One major celebration that brings immeasurable amount of joy and enthusiasm among our Kerala brothers and sisters is the festival of “Onam”. Elaborate feasts, folk songs, elegant dances, energetic games, elephants, boats and flowers all are a part of the dynamic festival.India is filled with colours and equal amount of festivals celebrated here. While we name festivals in India, it is not just restricted to a particular community, caste or creed. Onam is one festival celebrated by each and every house in Kerala irrespective of religion & community.
A festival of harvest, celebrated with joy and enthusiasm all over the state is worth to have a watch at. According to a popular legend, the festival is celebrated to welcome King Mahabali, whose spirit is said to visit Kerala at the time of Onam.
Onam is celebrated in the beginning of the month of Chingam, the first month of Malayalam Calendar (Kollavarsham). This corresponds with the month of August-September according to Gregorian Calendar.Carnival of Onam lasts from four to ten days. First day, Atham and tenth day, Thiruonam are most important of all.
The Legend to the Festival..
Story goes that during the reign of mighty asura (demon) king, Mahabali, Kerala witnessed its golden era. Every body in the state was happy and prosperous and king was highly regarded by his subjects. Apart from all his virtues, Mahabali had one shortcoming. He was egoistic. This weakness in Mahabali’s character was utilized by Gods to bring an end to his reign as they felt challenged by Mahabali’s growing popularity. However, for all the good deed done by Mahabali, God granted him a boon that he could annually visit his people with whom he was so attached.
It is this visit of Mahabali that is celebrated as Onam every year. People make all efforts to celebrate the festival in a grand way and impress upon their dear King that they are happy and wish him well.
Rich cultural heritage of Kerala comes out in its best form and spirit during the ten day long festival. It is indeed a treat to be a part of the grand carnival. People of Kerala make elaborate preparations to celebrate it in the best possible manner.
A Flower carpet “Pookalam” is laid in front of every house to welcome the advent of the vanquished king and earthen mounds representing Mahabali and Lord Vishnu are placed in the dung-plastered courtyards.
The most impressive part of Onam celebration is the grand feast called “Onasadya”, prepared on Thiruonam. It is a nine course meal consisting of 11 to 13 essential dishes. Onasadya is served on banana leaves and people sit on a mat laid on the floor to have the meal.
Another enchanting feature of Onam is Vallamkali,the Snake Boat Race, held on the river Pampa. It is a colourful sight to watch the decorated boat oared by hundreds of boatmen amidst chanting of songs and cheering by spectators.
There is also a tradition to play games, collectively called Onakalikal, on Onam. Men go in for rigorous sports like Talappanthukali (played with ball), Ambeyyal (Archery), Kutukutu and combats called Kayyankali and Attakalam. Women indulge in cultural activities. Kaikotti kali and Thumbi Thullal are two graceful dances performed by women on Onam. Folk performances like Kummatti kali and Pulikali add to the zest of celebrations.