Onam is the most revered and celebrated festival of Kerala. It is symbolic of King Mahabali’s annual home-coming as well as celebrates the Vaman avatar of Lord Vishnu. This ten-day-long festival brings in the best of festive spirit among the people of Kerala and is celebrated with much splendor.
Onam 2021 is on August 21, Saturday
Significance of Onam
According to mythology, King Mahabali was the greatest king of Kerala and it was during his reign that the local people saw the best of times; prosperity and grandeur ruled everywhere. To end Mahabali’s rule on earth, Lord Vishnu emerged as a Vaman (short Brahmin) and tricked the King to give him whatever land he had. Thereby, King Mahabali was sent to a lower world; but Vishnu also granted him a boon that he could visit his land once every year. Onam celebrates this home-coming of the King.
Rituals of Onam
Onam is the rice harvest festival of Kerala. All the ten days of celebration of Onam has their own significance.
The characteristic floral designs known as ‘pookkalam’ are symbolic of this festival. Usually, women members of the house make different types of patterns on the ground with flowers and lit lamps to invite King Mahabali to their house. People gift and wear new clothes known as ‘Onakkodi’.
Grand feasts are prepared on this occasion. This is known as ‘onam sadya’. Usually, around 13 dishes are prepared for this. The food is served on banana leaves and commonly consists of rice along with different dishes, pickles, and papads. A characteristic sweet dish called ‘payasam’ is a must during Onam. It is made of rice, milk, sugar, and coconut.
Snake boats during a boat race in the backwaters of Aranmula in Pathanamthitta district of Kerala
Vallamkali or boat race, especially of Snake boats, is an event associated with Onam and is a grand event in Kerala these days. Huge snake-shaped boats rowed by hundreds of oarsmen compete with each other. Huge amounts of cash rewards are distributed as prizes for the winners.
Elephants decorated with ornaments are characteristic of Onam processions.
Thrikkakara appan (Onathappan) or Vaman Vishnu idols are installed at homes for worship.
Different types of cultural activities mark the celebration of Onam which include the traditional Kathakali dance, music, art, and cuisine.
Special dancers painted in yellow and black resembling tigers are seen commonly during Onam performing Pulikali dance. This time of the year is declared as Tourism week in Kerala as this is the best time to visit the state.
Onam is of special importance as it unites people of all religions residing in the state. It spreads the message of unity and peace in society.