20013 Date - 16th September
Location - All over Kerala
Onam Festival- Kerala
Month Of Celebration- August - September (the month of Chingam according to Malayali calender).
About the Festival
The legend of Onam first - Lord Kashyap had two sons
from his two wives, Diti and Aditi. The former was the mother of
demons while the latter was the mother of demi gods. It so happened
that in an attempt to increase their individual powers, the demons led
by Mahabali and demigods spearheaded by Indra clashed with each other.
The resultant defeat of Indra saddened his mother, Aditi to a such an
extent that Kashyapa himself asked her to pray to Lord Narayana. Aditi
heeded his advice and prayed to Lord Narayana with complete devotion
who in turn promised her to take birth from her womb and eliminate all
Accordingly, Aditi gave birth to Vamana murti who exuded brightness at a very young age itself. He visited Mahabali while he was performing a yagna as a young Brahmin lad and seeked a portion of land covered by his three foot steps. Mahabali was warned by his guru that the brahmin was no ordinary person and hence he should not promise him anything in haste. However, Bali was an honoured person and hence did not wish to retreat from his words. Knowing very well that he could loose everything, he gave a go ahead to the Brahmin lad to take three foot steps. It was during this time that Vamana grew to huge size and covered earth in his first step and heaven in his second. The devout king Bali offered him his head to take the third step. Pleased by his devotion and sincerity, Lord Narayana allowed him to visit his people once every year before pushing him down the earth into the infernal regions (patala).
Therefore, the Keralites celebrate the Onam festival
every year to mark the arrival of Lord MahaVishnu as well as the great
Emperor Mahabali. Historically, the celebration of Onam festival finds
first mention in the Sangam age.
The timing of the festival coincides with the harvest season of Kerala. Celebrations begin ten days before, beginning from Atham and culminating on Thiru Onam. The two days hold utmost importance in the entire festival. It is on Thiru Onam that the people get ready to welcome their benevolent king on his annual visit.
The people of Kerala celebrate this festival with all fanfare. The grandeur of Onam is so huge that it was declared a National Festival by the Government of India in the year 1961. The Government has also been promoting Onam on an International basis to make people aware of the cultural richness of the country.
Attractions of the Festival
The Atham day is fixed according to the position of
stars. Once the the day arrives, Keralites leave their routine aside
and prepare to celebrate the festival with all enthusiasm. An early
bath is followed by making of pookkallam or the flower carpet.
Children, with all enthusiasm go out to collect flowers and return not
only with colourful flowers but also a brilliant smile on their face.
The subsequent days see plenty of flower addition in the pookkallam.
This ensures that on the final day, there is a pretty big flower mat
ready to welcome the respected king, Mahabali.
Also, from this day, the breakfast of the Keralites becomes steamed bananas and fried pappadam (pappad). Swings are tied on to the branches of trees and beautifully decorated with flowers. The swings are a major attraction for the youngsters who just cannot have enough of it. The ninth day, also known as Utradam, sees the tenants and dependents of traditional joint families presenting gifts to the most elderly person of the family. This gesture is graciously returned by the Karanvar (the eldest member) when he invites all for a grand lunch.
On the actual day of Onam itself, people are mighty
busy making last minute preparations to turn the festival into a
memorable one. Houses are cleaned (in villages, courtyard are still
smeared with cow dung - a ritual) and figures of gods (made from rice
flour) are placed in various parts of house. Lamps are lit and a
prayer ceremony is conducted by the eldest member of the family at the
end of which the male members make loud shouts of joy to mark the
beginning of Onam. The Karanvar also presents gifts to all his family
members and servants. Thereafter, the family proceeds to pay a visit
to the temples.
The afternoon witnesses the grand meal, Onasadya. The meal is meant to convey to Mahabali that his people are still living happily and are well fed. In this, atleast 11-13 kinds of vegetarian dishes are served on banana leaves on floor to all the member of the family. Post lunch, it is time for fun and entertainment. Senior members indulge in indoor games while the more vibrant one choose energetic sports. Infact, there is a whole set of traditional games, Onakalikal, meant to be played on Onam. Women choose more graceful means to to express their joys by dancing. Dressed beautifully, these women make for a pleasant sight when they move on the beats of foot tapping clap dance. Traditional Onam songs also create a magical environment at this time.
Since Onam is celebrated throughout the state, numerous
events are organized on state level as well as particular city level.
Snake Boat races are the most important of all. Throughout the
state, boat races take place and electrify the entire atmosphere. The
Alappuzha boat race is the most popular of all. Pulikali
performance, in which artists paint their body in yellow colour
with stirpes of black and red to appear like a tiger, is yet another
attraction. The performance depicts the hunting scenes of tigers and
goats by humans. The Pulikali performance of Thrissur and Palaghat are
considered the best. Thrissur also witnesses a huge procession of well
decorated elephants been carried out.
Cheruthuruthy, a small village north of Thrissur, is the home to the state's Kathakali Training Centre and therefore, the festival sees the best of Kathakali artists performing here before a huge crowd. The performance depicts the folk tale of Onam. The southern Malabar region in particular has Kummattikali performers visiting individual houses and performing for the people. These performers cover their whole body with grass and wear a wooden mask on their face to enact mythological tales. In return, they receive gifts from the houseowner. This performance is eagerly awaited, especially by children. .
Pookkallam contests are organized all over the state attracting many a designers to showcase their skills amidst a large number of people. .
In brief, the festival of Onam is a celebration of the very spirit of the people of Kerala who hold their legends and tradition close to their heart.