Onam is a festival which is celebrated with pomp and show in Kerala. It is considered as the national festival of Kerala. It is celebrated every year during the month of August or September. According to the Malayalam calendar, these are the first month of the year, Chingam. Thiru-Onam, Thiruvonam and Sravanmahotsav are the other name of Onam. It is celebrated for ten days. Young and old participate in all the festivities with equal enthusiasm and zeal.
Names are not useless. They are well thought of and have a meaning. The word Onam is believed to derive from the word Shravamam, a Sanskrit word which means one of the 27 constellations (nakshatars). It is believed to be the constellation or Nakshatars or Lord Vishnu. He pressed the King Mahabali under his foot. King Mahabali was an Asur by birth. It means one who had many negative thoughts in his mind. He was believed to be Sur by virtue, which means one with more positive thoughts.
Like every festival, even Onam has its own importance. It was witnessed that under the rule of King Mahabali, Kerala had a best time. No needy ever returned empty handed from his doors. The myth of the King Mahabali said that the King was ready to sacrifice everything to keep his words and even if it means sacrificing him. He was blessed to be remembered by the people in Kerala in the form of Onam festival for the sacrifices he made.
Onam marks the harvest season of Kerala.
It is celebrated for ten days. Each day is called by the different name and each one is celebrated differently. Onam is celebrated which marks the homecoming of the King Mahabali. He was considered to be one of the great king in Kerala. It is believed that as per the orders of Lord Vishnu, he used to rule the underworld and used to visit his subjects that also only once in a year. This occasion is known as Onam. It is celebrated by the Malayalis and especially this festival is celebrated in Kerala.
Onam-Sadya is the cooking of elaborated meals and it is an important part of the Onam festival. Banana leaves are used for serving it along with rice. Also, at least four dishes of different varieties are served with traditional pickle. The addition of sweet dish, Payasam is also a tradition.
There are some major attractions of Onam celebrations.
* Pookkalam: People make designs in front of the gate of the house with the help of different types of flowers. A new layer of flower is added with the each passing day. Even Pookkalam competitions are held at some places.
* Onasadya: At the day of Thiruonam, this grand meal is prepared. It is a nine course meal which contains at least four to five vegetables. It is served on the banana leaves. Some families even cook nine to eleven dishes on this day and even restaurants offer around 30 dishes.
* Onakalikal: This refers to all the games that are played during Pongal. Talappanthukali is a game which is played with the help of ball is the favorite of men. They also involve themselves in the game of archery. Women perform several traditional dances and make Pookalam.
* Vallamkali Boat Race: Snake Boat Race is another name given to it. It is the most entertaining event that takes place during Onam. More than 100 boatmen compete with each other. They decorate their boats with different patterns beautifully. Many men and women witness this race.
* Elephant Procession: It is the most awaited event of the festival. The majestic animal, elephant is decorated with flowers and other ornaments made up of gold and also of other metals. Elephant takes round during the occurrence of the procession. Elephants use their small gestures to interact with people and they also dance.
* Folk dances: This is performed by the women and is one of the major attractions of the festival. Kaikottikali is a form of the dance which uses claps and is performed on the occasion of Onam. Women who perform this dance praise the King Mahabali by singing. Thumbi Thullal is a dance form which is performed by women on Onam. They perform this dance in a circle.
Ten days of Onam:
It is celebrated for ten days. Each day is called by the different name and each one is celebrated differently.
Day 1- Atham: This is the first day of the celebration of the Onam. It is supposed that on this day King Mahabali started his preparation to move towards Earth. Statues of King Mahabali and Vamana are kept in houses. It is designed by the yellow flowers having a name Pookalam, whose size increases with each passing day.
Day 2- Chithira: On this day people start cleaning their houses and another layer of flowers is added.
Day 3- Chodi: Beginning of the shopping starts on this day. Addition of the flowers is done to Pookalam.
Day 4- Vishakam: On this day, the events of sports and competition start.
Day 5- Anizham: On this day, the boat race starts.
Day 6- Thriketa: People starts devoting their time for celebrations and all the schools get closed.
Day 7- Moolam: Ona Sadya and other dance forms are performed. By this time, the state has been beautifully decorated.
Day 8- Pooradam: By this time, Pookalam is very big in size and the statues of Vamana and King Mahabali are added to it.
Day 9- Uthradom: It is believed that it is a day when King Mahabali reached the state of Kerala. On this day fresh vegetables are bought and women cook traditional meals.
Day 10- Thiruonam: This is the final celebration of the festival. Thiruona Sadya which is a special mean of Onam is prepared. People distribute gifts and offer their prayers in the temple.