Onam is a traditional festival of the Gods Own Land; Kerala. During this time of the year, Kerala is full of enthusiasm and celebrations with trumpets, drums, boat races, dance, art, music, floral decorations, lights, colours, rituals, and delicious Onasadya, without which the celebrations are incomplete. The spirits of Onam are spread all across the nation, even among the non-Malyalis.
The traditional festival of Malyalis originated in the state of Kerala. It is a religious and cultural festival celebrated by all the Malyalis. Falling in the month of Chingam in the Malayalam Calendar, the festival overlaps with August and September. In 2023 Onam will begin on August 28, 2023, and end on August 31, 2023.
Onam is a 10-day festival observed in the Hindu culture. It is a harvest festival that welcomes the mythical King Mahabali. He was a demon who was renowned for his generosity and kind heart. His popularity incited jealousy among the Gods. Mahabali was a devout worshipper of Lord Vishnu, and the latter aided the Gods in their cause but did not initiate a battle with Mahabali.
Lord Vishnu transfigured into a Brahmin dwarf named Vamana and headed to Mahabali's kingdom with a request to have the right over a property measuring ‘three paces’. Mahabali obliged and fulfilled Vamana’s wish.
Thiruvonam is one of the most important days out of the ten days of Onam of the festival. “Onakalikal” refers to the games that are played during the festival. These games include Thala Panthu Kali with a ball, Ambeyyal or archery, and the Vallamkali boat race, in which nearly hundreds of boatmen race.
Women take part in traditional folk dances, which are among the biggest attractions of the festival. The dances and synchronised performances are in honour of King Mahabali and his arrival. The elephant procession is one of the key celebrations in the festival, where decorated elephants parade and dance with people at the place of procession.
The traditional methods of celebration of Onam in Kerala include the creation of carpets of flowers in front of their homes. Decorating homes, tray preparation for worship, and wearing special outfits are common traditional ways of celebrating the festival. The new attires worn on the day of Onam are called “Onakkodi” and are an essential aspect of the holiday.
The festival has several sub-events that take place, such as Vallam Kalli, Pulikkali, Pookkalam, Onathappan, Thumbi Thullai, Onavillu, Kazchakkula, Athachamayam, and more. Different dances and play performances through traditional forms of art on occasion are witnessed. The men dress as tigers, and these unique performances are witnessed at public events or streets.
The Onasadya meal is prepared on the most important day of the festival. Delicacies are cooked and served on large banana leaves. The nine-course meal comprises dishes such as rasam, sambhar, rice, and more. Even some well-known restaurants offer 30 dishes on the menu for Onasadya.
Pookalam means a colour sketch of flowers that is a flower rangoli or flower carpet made in front of the house to celebrate the occasion of Onam. It is also known as Athapookalam and Onapookalam. It is considered auspicious to draw Pookalam on the occasion of Onam. The traditional way of wishing Kerala’s biggest festival Onam is “Onam Ashamsakal.”
These are the ten days of Onam and their significance here:
On the day of Atham, festivities begin at the Vamanamoorthy Thirrikara Temple in Kochi. The grand procession is known as Athachamayam. This day marks the preparations for the visit of Mahabali to the Kingdom. Pookalam made on Atham is known as Athapoo, which is only one layer that gets added on progressively as each day of Onam passes.
On the second day, Chithira, two more layers of flowers are added to the Pookalam. People clean their houses and visit temples on this day.
On the third day, Chodhi, people buy new clothes known as Onakkodi. Women dress up in Kasavu Saree, and men wear Mundu. Young girls wear Pattu Pavada. The families go shopping and buy each other jewels and clothes. The third layer of flowers is added to the Pookalam as well.
This day is one of the most auspicious days as Onasadya preparations commence. Women in the family stock up on ingredients from the market. Usually, the markets hold their harvest sale during this period making Kerala markets one of the busiest places. Onsadya is about filling the plantation leaf with dishes until there is no space left.
The Vallamkali or the snake boat races, flag off the Pamba River, and the Pookalam grows bigger as the day passes.
Fresh flowers are added to the Pookalam, and families visit their ancestral homes and spend time with them, exchange gifts, etc.
Most of the templates start offering Onasadya on this day. Families prepare a shorter version of the Sadya. The Pulikali and Kaikottukali are performed at various places in Kerala. The state starts being colorful and busy with celebrations around this time.
The day begins with the ritual of installing clay statues of Mahabali and Vamana commonly known as Onathappam, in the center of the Pookalam. They represent Mahabali, and fixing these statues symbolises an invitation to Mahabali to visit each house. Around this time, the Pookalam starts to become much bigger and more complex.
This day is considered Onam when the preparations reach their maximum. The devotees prepare themselves to welcome King Mahabali the next day. The evening of this day is considered the First Onam. It is an auspicious day to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables. The traditional beliefs say that Mahabali arrives in Kerala on this day. Hence, the people clean their houses and do their final shopping for Onam.
It is the day of the auspicious festival when people apply rice flour batter on the entrance of their houses as a traditional welcome sign, shower, and dress up in new clothes. It is the day when King Mahabali visits each home and blesses the families of Kerala. The Pookalam is completed beautifully, and families gather to feast on the Onasadya.
Onam Ashamsakal is the traditional way of wishing Onam among people in Kerala. Sending Onam wishes to friends and family is essential in any traditional event or festival. These different ways of wishing and sharing positive energy with people decides the tone for the day. These gestures also bring closeness among people and make them feel happier. Here are some Onam wishes that you can send to your friends and make their day better,
“This Onam, I wish that the spirit of this auspicious day stays with you in everything that you do. Here’s wishing you and your family a very happy and blessed Onam.”
You can choose to send different wishes that suit your bond with the person! Wishing you all a very Happy Onam!
Onam isn’t just a Keralite festival. It is celebrated across all the states and the world regardless of caste and creed. The celebrations are notable among Malayali communities. Onam is a harmonious, cheerful, and exuberant festival.
1. Which is a famous traditional dance form of Kerala?
A famous traditional dance form of Kerala is Kathakali.
2. Is Onam celebrated in all regions?
Yes, Onam is a secular festival, and is celebrated in all regions.
3. Onam is celebrated in which state?
This festival belongs to the state of Kerala. The Malayalam-speaking community celebrates the festival.