Onam....The divine festival of Kerala........

mirageStarred Page By mirage, 7th Oct 2010 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL http://nut.bz/-np8_nma/
Posted in Wikinut>Travel>Asia>India>Kerala

Have you heard of Onam before?Take a small look at our festival......!!Please have the patience to read it full.......

If you want to visit Kerala then do so in the Onam season!!

Kerala, our small land located in the south western part of India is rightly being called ‘the Gods own country’!!We the people of this splendid universe are called ‘the Malayalees’ or “Mallus” in short by people all over the world....To be frank malayalees are found everywhere...
We may not have a splendid city or good infrastructure or any luxury to talk about....But we definitely have a rich culture and an ever beautiful heritage in our hand!!!
Kerala is very rich in its culture and diversified in its heritage....It’s this culture, tradition and heritage that every Malayalee has been holding close to their hearts since many decades....
Many of the foreigners might not know much about the ongoing as well as the past traditions of this marvellous land and its kind hearted people!!Hence, am here today to take you to one the most important traditions in Kerala that has been followed by Malayalees all over the world since time immemorial-the Onam festival!!

Significance of Onam-

Onam is a festival celebrated in Kerala during the month of ‘Chingam’ in the ancient Malayalam calendar. It is actually a rain harvest festival celebrated by the ancient people of Kerala. ‘Onasadhya’(banquet lunch), ‘pookalam’(flower carpets), elephant processions, ‘pulikali’(an art form performed by men),’kaikottikali’(an art form performed by women), ’vallamkali’(snake boat race) are some of the key elements of Onam celebration....
Significance of Onam:
Kerala was once ruled by a very brave and noble demon king named ‘Mahabali’. He was a very just and kind hearted man even though he belonged to the demon world. During his reign Kerala was highly prosperous and peaceful. All the people of Kerala whether Muslim, Hindu or Christian lived peacefully, happily and with immense togetherness. Mahabali’s victory’s were renowned all over....’Indra’ was the leader of the Angels. He was believed to be the God of the universe. And Mahabali’s just and fine rule made people to consider him as the lord of the angels.To have a demon king equal to Indra was a matter of great concern for the Angel world. So Indra asked ‘Lord Mahavishnu’ to take the avatar of Vamana to suppress this noble demon king to ‘pathala’(the underworld)!!And ‘Vamana’ did do so.......
So it is believed that Mahabali would come to visit his people from pathala every year during the month of chingam. And the people of Kerala celebrate Onam to welcome this just and noble king Mahabali.
People of Kerala sing in chorus to praise their king-
“maveli naadu vaneedum kaalam,
maanushyar ellarum onnu pole,
Amodhathode vasikkum kaalam,
apathangalkku mottillakalam........”


When Mahabali ruled our land,
all were equal,
Everyone enjoyed a peaceful life,
there were no hardships at all.........

As you all might think, Onam is not a one day festival....Rather it’s a ten day lasting celebration.....!!And each day has got its own specialities and differences....So why wait any longer, let’s start with our first day.........

Day 1:Atham

It’s the flag off day for a huge festival....It marks the beginning of Chingam!!This day is welcomed with great festivities in the temple of Trikkakara(considered to be the abode of Mahabali).We also have a huge procession called ‘Athamchamayam’ which includes folk dance performances, Elephant processions and ‘chendakotte’(an art form with a peculiar kind of drum).....Last but not the least we have the beginning layer of ‘pookalam’(flower carpet).Normally the ‘pookalam’ is believed to be made up of ten layers of different coloured flowers arranged in a variety of intrigued patterns....But today on the ‘atham’ day we just begin with one layer and just one colour flower.....Day by day you keep adding layers and include more varieties of flowers!!!!Sounds very interesting rite??

Day 2:Chithira

The second day marks the beginning of cleaning up your homes....This means that you are clearing off all your past and keep your homes ready to welcome the king!!!And I hope you didn’t forget to add a new layer to your ‘pookalam’(flower carpet)...Today you have two colours of flowers to make it look even better!!

Day 3:Chodhi

The third day....Well you may add one more layer to your carpet!!And remember it’s not a very easy task to add layers.....I bet you can’t do it unless you are trained to do that....Normally it’s the women and girls of the house who are the ones fit to do this task...The men just help them out plucking flowers, chopping them into small pieces (if required) and by having a hand in arranging them in the columns drawn...

Day 4:Vishakam

Today you can’t find anyone in the house....All are busy with their shopping....It’s a tradition that you are to wear newly bought traditional clothes made of a rich variety of silk called ‘kasavu’ on the Onam day....And moreover it’s the duty of the elderly in the house to gift clothes to each and everyone in the house(including the servants and lawn workers)....What a wonderful tradition rite??

Day 5:Anizham

Today is a very special day......It’s the beginning day of the very awaited ‘Arammula vallamkali’......(the snake boat race).The men folks dress up in their respected club’s jerseys and take part in the race.....Today you have a half size pookalam in your courtyard!!(five layers)

Day 6:Thriketta

The sixth day..... All are busy.......Relatives and other family members start coming home.....It’s again a tradition that Onam should be celebrated with the full family there!!No one is exempted or in fact no one ever misses this opportunity to enjoy with the entire family in the house...Which includes your grandparents, parents, brothers, sisters, cousins, niece, nephews, uncles, aunties, children, grandchildren......It’s an endless list!!

Day 7:Moolam

Again you may add-on a new layer....People start coming in for visits....You start visiting temples...Invite friends for lunch to your house....And so on....

Day 8:Pooradam

Today you have something special to do.....People will make small statues of Mahabali and wash them up in water and take them around all through the neighbourhood as part of a procession. This statue is then placed at the centre of your pookalam along with rice flour batter to make what is called ‘Onathappam’!!

Day 9:Uthradam-First Onam

Oh my God....Just a day left for the big event to take place....HURRY.....You have a lot to do....Got to buy vegetables, fruits, flowers etc. for tomorrows event!!It’s not like you go to some shopping centre and purchase whatever you want....You have to walk to each and every corner of the Onam market and hand pick all that you want....And wait...Don’t forget to bargain...Normally its heavy price hike at this time of the year...So its again the ladies chance to do this...They are the ones who can do it in a better way!!
And moreover today it’s called the ‘first-onam’....the descent of Mahabali to see his people!!And it’s believed that he tours the state for exactly four days from now.....
Today it’s a real funny day...You can really feel the mess....One side aunties and mammas busy cutting vegetables, making pickles and other items required for tomorrows grand feast...And on the other side you can see uncles and dadas washing leaves(tomorrow the lunch is served on banana leaves), cleaning up the house and arranging the various commodities for tomorrow...And apart from all this you can see the children making a real mess playing ,running around the place and destroying all the arrangements making the dadas to work even more!!

Day 10:Thiruvonam-Second Onam

At last!!!The day arrives.....The day of the lovely and delicious ‘onasadhya’ and the day you see a complete well designed ‘onapookalam’ on your courtyard!!
And it’s sad to say that it was on this day that our noble king was suppressed to pathala. And it’s believed that he visits us on this day and therefore it’s our duty to see to it that he never finds anything that hurts him......
So early in the morning you wake up, clean up the surroundings, take early bath, smear the entrance with rice flour batter, wear the new clothes you get from your granny and get ready for the biggest pookalam ever......You can’t actually express the beauty of it with this picture, you should see it at our courtyard if you want to enjoy it to the fullest.....!!
Am so hungry, let’s have our delicious ‘onasadhya’......You won’t believe me if I say that, there would be about 20-25 dishes served on a single banana leaf!!!Can you believe it??Rice, sambar ,aviyal, pulisheri, kichaddi,pachaddi,papadam,puliinji,achhare(more than 2 varieties),kaalan,kootukari,thoran(more than 2 varieties),paayasam(more than 2)etc..Hey they are not slangs I called you....Those are some dishes on my banana leaf...And we are to have the ‘sadhya’ sitting down on a mat next to your respective leaves....Am sure our fat dadas are going to have a tuff time!!So enjoyed your lunch??Next time I will definitely call you all to my house for an onasadhya....ok??
In the afternoon the men folks will go out to play games like archery (when in the ancient times), ‘onathalle’(a mutual hand fight between various groups).....etc.
In the evening you have fireworks and the women performing ‘kaikottikali’(an art form where you distinctly clap hands while you dance around in a circle).....
And there we almost come to the end of today’s celebrations.....

Post Onam:Avittom

The day after onam!!The day our Mahabali gets ready for his return journey to the ‘pathala’....And today you get the chance to see something really interesting......It’s called ‘pulikali’....The men folks along with the boys, dress up like tigers and involve in a procession all around the town.....If you want to see the ‘pulikali’ in its fullest form then you must go to ‘Trichur’(the cultural capital of Kerala)....There will be about 50-60 different clubs of body painted men dancing in the procession and in the end of the day the best three will be awarded......It’s not the award that really matters to us....Rather it’s the joy involved in doing that!!

Post Onam:Chadhayam

The last day....Mahabali is gone.....Actually today is Sree Narayana Guru Jayanthi, the birthday of this great man named Sree Narayana.....Today you can see the houses lighted up with endless number of oil lamps placed all over the house!!This really looks like the closing ceremony of some Olympics or Commonwealth Games.....It’s a real feast to your eyes!!!
I am really sad for it all got over in just 12 days......I really miss my cousins......I look forward to the next Onam celebrations to come!!!!

Happy Onam!!

Thank you
I know it was too long to read.....But I had to elaborate it to make you all realise the divine nature of this auspicious day.....!!!


Mahabali, Onam Celebration, Onasadhya, Pookalam, Snake Boat Race, Vaamana, Vallamkali

Meet the author

author avatar mirage
Am not at all a professional....but writing is my real PASSION....I just write on what I see,feel n experience.....I do also write about my known ones and present scenario.......!

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author avatar aden kendroemen
8th Oct 2010 (#)

What a lovely ceremony, rich with tradition and meaning, thank you for sharing it, and your obvious excitement about it.

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author avatar mirage
9th Oct 2010 (#)

oh its my duty that i share
atleast a part of our
happiness with u people out
there....N do come to kerala once.....il be always there to
help u c all this!!!thk u

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author avatar LOVERME
9th Oct 2010 (#)

very nice i love to eat on banana leaves too
very nice hospitality one comes across too

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author avatar mirage
9th Oct 2010 (#)

oh thnk u loverme.....Ya if u
really want to experience the
hospitality then @least once in your lifetime
make a visit to kerala!!We all
will be there to show u our
culture n tradition!!n il
defenitely offer you a lunch on
banana leaf.....

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author avatar alphabets
12th Oct 2010 (#)

thanks for such a beautiful description about Onam!

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author avatar ppruel
13th Oct 2010 (#)

So colorful! It really deserved a Star. Kerala is the "Land of Coconut" too! The Tree of Life. Great post!

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author avatar Denise O
17th Oct 2010 (#)

Just a lovely article.
Now, if the hubby and I get to make it to that beautiful place.
Are you going to show us around? :)
Congrats on the gold star,
it was well deserved.

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author avatar Denise O
17th Oct 2010 (#)

Also, thumbs up from me, on my facebook wall.:)

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author avatar Rathnashikamani
10th Aug 2011 (#)

Onam is a great festival celebrated all over wherever Keralites reside.

And you've brought out all the essential info regarding this wonderful festival!

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