Onam is one of the most popular festivals in Kerala. This is a ten days festival which is no less than a majestic and big celebration. This year Onam Festival starts on Thursday, 12 August, and ends up on Monday, 23 August 2021. The festival of Onam is dedicated to King Mahabali. The first day Atham and the tenth-day Thiruonam are the most significant days of all. It observes in the month of Chingham; the first month of the Malayalam Calendar (Kollavarsham) and is the biggest Kerala Festival.
Ten Days of Onam
- Day 1 (Atham): Marked by designing Pookalam which is only done with yellow flowers. Pookalam’s size grows day by day.
- Day 2 (Chithira): Another layer of flowers is added to the Pookalam and house cleaning begins on Day 2.
- Day 3 (Chodi): Families begin shopping on this day, along with a new layer of flowers added to the Pookalam.
- Day 4 (Vishakam): The various competitions begin on Day 4.
- Day 5 (Anizham): Vallamkali Boat Race starts in many parts of Kerala on Day 5.
- Day 6 (Thriketa): Schools start closing on Day 6 for Onam celebrations and people start devoting all their time to the celebrations.
- Day 7 (Moolam): Several places see the beginning of Ona Sadya and the dance performances related to the festival. Decorations are aplenty across the state and a treat to the eyes by this time.
- Day 8 (Pooradam): Statues of Vamana and King Mahabali are cleaned and installed in the centre of the Pookalam.
- Day 9 (Uthradom): Day 9 is one of the most crucial days of the festival. People buy fresh vegetables and traditional meals are cooked. It’s believed that King Mahabali reaches the state on this day.
- Day 10 (Thiruonam): Preparations are in full swing on Day 10. People take an early bath, distribute gifts and go to temples for prayers. The grand Thiruona Sadya (Special meal for Onam) is prepared in all households. Competitions like dance and boat races continue across the state.
Onam Story – Legends of King Mahabali
A long long time ago, an Asura (demon) king called Mahabali ruled Kerala. He was a wise, benevolent, and judicious ruler and beloved of his subjects. Soon his fame as an able king began to spread far and wide, but when he extended his rule to the heavens and the netherworld, the gods felt challenged and began to fear his growing powers.
Presuming that he might become over-powerful, Aditi, the mother of Devas pleaded with Lord Vishnu to curtail Mahabali’s powers. Vishnu transformed himself into a dwarf called Vamana and approached Mahabali while he was performing a yajna and asked for alms. Pleased with the dwarf brahmin’s wisdom, Mahabali granted him a wish.
The Emperor’s preceptor, Sukracharya warned him against making the gift, for he realized that the seeker was no ordinary person. But the Emperor’s kingly ego was boosted to think that God had asked him for a favor. So he firmly declared that there is no greater sin than going back on one’s promise. He kept his word. Vishnu’s fatal third step pushed him to the netherworld, but before banishing him to the underworld Vishnu granted him a boon.
Since he was attached to his kingdom and his people, he was allowed to return once a year from exile. Onam is the celebration that marks the homecoming of King Mahabali. It is the day when a grateful Kerala pays a glorious tribute to the memory of this benign king who gave his all for his subjects.
Celebration and Importance
This Kerala festival marks the beginning of the harvest festival with ample gaiety and liveliness. Celebrated in memory of the great king Mahabali; who sacrificed his life for the sake of the people in South- India (especially Kerala). This notable Kerala Festival is a blend of beautiful possessions on chariots, imposing Onam pookalam, delicious Onam sadya, eye-catching Kaikottikali dance along with exhilarating boat races and jollifications on eminent Onam songs.
Pookkalam refers to making designs with different types of flowers in front of the gate of the house. With each passing day during the Onam festival, a new layer of flowers is added to the Pookalam. At some Pookalam competitions are held at some places.
This is the grand meal prepared at the day Thiruonam. Onasadya meal is served on a Banana leaf and is a nine-course meal having at least four to five vegetables. The number of vegetables in the meal varies from house to house but most of the well off families cook nine to eleven dishes for the Onasadya. Restaurants offer as many as 30 dishes for the Onasadya.
This refers to all the games played at the festival of Onam. Talappanthukali which is a game played with a ball is a favorite of men. They also indulge in Ambeyyal (archery). Women engage themselves in making Pookalam and performing several traditional dances.
Vallamkali Boat Race
Vallamkali boat race is known as the snake boat race, this is one of the most entertaining events of the Onam festival. Near about 100 boatmen compete with each other in a boat riding competition. The boats are decorated beautifully in different patterns. Men and women from across the city come to witness this race. Read more
The elephant procession is one of the most awaited events of Onam. The majestic animal is decorated with flowers, ornaments in gold, and other metals. The elephant is made to take a round of the whole Thrissur where this procession is held. The elephant dances and interacts with people through small gestures.
Another major attraction of the festival includes the folk dances performed by women. Kaikottikali is a clap dance performed on the occasion of Onam. Women performing the dance sing praises of King Mahabali. Women also perform a dance in a circle. This dance form is called Thumbi Thullal.
Malayalis amusing Onam Songs
Being the most momentous grandeur of the Malayalis folks, it is relished by singing very popular Onam songs. Here are some of the famous Onam songs.
- Onathumbi onathumbi’
- Poovili poovili ponnonamayi’
- Maveli Thampuraan – Ashtabandham Onappoove’
- Onapattin Thalam Thullum
- Thiruvona Pularithan – Thiruvonam
- Onam Vanne – Velluvili
- Vembanaattu Kaayalinnu – Randu Lokam
- Kannanthali Muttam – Njanonnu Parayatte
- Maveli Nadu Vaneedum – Mahabali
- Thiruvaavaniraavu – Jacobinte Swargarajyam
Onam Sadya: A proper feast of 25-30 dishes
It is said that the crop fair of India- Onam Festival is renowned for its fingerlicious Onam Sadya-a sumptuous vegetarian meal, one of the striking features of this Kerala Festival. In Malayalam, Sadhya means ‘banquet’ contains at the minimum 30 special delicacies on a Banana Leaf, including-
- Kerala red rice
- Kerala Matta (semi-polished parboiled brown)
- Rasam (A liquid dish made of tamarind)
- Avial (Thick vegetables with curry leaves)
- Parippu (thick curry lentil dish eaten with rice, papadum and ghee)
- Olan (light dish of coconut oil & white-gourd)
- Kaalan (yogurt & vegetable mixed soup)
- Erissery (A curry made from pumpkin and coconut)
- Koottukari (Banana & chickpeas dish)
- Pachadi (A sweet form of Kichadi)
- Injipuli (Sweet pickle)
- Pulisseri (A thick curry made with yogurt and cucumber)
- Thoran (Mix-veg)
- Kaaya Varuthathu (Banana Chips)
- Pappadam (Papad)
- Achaar (Spicy pickles)
- Sharkara Upperi (Jaggery chips)
- Sambharam (A drink to improve digestion)
- Prathaman (similiar to Payasam)
- Betel Leaves (Paan)
- A ripe Banana and many more.
These mouth-watering cuisines and appetizers throw together a perfect magnificence and add a flicker to the celebration. Malayalis and Keralites sound full of beans for this peculiar traditional nosh after a long wait.
Onam Festival is embellished with flower-patterned different Rangolis, known as Onam Pookalams. One of a kind Kerala Festival has a striking Snake boats carnival-Vallam Kali, a very attractive Tiger Dance- Pulikali, and an incredible dance called Atthachamayam which brings a state of happiness and great delight.
Thousands of enthusiasts participate in this fun-filled festivity and throng in small groups for the celebration. Be a part of the Onam Festival this year and enjoy at Mahabali’s Vicinity.
Wish you all a Happy Onam and a cheerful Malayalam New Year…!!!!