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Onam - The Festival Of Harvesting:- Onam is the biggest and the most important state festival of Kerala. It is a harvest festival and is celebrated with joy and enthusiasm all over the state by people of all communities. According to a popular legend, the festival is celebrated to welcome King Mahabali, whose spirit is said to visit Kerala at the time of Onam.
Onam is celebrated in the beginning of the month of Chingam, the first month of Malayalam Calendar (Kollavarsham). This corresponds with the month of August-September according to Gregorian Calendar. The festival, Onam also marks the Malayalam New Year.
The carnival of Onam lasts from four to ten days. The first day (Atham) and tenth day (Thiruonam) are most important of all. In the festival of floral carpet, Rangoli (Pookalam) and Sadhya, Onam is considered to be most important one.
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Elaborate feasts, cultural and folk songs, elegant dances, energetic games, elephants, boat races and flower arrangements all are a part of the dynamic festival called Onam carnival.
- Significance And Legend Associated With Onam
Kerala witnessed its golden era during the reign of mighty asura (demon) king, Mahabali and the king was revered by all his subjects. The festival is commemorated as the homecoming of King Mahabali. However, Mahabali was an egoist and fought with the Gods (Devas) to showcase his supremacy. He defeated them and conquered their region and became lord of the two worlds. He decided to perform a yajna, in order to celebrate his victory, and proclaimed that whoever comes to him to ask for anything, they would be gratified.
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The Devas asked Lord Vishnu to wage war on Mahabali and get their kingdom back, but he refused as Mahabali was his devotee. However, he thought of testing him, so he took avatar as a dwarf (Vamana avatar) and asked Mahabali for three paces of land. Mahabali agreed thinking the dwarf will not be able to ask a lot. But Lord Vishnu in the Vamana avatar increased his size and with two paces covered the entire kingdom of Mahabali, for the third pace Mahabali offered him his head. The God granted him a boon that he could visit his kingdom and people once a year and this visit is celebrated as Onam.
- Onam Celebrations
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During the ten day long festival, the rich cultural heritage of Kerala comes out in its best form and spirit. It is indeed a treat to be a part of the grand carnival. People of Kerala make elaborate preparations to celebrate it in the best possible manner. They decorate their houses with flowers, colors and delectable feasts. Everything is grand in Onam.
The most impressive part of Onam celebration is the grand feast called Onasadya, prepared on Thiruonam. It is a nine course meal consisting of 11 to 13 essential dishes. Onasadya is served on banana leaves and people sit on a mat laid on the floor to have the meal.
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Another enchanting feature of Onam is Vallamkali, the Snake Boat Race, held on the river Pampa. It is a colorful sight to watch the decorated boat oared by hundreds of boatmen amidst chanting of songs and cheering by spectators.
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There is also a tradition to play games, collectively called Onakalikal, on Onam. Men go in for rigorous sports like Talappanthukali (played with ball), Ambeyyal (Archery), Kutukutu and combats called Kayyankali and Attakalam. Women indulge in cultural activities. They make intricately designed flower mats called, Pookalam in the front courtyard of house to welcome King Mahabali.
Kaikotti kali and Thumbi Thullal are two graceful dances performed by women on Onam. Folk performances like Kummatti kali and Pulikali add to the zest of celebrations.
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As it is a harvest season, the beautiful state of Kerala can be seen in its magnificent best. Weather is pleasantly sunny and warm calling for mirth and celebrations. Fields look brilliant as they glow with golden paddy grains. It is also the boom time of fruits and flowers.
After the month of deprivation, Karkidakam (last month of Malayalam Calendar), farmers are happy with a bountiful harvest and celebrate the festival to the hilt.
- Onam Muhurat
According to Drik Panchang, the Thiruvonam which is the last and most important day of Onam celebrations will be celebrated this year on Monday, September 4, 2017. The Onam muhurat timings are below:
Thiruvonam Nakshathram Begins = 09:37 on 3/Sep/2017
Thiruvonam Nakshathram Ends = 11:18 on 4/Sep/2017
Onam is being celebrated with utmost devotion and euphoria in the country and people have started gearing up for the festivities in store. The ten days would see people wishing each other, donning new clothes and making delectable dishes for the festival.
- The Ten Days Of Onam
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The Onam carnival continues for ten days in the state of Kerala. In some regions of the state, festivities are restricted to four to six days only. In earlier days, Onam was celebrated for a month and much more lavishly.
Nevertheless, Onam is still celebrated with gaiety and joy on all the ten days of the festivities. For each day, there are set rituals and the traditional people of Kerala dutifully follow them. Of all these days the first day Atham and the tenth day Thiruvonam are the most significant ones. Ninth day Uthradam is also considered to be extremely important from the point of view of celebrations in several parts of Kerala.
- Day One - Atham
The first day of festivities in the ten-day-long Onam carnival, is Atham. The day of Atham comes ten days before the star Onam or Thiru Onam hence Atham is regarded holy and auspicious by the traditional people of Kerala.
Major highlight of Atham is that people start making pookalam from this day. Pookalam, also called Athapoo, is an intricate floral mat laid in the front courtyard by maidens of the house. This is done to welcome the holy spirit of legendary King Mahabali whose spirit is said to visit Kerala at the time of Onam. The selection of flower is also an important matter as a particular flower is selected for each day for a specific deity.
To mark the beginning of the grand carnival of Onam, a grand procession called Athachamyam is also carried on the day of Atham. The procession of Athachamyam is of marked importance at Thripunithura, Kochi.
- Day Two - Chithira
Chithira is the second day of celebrations in the ten-day-long Onam festivities. There are not any marked rituals for the day but people offer their prayers to evoke divine blessings.
- Day Three - Chodhi
Third day of the ten-day-long carnival of Onam is called Chothi or Chodi. The day is marked by buzz and lot of activities. Well, there are no set rituals for Chothi. Specific flowers are added to Pookalam on this day too. It may be noted that different types of flowers are added to Pookalam on each day as each flower is devoted to a particular deity. As a result Pookalam increases in diameter on this day and gets a refreshing new design.
- Day Four - Visakam
Vishagam or Visakam is the fourth day of the Onam festivities. Women who have to prepare the elaborate meal of Onasadya on Thiruvonam, gets engaged in the prior preparations on Visakam. Making of various types of pickles and pappadams (papad) besides various other things starts now.
- Day Five - Anizham
Anizham is the fifth day of Onam celebrations. High point of the day is the grand Snake Boat Race event called Vallamkali, which takes place on the fifth day of the Onam. The hugely popular competition happens on the banks of the river Pamba at Aranmulla.
A large number of long snake like boats called chundan vallams participate in Vallamkali.
- Day Six - Thriketa
Triketta or Thriketa is the sixth day of the carnival of Onam. A feeling of joy and jubilation can be felt amongst the people of Kerala at this time. There are no set rituals marked for the day of Triketta. It marks the time for home coming for people staying away from their families for various reasons.
- Day Seven - Moolam
Moolam is the seventh day of the festival of Onam which continues for ten days. Pookalam is made in a new design with kondattam (gaiety) on this day with the most beautiful flowers.
- Day Eight - Pooradam
Pooradam is the eighth day of the ten-day-long carnival of Onam. The day holds significance in Onam festivities. Devotees create clay idols in the shape of small pyramids called a Ma. As the idol is created on the day of Pooradam, it is also called Poorada Uttigal. Each Ma is decorated with flowers.
On Pooradam, size of the Attha Poo gets further increased due to an addition of design with a different flower.
- Day Nine - Uthradam
Utradam or Uthradam is the ninth and the penultimate day of the festival of Onam. There is jubilation all around as people prepare to welcome the spirit of King Mahabali. In some regions of Kerala festivities of Onam starts in a full fledged way from Utradam itself. It is a public holiday on that day.
Some people also call Utradam as the first Onam and the next day Thiru Onam as the second Onam.
- Day Ten - Thiruvonam
Thiruvonam Aashamsakal ! The enchanting state of Kerala reverberates with the chants of Onaashmsakal, “To everyone, Onam Wishes” as people exchange warm greetings of the occasion on the tenth and the most important day of the carnival of Onam. People believe that it is on Thiru Onam that the spirit of legendary King Mahabali visits the state of Kerala.
The grand feast of Onam called Onasadya is prepared in the noon.
There are some rituals also marked for the eleventh and twelfth day called Avittom and Chatayam or Chathayam respectively. But the major celebrations get over on the tenth and the most important day of Thiruvonam.
- Onam Feasts - Onasadhya
The Onasandya or Sadhya is an integral part of the Onam celebrations and every Malayali either tries to make Sadhya at their house or attend one. The word Sadhya loosely translates to feast. True to the season in which Onam is celebrated, the feast is prepared by seasonal fruits and vegetables.
Served in banana leaves, Sadhya is a nine-course meal, which consists upto two dozen dishes, and in some cases more than 60 dishes.
Sadhya generally includes (but not limtied to) - Banana chips, Pappadam, Thoran, Avial, Sambhar, Rasam, Pulliseri (also known as Velutha curry), Pachadi, Moru (curd with water), pickles and many more things. The feast ends with Payasam, a dessert made of milk, sugar, jaggery and other Indian savories.
The importance of Sadhya in Onam can be judged by the saying “Kaanam Vittum Onam Unnanam”, a common Malayali phrase which means “Even if you sell your property, you need to have the Onam feast”.
So, Happy Feasting !