starts in many parts of Kerala.
Day 6 (Thriketa)
By this time most of schools get closed and people start devoting all their time to the celebrations.
Day 7 (Moolam)
At several places Onam Sadya and the dances related to the festival starts being performed. The state has been decorated beautifully by this time.
Day 8 (Pooradam)
This is a day when the statues of Vamana and King Mahabli are washed and installed in the middle of the Pookalam which is very big in size now.
Day 9 (Uthradom)
The ninth day or the eve of Onam is of a great significance. People buy fresh vegetables and women cook the traditional meals which are very grand. King Mahabali, it is believed reaches the state of Kerala this day.
Day 10 (Thiruonam)
This is the final day when all the preparations are culminated into final celebrations. People take bath early in the morning, distribute gifts and special prayers are held in temples. The grand Thiruona Sadya is prepared in all the households. Several competitions are held in the different parts of Kerala.
Onam is the official state festival of Kerala with public holidays that start four days from Uthradom. Major festivities take places across 30 venues in Thiruvananthapuram. It is also celebrated by Malayali diaspora around the world. Though a Hindu festival, non-Hindu communities of Kerala participate in Onam celebrations considering it as a cultural festival. However, some non-Hindus in Kerala denounce its celebration as a cultural event because they consider it as a religious festival.
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