Onam

Religion: Hindu
Country: India
Upcoming Onam is on 21 August 2021 (Saturday)

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Onam is the state festival of Kerala and is celebrated in the first month of chingam according to the Malayalee Calendar. The festival falls in the month of August to September according to the Gregorian calendar. The festival is celebrated for ten days and brings out  the  best culture and tradition of the South Indian state. This is a harvest festival and is marked by intricately decorated Pookalam, Onasadya, amazing Snake Boat Race and exotic Kaikottikali dance.

Onam Origin

According to the legends Kerala was ruled by king Mahabali who was very powerful and a just king. Mahabali was generous and kind hearted king of Kerala. He was highly regarded by his subjects and everybody was happy in in his kingdom. He was powered by a boon granted to him by Lord Brahma that  he was invincible but he was egoistic and his growing power worried the gods. They pleaded for help from Lord Vishnu who was worshiped by King Mahabali. So in order to curtail his powers lord Vishnu transformed himself into a dwarf called Vamana and approached Mahabali while he was performing a yajna and asked for alms. Mahabali granted him a wish. Vamana asked  for three feet of land from the Demon king to which the king readily agreed.

Vamana increased his stature exponentially and with the first step covered the whole earth and with the second covered both heaven and hell.  He then asked for a place to put his third step. But the king had to keep his words therefore King Mahabali asked Vamana to put his third step on his head. Vamana pushed Mahabali into the nether world but before that Lord Vishnu was pleased with King Mahabali generosity and granted him a boon. Since he was deeply attached with his people, the King said he would like to visit his people every year. It is this homecoming of King Mahabali that is celebrated as Onam every year even today.

How is Onam Celebrated?

Onam is celebrated with great enthusiasm and grandeur in Kerala. Various rituals mark this festival. Pookkalam which is  flowers arranged in beautiful patterns forms an intricate part of festival. From the very first day, people put pookkalam  at their entranceway. Kaikotti kali (also known as Thiruvathira kali) dance is performed during Onam. This is performed by women who dance around deepam clad in traditional Kerala sarees.  Another dance form that is performed during the season is known as 'Pulikali' or 'Kaduvakali'. Here men paint themselves like tigers and dance ferociously to the accompaniment of musical instruments. Kummattikali is another form of dance that is performed during Onam. Various outdoor games are organised during Onam like 'Talappanthukali' ball game, ‘Kayyankali' one-to-one fight between men, without using weapon, ‘Attakalam’ fight between men, played in groups, Ambeyyal (Archery) and 'Kutu Kutu' (Kabaddi).

Vallamkali or the snake boat race is also a major attraction during Onam. The last day of the festivities is called Thiruvonam. On this day people clean their houses, wear new clothes, and perform prayers in their homes and visit temples to seek heavenly blessings. Pookalam is arranged in the house entrance to welcome the king Mahabali. On this day a grand fest is served called the Onasadya. This is a vegetarian meal which consists of 11-13 dishes with usually  6-7 courses and this number varies from region to region.


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