(Last Updated on : 06/09/2014)
Onam is one of the most prominent among the festivals
celebrated in the state
. It is celebrated for a period of ten days in the state in the Malabar Coast, as the month of August nears its end ('Chingam' month), the monsoon rains are ceasing and the humid heat of midsummer gives way to the pleasant warmth of Keralan autumn, though there is no flaming fall of leaves to mark the change of seasons in a land always and abundantly green. This Indian harvest festival is observed since 'Uthradom' or Onam Eve till the 4th day of Onam, celebrated to honour Lord Vishnu
's incarnation as 'Vamana Avatar
' and the homecoming of the ruler
'. Various elements of culture are interwoven in Onam including 'Onatthappan', 'Vallam Kali
', 'Kazhchakkula', 'Atthachamayam', 'Onapottan', 'Pookkalam', 'Pulikali', 'Onavillu', 'Thumbi Thullal', etc.
Legends of Onam
Onam is the festival of great fertility rite of the year, the observance of gratitude for the never-failing tropical fruits
, while it is also a festival which re-enacts one of the major legends of the state, the return of the great King Mahabali from the underworld to see his subjects.
On the eve of 'Thiru Onam', the second day of the festival, ziggurat-like structures of flowers
are placed in the entrances to Keralite houses which are intended to welcome him, on his annual return the following morning from the underworld, the legendary king Mahabali, who reigned over the state of Kerala in the golden age before caste existed, when all men were equal, no man was poor, and there was neither theft nor dread of thieves.The whole perspective of this ancient legend has changed in the state of Kerala, for Bali becomes Mahabali, the Great Bali
, who ruled the state so well that he aroused the jealousy rather than the fear of the Gods
, and who gave up his kingdom, not because he was the victim of a trick, but because he was so generous that he could not refuse a request and too honourable not to fulfil a promise. However, yet another legend of Onam
asserts that Parashurama
had restored Kerala from the bottom of the sea by throwing his battle-axe, and Onam is observed to mark this mythological event.
Rituals of Onam
The people of the state of Kerala prepare for the festival of Onam by tidying up their houses and beautifying or decorating them. 'Pookalam' is the name of a flower mat which is seen outside the house of every Keralite. This is prepared by arranging colourful attractive flowers in an unique pattern, and is one of the most significant rituals
The flower mat is a symbol of welcome for the great king Mahabali. Very tasty sweets
and dishes are made and are presented on the banana
leaves which are regionally referred to as 'Onam Sadya'. A saying is there in Malayalam, "Kanam Vittu Onam Unnanam" meaning, 'We should have the Thiruvonam lunch even if we have to sell all our properties'.
Such is the degree of importance given by the people of Kerala to the Thiruvonam day lunch. Come what may; the Keralites will not miss the lunch which is also known as 'Fourth Onam'. 'Payasam
' is the name of a sweet and tempting porridge is the preferred dessert served in the festival of Onam.
' is the name of a famous boat race which is one of the major attractions of the Onam festival. In the boat race, more than hundreds of men row the boats accompanied by the beating of cymbals
. A prominent thing which is noticed is that above each and every boat there is a scarlet-coloured silk
umbrella and some gold coins
hanging from the umbrella. The race is very popular where several boats compete with each other in order to win the race.
On the special day, each and every member of the family wears new clothes
or 'vastra'. These people wear new clothes and visit as much temples
as they can and take part in lots of dance
including 'Thumbi Tullal', 'Thiruvathirakali
', 'Pulikhali' tribal dance
etc. which are some of the few popular dance-forms performed in this southern Indian festival.
In this festival, traditional rituals are also executed and the people enjoy the occasion with lots of glory.
There is a procession of colourful elephant
s, which is carried out in Trichur in order to mark this festival of Kerala.
The beauty and importance of the festival of Onam lies in its fabric of secularism. This Kerala festival is not only the major moment of celebration of the Hindu
s but the Muslims and Christians also take part in it actively. It is one of the Indian festivals which bring together all the masses irrespective of their caste
s and creed. Festival of Onam forms an atmosphere of brotherhood and peace by the organization of several team sports on the day. It is regarded as the passion of the people living in Kerala and also the pride of India.