Just as the monsoon bids adieu to the land of South India, the air is filled with vigour, joy, and happiness with the arrival of Onam, a significant festival celebrated majorly in Kerala. From the intricately decorated elephants to the wild Pulikali dancers, and from the gigantic snake boats lined up at the shore to the gorgeous floral decorations, this festival paints the state in more colors than you can imagine.
And with this detailed guide, embark on a journey to know everything about Onam festival that is not only celebrated in India but also across various parts of the world.
About Onam Festival 2021
Marking the end of monsoons and welcoming the harvest season, this Kerala festival, Onam 2021 is a Hindu festival celebrated annually, all over India with its origin in the Kerala state. One of the biggest festivals of the state, Onam is celebrated for 10 days during the Malayalam month of Chingam which fills the heart of people with gaiety, and brings them together to be a part of this vibrant and cultural festival. The festivities of Onam reflects the traditions and culture of Kerala in the most unique way. Onam festival date 2021 has been released by the ministry according to which the festival will be conducted from August 12, 2021, to August 23, 2021.
Significance Of Onam Festival
Onam festival history dates back to the Sangam period, when Onam was used to be celebrated for a month. According to the ancient legends, this festival of rain flowers was celebrated to commemorate the arrival of Asura King Mahabali’s annual visit from Patala (the world underneath). The story revolves around the time when Kerala was ruled by the demon king Mahabali (grandson of Prahlad) who was known for his generosity. His growing popularity became a threat for the gods and they came to Lord Vishnu for seeking help. Sensing their concern, Lord Vishnu disguised himself as a poor Brahmin called Vamana.
When he arrived at the kingdom of the demon king, he asked Mahabali to grant him the land which he can cover within three feet. Being a kind hearted and charitable person, the king granted his wish and soon the Vamana started to grow in size and his first and second step covered the sky and earth. As the brahmin was about to take the third step, the demon king stepped up and asked him to keep his last step on his head which lead him to Patala. However for the good deeds of Mahabali, Lord Vishnu granted him a boon that he can annually visit his people which led to the celebration of the Onam festival in India.
Cultural Relevance Of Onam Festival
Onam festival in Kerala holds an important significance for the Hindus, but this occasion is enjoyed by every religion. The grand festivities and gala of this ancient festival eliminates all the religious disparities and propagates harmony in the society. Apart from the hindu rituals, it is witnessed that the Christians of Kerala also celebrate this annual festival in great zeal. Their rituals includes lighting of Nilavilakku which is followed by an arati and waving of flowers over the Bible which is called Pushparati. Along with this they also have a meal together with Hindus which signifies the communion of brothers and sisters irrespective of faith and beliefs. Onam festival traditional dress is Kasavu Sarees and you will see all the married women wearing these exclusive sarees throughout the festival.
6 Events During Onam Festival
If you want to know what happens during Onam festival in Kerala, then we have made a list of all the events that you can check out!
1. Tripunithura Athachamayam
This marks the first day of Onam which is celebrated with grandeur and zeal. The day is filled with colorful inauguration which features a street parade. This includes different Kerala art forms, musicians, dancers and carnival floats and decorated elephants which walks down the streets.
2. Pookalam: The Floral Decorations & Arrangement
Onam festival is also called the festival of flowers and Pookalam is one of the forms of celebrating this grand festival. This is referred to the ritual where the people make designs on the floor and decorate that with various flowers, usually at the door fronts and temples which looks like a flower mat.
3. Pulikali: The Grand Tiger Dance
The literal meaning of Pulikali is ‘the play of the tiger’, which was started 200 years ago. The former king of Kochi took forward the legacy of tiger dance which reflected manliness. For the dance hundreds of people get themselves painted and dressed like tiger and later they perform dance on traditional music.
4. Vallamkali: The Snake Boat Race
Another fascinating thing about Onam festival is the famous boat race which takes place in Kerala. The Vallamkali or the snake boat race is held on the Pampa river in a grand procession which includes the Aranmula Uthrattathi boat race and Nehru Trophy Boat race. You will be left thrilled after doing this so make sure it is included in your itinerary!
5. Onam Sadya: The Complete Meal
A festival without delicious food is incomplete and the Onam festival food is one of its kinds and thus the Onasadya or the ‘Onam Feast’ is the highlight of this 10-day celebration. This is a nine-course meal which comprises of 11-13 traditional dishes which is served on a banana leaf. Commemorated at the last two days, this is a form of worship which starts at 10 am and ends by 5 pm.
6. Folk Dances: Festivities At Its Peak
Any festival is incomplete without a dance performance, and Onam festival is no different. During the festival you can see a lot of women perform folk dances. One of the dance form is Kaikottikali during King Mahabali is praised. It is a type of clap dance form. Another dance form is the Thumbi Thualli in which the women dance in circles.
Events Post Onam Celebration
The major part of the Onam celebration end by the Thiruvonam which is followed by the another two days as the third and fourth Onam. The third day called the Avittom marks the celebration of King Mahabali’s abode to the heavens. During this celebration the most important ritual of the day is immersing the Onathappan statue which is place in the middle of every Pokallam during these 10 days after which the Pokallam is cleaned removed.
Other Customs On Onam Celebrations
- Among all the festivities, another important ritual is that people buy and wear new clothes which is called the Onakkodi
- During the Onam festival in Kerala, Keralite Hindus install and worship the Thrikkakara Appan or Onathappan at their homes
- The Hindu temples in Kerala are decorated with lamps and a Palmyra tree is erected in front of the temple which is enclosed by wooden balustrade and dry Palmyra leaves. Later it is lit to signify that King Mahabali went to Patala as a sacrifice
- In the rural areas, the swing is an integral part of the celebration where locals sing Onappaatt or other Onam songs and push each other on the swing
- Apart from all the zealful activities, the handloom fairs are also vigours the spirit of Onam festival
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Frequently Asked Questions About Onam Festival
A. Onam will be celebrated from August 12, 2021, to August 23, 2021.
A. It is a 10-day festival, conducted to celebrate the golden rule of King Mahabali, the mythical ruler of Kerala. According to the folklore, the demigods sent Vishnu in the form of dwarf Brahmin to defeat Mahabali. After defeating the ruler, Vishnu granted the king’s sole wish to visit his land every year for 10 days. These 10 days are celebrated as Onam every year in the state of Kerala.
A. Onam is the biggest festival of Kerala which is celebrated to welcome King Mahabali whose pious sole is believed to visit Kerala during the 10-day festival.
A. Kathakali, the traditional dance form of Kerala is performed on Onam.