Onam is the biggest and the most colorful festival of Kerala, the southern state of India. It is a harvest festival that celebrates the bounty of nature and the prosperity of the people. Onam also commemorates the legend of King Mahabali, a benevolent ruler who was sent to the underworld by Lord Vishnu in the form of a dwarf Brahmin named Vamana. According to the legend, Mahabali was granted a boon to visit his beloved subjects once every year. This annual visit of Mahabali is celebrated as Onam in Kerala.
Onam falls in the month of Chingam, the first month of the Malayalam calendar, which corresponds to August-September in the Gregorian calendar. The festival lasts for 10 days, starting from Atham (the day when Vamana appeared before Mahabali) and ending on Thiruvonam (the day when Mahabali returns to his kingdom). Each day of Onam has its own significance and rituals, but the most important day is Thiruvonam, when people wear new clothes, exchange gifts, and enjoy a grand feast called Onasadya.
The Attractions of Onam
Onam is a festival that showcases the rich and diverse culture of Kerala through various events and activities. Some of the major attractions of Onam are:
- Pookalam: Pookalam is a floral carpet or rangoli made with fresh flowers on the courtyard or entrance of every house. It is a symbol of welcome and hospitality for Mahabali and other guests. The design and size of pookalam vary from day to day, becoming more elaborate and intricate as the festival progresses.
- Onasadya: Onasadya is a traditional vegetarian feast served on banana leaves on Thiruvonam day. It consists of 11 to 13 dishes, including rice, sambar, avial, thoran, kalan, olan, pachadi, kichadi, rasam, payasam, and more. Onasadya is enjoyed by family members and friends together, sitting on the floor in a circular arrangement.
- Vallamkali: Vallamkali or snake boat race is a thrilling water sport held on the river Pampa in Alappuzha district. It involves hundreds of oarsmen rowing long and narrow boats called chundan vallams or snake boats in perfect synchronization and rhythm. The boats are decorated with colorful flags and umbrellas, and accompanied by traditional songs and drums. Vallamkali attracts thousands of spectators from all over the world.
- Pulikali: Pulikali or tiger dance is a folk art form performed by men who paint their bodies like tigers and leopards. They wear masks and costumes made of grass and leaves, and dance to the beats of drums and cymbals. Pulikali depicts the hunting scenes of wild animals and their playful antics.
- Thiruvathirakali: Thiruvathirakali or Kaikottikali is a graceful dance performed by women around a lamp or a floral decoration. They wear traditional white sarees with golden borders and adorn themselves with flowers and jewelry. They sing songs praising Lord Shiva and Parvati, and move in circular motions with clapping hands.
- Onakkalikal: Onakkalikal or traditional games are played by men and women during Onam. Some of the popular games are Talappanthukali (ball game), Ambeyyal (archery), Kutukutu (hopscotch), Kayyankali (combat), Attakalam (wrestling), Thumbi Thullal (women’s dance), Onavillu (musical bow), Kazhchakkula (plantain offerings), Athachamayam (procession), and Vallamkali (boat race).
Why You Should Visit Kerala During Onam
Onam is a great time to visit Kerala and experience its unique culture and heritage. You can witness the festive spirit and enthusiasm of the people, and enjoy the various attractions and activities of Onam. You can also explore the natural beauty and diversity of Keralam, from the serene backwaters and beaches to the lush hills and forests. Kerala is also known for its ayurvedic treatments, yoga centers, spice plantations, wildlife sanctuaries, and historical monuments. Onam is a festival that offers you a glimpse of the essence of Kerala, and makes you fall in love with its charm and hospitality.
If you are planning to visit Kerala during Onam, make sure to book your tickets and accommodation in advance, as the demand is high during this season. You can also check out the official website of Kerala Tourism for more information and guidance on Onam and other attractions of Kerala.