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Onam Festival

Onam is a festival celebrated by Hindus in the state of Kerala in India. It is also the state festival of Kerala and its importance can be measured by the fact that it is celebrated with state holidays of 4 days starting from Onam Eve (Uthradom) to the 3rd Onam Day. The festival is celebrated in the Malayalam month of Chingam i.e. the months of (Aug- Sept) as the rice harvest festival or the festival of Rain flowers.

Mythologicaly it is believed that on this day the Asur or the Demon king Mahabali visits his kingdom on earth from the depths of the Pataal every year to see the citizens of his kingdom are living happily. The deity Vamana, also called Onatthappan, is also revered during this time by installing a clay figure next to the floral carpet (Pookalam).

Onam Rituals and Activities

The celebration for Pongal starts within a fortnight before the festival and continues up to 10 days of all these days, most important ones are the first day, &lsquo ;Atham’ and the tenth and final day &lsquo ;Thiru-Onam’. The ten day festival is flagged of with flagged off with Atthachamayam (Royal Parade on Atham Day).

Pookalam : The floral carpet known as &lsquo ;Onapookkalam’ is made out with several petals of different types of flowers pinched up and decorated along the floor in a circle having different colours and shades. This decoration is an essential part of the celebrations and is considered to be a piece of art. When completed, a miniature pandal, hung with little festoons is erected over it. From starting it has been drawn up in a perfect circular shape but lately it is also being created in various different shapes depicting the aspects of Malayali culture.

Onam Sadya : It is the name given to the feast held on Onam. Every Keralite tries to host try to attend one. This spectacular feast is served on banana leaves and contains upto 26 dishes; in hotels and temples the count may go up to 30 dishes and curries.

Music and dance : The traditional dance forms of Thiruvathira, Kummattikali, Pulikali, Thumbi Thullal etc. are performed as part of celebrations all over Kerala at this time. The most popular kathakali danceis also performed during this period. One popular dance form to be performed is the Pulikali dance also known as Kaduvalli, in which male dancers paint their bodies in the colours of a face of a lion and perform on streets in groups.

Boat Race: The popular snake boat races are also a part of the Onam festivities. More than 100 boat men row these specially made long boats and there are many tournaments held during this period including the including the Aranmula Uthrattadhi Boat Race and the Nehru Trophy Boat Race.

The ten days of the festivals are: Atham, Chithira, Chodhi, Vishakam, Anizham, Thriketa, Moolam, Pooradam, Uthradom, and Thiruvonam. The post Onam festivities include the celebration of third and fourth Onam two days after the Thiruvonam. The third Onam, called Avvittom marks the preparations for King Mahabali’s ascension to heavens. The day is also important as on this day the men paint their bodies in the color of a lion and perform Pulikali on the streets.

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