What perfect time to be in Kerala than Onam! For ten days, this southern state in India, better known as 'God's own Country' decks up to welcome the arrival of this harvest festival and the legendary Mahabali. Spectacular processions of caparisoned elephants, amazing fireworks, boat races on the backwaters and the lavish Onam Sadya (lunch) in every Malayali home mark the festivities of Onam.
Onam is the most popular festival in Kerala and is celebrated with great pomp and show. It is believed to be the National festival of Kerala. Onam is celebrated each year in the month of August-September which according to the Malayalam calendar is the first month of the year called Chingam. The festivities of the Onam last for ten days in which old and young participate with equal enthusiasm.
Meaning of Onam
The word Onam is believed to have been originated from the Sanskrit word Shravanam which in Sanskrit refers to one of the 27 Nakshatars or constellations. Thiru in South India is used for anything associated with the Lord Vishnu and Thiruvonam is believed to be the Nakshatra of Lord Vishnu who pressed the great King Mahabali to the underworld with his foot.
Importance of Onam
The festival of Onam is dedicated to the King Mahabali who though was an Asur (one with more negative thoughts in his mind) by birth but was a Sur (one with more positive thoughts in his mind) by virtue. It is said that Kerala never witnessed a better time than it witnessed during the rule of King Mahabali. He was the most just king ever. None of the needy ever returned empty handed from his door. The myth of King Mahabali says that the king sacrificed himself along with every thing else he had in order to stand true to his words. Thus as a reward for his sacrifice he was blessed to be remembered by the people of Kerala and all his followers for eternity in the form of Onam festival.
If you wish to travel to Kerala to enjoy the fun and frolic of an Indian festival, then the best option would be the time of Onam. The interesting rituals associated with the festival contribute to making the celebrations of Onam a fascinating one.
Frequently asked questions about Onam
What is Onam?
Onam is a festival celebrated by Malayalis in Kerala or in any other part of the world to mark the homecoming of the Great King Mahabali. It is also said to mark the harvest season for Kerala. The festival lasts for ten days and is celebrated with a great splendour.
When is Onam celebrated?
Onam is usually celebrated in the month of August-September. This period is considered to be the beginning of a New Year according to Malayalam calendar and the first month according to the calendar is Chingam when Onam is held.
Why is Onam Celebrated?
Onam is celebrated to mark the homecoming of the King Mahabali who is believed to be the greatest king ever in Kerala. It is believed that he rules the underworld as per the orders of Lord Vishnu and visits his subjects once in a year and this occasion is called Onam which for Malayalis all across the world is an extravaganza.
Where is Onam celebrated?
Onam is celebrated by the Malayalis all over India and the world but it is primarily celebrated in Kerala in India where its glitter is equivalent to that of a national festival.
What is the duration of the Onam festival?
The festival of Onam lasts for ten days. Each day is called by a different name and there are specific celebrations on each of the ten days. There also are post Onam celebrations in Kerala which adds two more days to the celebrations.
How is Onam celebrated in Kerala?
The festival of Onam brings along with it all the colours of Kerala-its history, its culture, its beliefs. Designing of beautiful flower carpets called Pookalam, preparation of banquet lunch, organization of snake boat races, Puli Kali, and the Kaikottikkali dance are the major attractions of the festival.
What are other names for the festival of Onam?
Onam is called Thiru-Onam or Thiruvonam (Sacred Onam Day). Another name for the festival is the 'Sravanmahotsav'.
Onam is celebrated throughout the Kerala with a lot of gaiety and fun but the some of the place where masses gather to celebrate the festival include Tripunithura, near Ernakulam in greater Kochi where Athachamayam festival is celebrated. People dress up as tigers and lions and dance at Swaraj Round in Thrissur. The boat race in Aranmula is another major attraction of the festival.
What are the special dishes cooked for the festival of Onam in Kerala?
The cooking of elaborated meals Known as Onam-Sadya is an important part of the Onam festival. These meals served on Banana leaves include rice along with at least 4 varieties of dishes along with traditional pickles and papadam and dessert called 'payasam'.
What are the major attractions or events of the Onam festival?
The ten day Onam festival is an occasion of numerous events. Some of the most popular and interesting events are Pokkalam, Onasadya, Onakalikal, Vallamkali Boat Race and Elephant Procession.
Last Updated on : 16/09/2013