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.
What Is Onam Festival?
Marking the end of monsoons and welcoming the harvest season, Onam 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.
What Is the Significance Of Onam Festival?
The history of this festival 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.
What Is The Cultural Significance Of Onam Festival?
Onam festival 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.
What Happens During Onam Festival?
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.
5. Onam Sadya: The Complete Meal
A festival without delicious food is incomplete 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.
What Happens Post Onam Celebrations?
The major part of the Onam festival celebrations 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, 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
What Are Onam 2018 Dates In Kerala?
In 2018, the most important day of the Onam festival called the Thiru Onam is on 25th August. The rituals associated along with Onam starts approximately 10 days before the Thiru Onam on Atham which is on 15th August.
How Can You Be A Part Of Onam Festival 2018?
There are endless reasons to visit Kerala throughout the year, but during the festivities of the Onam festival, one can witness the grandeur of this annual celebration along with a unique bond of brotherhood among people irrespective of caste and religion.
To be a part of this grand celebration, you can book customizable Kerala tour packages as per your needs, and let TravelTriangle craft a personalized holiday for you!
And with Onam just round the corner, the time would just be right to plan a Kerala holiday right away!