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Onam is the popular festival of Kerala celebrated in the entire state with joy and brotherhood. Onam Festival falls during the Malayalam month Chingam (August/September) and this year, it will starts on 22nd August. Irrespective of Religion all Malayalies celebrating this festival Onam with a lot of joy and happiness. Not only in Kerala but in all over the world Malayalies celebrates Onam which starts on a day called Atham and ends on the 10th day which is Thiruvonam. In these 10 days of celebration, each day has its own importance in various rituals and traditions.

pulikalli onam festival

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The traditional ritual of laying “Athapookalam” stars on Atham day. The main flower used for Athapookalam is “thumbapoo”. On the first day, it is small in size like in a circle laying thumbapoo surrounded by a ring of another verity flower. And the size of Athapookalam gradually increases as the number of flower rings increases each day. Different flowers are used each day. On thiruvonam day the pookalam has been removed with some poojas and offerings to” Thrikakara Appan” (The god of Onam). There are different events like Vallam Kali, Pulikali, Thiruvathirakali, Onappatu, etc. conducted during Onam days. If you want to know more about the Onam or wanted to experience the Onam closely do visit some tourist places in Kerala and enjoy this 10 days Onam festival fully.

History of Onam Festival:-

Onam Kerala Festival

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The Legend of Onam is related to the Evil Emperor Mahabali. Despite being an Evil, Mahabali ruled the earth very well. Citizens are very happy and no worries and sorrows anywhere in the world. Then The Devas saw the rise of the Evil King as a threat. The Devas approached Lord Vishnu and ask for help and he agreed to help.

Mahabali was performing the sacrificial rite of Vishwajit Yagam on the banks of the Narmada River. Taking advantage of the Yagam and Mahabali’s declaration, Lord Vishnu disguised as a Brahmin boy “VAMANA” and came to the Yaga-sala (the place where pooja is held). Mahabali received the Brahmin boy with all honor and courtesies. As Mahabali offered Vamana that he was ready to fulfill his wish whatever it is, Vamana asked Mahabali land equivalent to three paces of his feet. As Mahabali was a King who would never go back on his word, he resumed his promise to Vamana. Mahabali asked Vamana to measure out the desired three paces of Land. Then Vamana grew in size as big as to measured all of the earth in one footstep and for the second footstep he measured all heaven.

There was still one-foot territory left. Mahabali requested Vamana to place the final step on his head as the third step of land. Vamana did so and in doing so, send him down to sutala the heaven-like underworld. The site where he placed his foot to be said the village of THRIKKAKARA. As a last gift, Mahabali was granted permission to visit his subjects once a year. Thus Malayalees celebrate Onam festival as the yearly visit of Mahabali.

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Onam Festival

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Also, there are Earthen hills, which look fairly like square pyramids, speaking to Mahabali, and Vamanan are put in the yards before the house and delightfully improved with blossoms. Known as âOnapookkalamâ, it is a floor covering made out of the assembled blooms with a couple of assortments of foliage of contrasting tints squeezed up into little pieces to fill the decorator’s need. It is a lovely gem achieved with a sensitive touch and a profoundly creative feeling of tone and mixing.

Important of Onam Festival:

This festival is the biggest festival of Kerala. It is celebrated for 10 days. Kerala people believed that soul of King Mahabali visit during the Onam. 

Important Days of Onam Festival:

The whole 10 days festival is important but there are major days which are very much important of this harvest festival and that are Uthraadam – celebrated as in honors of Mahabali king return to Kerala (on 22nd, August); Thiruvonam – The second day of Mahabali king and visit all his people’s home (23rd August); Avittam – All the devotees are preparing for the departure of their king (24th September); Main Day of Onam (31st August).

Major Events During Onam:

1) Athachamayam festival:

Athachamayam Festival

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On this festival parade held on the street which introduces different Kerala art forms, musicians, dancers, carnival floats, and elephants with beautiful decoration.  

2) Pulikali Tiger dance: 

Pulikali

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On this day, people decorate themselves like Tiger and perform the traditional dance. 

3) Folk dances:

Onam is one of those festivals in Kerala which is incomplete without dance performance. People do dance forms like Kaikottikali and Thumbi Thualli.

4) Pookalam:

Pookalam

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To celebrate Pookalam, people decorate their floors with flowers. They make their door fronts and temples like flower mat.

5) Snake Boat Race:

snake-boat-race-kerala

During Onam, People celebrate one of the oldest boat race called Aranmula Boat Race. This boat race is held on the Pamba river in Aranmula. They celebrate it as a tradition rather than competition.

6) Onam Sadhya – Festival Food of Kerala:

Onam sandya

On this special day, tradition Kerala meal is being prepared such as rice, sambhar, rasam, parippu payasam, etc, and served on a banana leaf for 10 days. This traditional feast is known as “Onam Sadhya” and it is the major highlight of this festival. In Thrikkara Temple of Kerala, thousands of people enjoy this delicious meal throughout 10 days long.

Another tradition in the Onam season is swinging. People used to make a swing in all houses. Traditionally the swing is a long rope tied on the branch of a hardwood tree with a wooden seat. During the festive mood, people wear a new dress. The head of the family distributes new dresses to all family members.

Image courtesy: Flickr/rageshev