Enchanting Onam festival - a religious tradition of Kerala

Onam festival, Food NDTV

Onam is a  popular and joyous annual Hindu festival that has its origin in  the state of Kerala, India. It is a New Year Day for the Malayalee Hindus. This year it is celebrated from  26 Saturday Aug to 6  Wednesday September. The purpose of the festival is to
commemorate the visit of King  Mahabali, who, according to the Hindu mythology, was  pushed to the pathal (under world) world by Lord Vishnu. Vishnu, in the guise of  a dwarf saint, demanded three strides of land from him when king Mahabali was honoring scholarly people with donations. The lord took this guise to put an end to his arrogance and pride. Granting three strides of land,  Mahabali thought he could fulfil his vow. When the saint (lord) took the huge form stretching  from heaven to earth, he made two strides (covering sky and the land). The king offered his head for the third stride. Lord pushed the demon king to the neither world and, pleased with Mahabali's humility,  made him attain  immortality through his grace. 

Onam festival flower decoration - Alamy

Onam festival is held  in the Malayalam calendar month of Chingam,(Gregorian calendar overlaps with August–September. The festival also associated with harvest is celebrated by the Malayalees in Kerala and across India; this festival assumes great importance for Malayalee diaspora around the world.

 Onam is so important  a festival the state enjoys a four day holiday from  Onam eve. The highlight of Onam is though it is a Hindu festival, non-Hindus participate in large number and it is more a cultural festival than a religious festival.

It is associated with  numerous  cultural and religious events  such as  Vallam Kali (boat races), Pulikali (tiger dances), Pookkalam (flower arrangement), Onathappan (worship), Thumbi Thullal (women's dance), Kummati kali (mask dance), Onathallu Atthachamayam (folk songs and dance),etc.

The ten day cerebration is as follows:

Day 1- Atham: People visit temples in the morning; demon king Mahabali begins his journey from the pathal world.


Atthachamayam, begins with a grand procession at Thrippunithura near Kochi. This place where Mahabali is purported to have beenbanished from earth. Traditional Onam pookolam begings on this day. The size of flowers will increase as the festival progresses through days. The size of Pookalam on this day is called as Athapoo.

Day 2- Chithira: Much importance to given to cleanliness of the house, so, it is well cleaned, swept and whitewashed. As for pookplam (Rangoli), a second layer is added.

Day 3 - Chodhi: Normal puja activities continue 

asusal and the pookolam becomes bigger now, by adding different layers of flowers. This day is spent on shopping - buying gifts, new clothing, jewellery, etc.

Day 4 - Vishakam: Being an auspicious day onam  begins in the families with  each family member doing something worthwhile. Several varieties of food are made.  Merchants in food grains open their business today.

Day 5 - Anizham: It is a day of  fun as organisers of snake boat races get their boats ready after doing major repair works, etc. Boat races at
Aranmula Uthrattathi Vallamkali  are famous.

Kerala, snakeboat race, Onam festival .gettyimages.in/detai

Day 6 - Thriketa: This day provides an opportunity for the family members to visit their ancestral homes and pay obeisance to the elders to get their blessings. They also exchange gifts. Traditional pookolam is maintained and
at least 5 to 6 flowers are added to the original design.

Day 7 - Moolam: On this day at many temples special
sadhyas  are held. The specialty is the conducting of Ona Sadya (Onam special buffet lunch)  at many places.  This day gives importance to entertainment. Many traditional dances that have been in vogue for a pretty long time assume prominence. Mention may be made of Puli Kali (Masked leopard dance) and traditional dance forms like Kaikotti Kali.  Yet another interesting feature is fin some places people decorate a swing with flowers to celebrate the king's homecoming..

Day 8 - Pooradam: This day assumes much importance as Mahabali is purported to visit the houses. Mahabali is nicknamed
Onathappan. The statues of Vamana and Mahabali are taken around the house and placed in the center of the  much bigger and more complex Pookalam.

Day 9 - Uthradam: Tradition has it that demon king Mahabali will stay right here and visit his erstwhile kingdom. This day is set aside for purchasing provisions need for the Thiruvonam day, including fresh fruits and vegetables. This day is believed to be Onam Eve.

Day 10 - Thiruvonam: It is the final day of the festivaland people  put welcome sign at the entrance of the cleaned house by applying white flour paste. Family members after taking early bath in the early morning, put on new dresses. Tradition has it that elders in the family distribute the new clothes among the family members. Pujas are conducted in the house.
To day is marked by Onam sadya feasts in many places, illumination of the temples, colorful fireworks display,etc.