Onam 2017

 

Onam is the National festival of Kerala celebrated annually with profound love and dedication. It falls on 4th September this year. Folk songs, dances, elaborate feasts , motivational games, array of boats, display of caparisoned elephants and floral carpets stud the festive scene to add grandeur to the celebration. It forms a vivid tourist destination for both international and domestic tourists to have a taste of this vibrant and colourful festival.

 

Month of Chingam

 

 

Onam is celebrated in the first month of the Malayalam calendar called Chingam, which corresponds to the month of August-September of the Gregorian calendar.

 

Celebration of Abundance

Onam is a harvest festival where the nature transforms during this festive season. The fields sway with its bountiful crops to the glorious spirit in the air bestowing abundance on the people of Kerala.

 

Legends of Onam

 

Onam is that season where love and benevolence is expressed as a way of gratitude and humility by the people of Kerala.

 

The story behind the vanishing boy

 

This is a heartwarming story where a Brahmin awaits by the bank of River Pampa to feed a poor person after his bath. Suddenly from nowhere a boy appears in rags in front of him. The Brahmin lovingly feeds the boy a satiating meal and lo behold! The boy vanishes. At the popular Aranmula temple, the boy is spotted again and he vanishes once more. This incident leaves a rich tradition behind where the people of Kerala take immense pleasure in feeding a poor person on this day where it feels like as if the Lord is being served.

 

Homecoming of King Mahabali

 

 

The Keralites celebrate Onam to honour and welcome King Mahabali whose spirit is believed to visit Kerala during this festival. He continues to rule in his people’s hearts with their love forever etched for him, making him an eternal entity for all ages to come.

He was vanquished by Lord Vishnu who took “Vamana” avatara, a dwarf Brahmin. King Mahabali conceded to the Brahmin’s request by graciously sacrificing his life to fulfill the boons promised. The dwarf brahmin asked for 3 steps of land and grew to a humongous size that he took up the sky and earth in 2 steps. King Mahabali offered his head as place for his 3rd step and was sacrificed to the netherlands. Pleased with such generosity, Lord Vishnu granted King Mahabali the boon to be able to visit his beloved people every year and this homecoming is extravagantly celebrated as the Onam festival.

 

Onam Celebrations

 

Pookalam

 

 

The first day of Onam is called “Atham” and begins with divine prayers at the local temple. The womenfolk take great delight in weaving floral carpets called Pookalam, with a variety of seasonal flowers embedding intricate designs in the front courtyards of their homes. With every passing day, more flowers of a myriad of colours are added to this carpet till the tenth day of the harvest festival.

 

Thiruvonam

 

 

The last and important day of Onam festival is called Thiruvonam which is the 10th day of the carnival. An enormous lunch is prepared in all homes with as much as 11-13 dishes as part of the 9 course meal. It is called Onasadya. Onasadya is served on banana leaves and people sit on a mat laid on the floor to have the meal.

Every household wakes up early on this day with a spirit of joy to welcome their beloved King Mahabali. They clean the house, take an early bath, dorn new clothes and lavishly bestow gifts on the younger members of the family to pamper them to no end.

 

Sports and events of Onam

 

Pulikali -

Performers paint themselves in the guise of a tiger and enact hunting scenes to mesmerize the audience.

 

Kaikottikali - A synchronised dance performance with clapping of hands is performed by the women.

 

Vallamkali - The snake boat race

A beautifully decorated boat is oared by hundreds of boatmen with the spectators encouraging them with cheer and uproar in the dynamic race. This is famously held on river Pampa.

 

Kummattikali - These are the entertaining artists who enthrall the children donning their wooden mask and plaited grass attire.

 

Onakalikal - The riotous games played during the Onam festival are collectively called Onakalikal.

Kayyankali and Attakalam are the combat sports that the men take part in.

Ambeyyal tests their archery skills.

Talappanthukali (played with ball) is another sport that interests the public in this carnival.

 
Onam Sadhya
 

 

The traditional 9 course meal that has umpteen number of dishes exude the traditional richness of the dishes. It is a pure vegetarian feast especially served on a banana leaf that enriches the earthy taste of the food. The traditional red parboiled rice called “matta ari” is served in the sadhya.

 

The sadhya consists of a variety of chutney like dishes called Ingi Puli (key ingredients being ginger and tamarind) and Pachadi, special pickles like Vedukappuli (lemon) and Manga Curry (minced mango), Avial which is assorted vegetables prepared with coconut base, Olan that is pumpkin and pulses prepared in coconut milk, Kalan ( made with thick yogurt, coconut, vegetables and raw banana), etc.

 

The family sits together to relish this meal that further binds them with love. Onam is that festival that spreads the message of brotherhood and oneness with appreciation of blessings of prosperity, unity and joy.