In the land of Kerala where legends reside,
We gladly tell the story of Onam,
Vibrant harvest festival,
Bringing old and new hearts together
Table of Contents
Story of Onam is a well-known and beloved event in the Indian state of Kerala. It has immense cultural significance and is celebrated by people from all walks of life on religious and regional lines. Onam is a harvest festival in Malayalam celebrated during the month of Chingam, which falls between August–September in the Gregorian calendar.
WHEN IS ONAM IN 2023?
Sun, August 20, 2023 – Thu, August 31, 2023
In which country is Onam Celebration?
It is the festival of the state of Kerala and one of the most important and frequently celebrated events in the region. The festival is deeply ingrained in the cultural tradition of Kerala and holds immense significance for the people of the state.
Why is the Onam Celebration special to Kerala?
Onam is special to Kerala for several reasons, each of which contributes to its cultural, social and historical significance:
Historical and Mythological Significance (Onam):
The festival is deeply rooted in Kerala’s history and mythology, with its origins traced back to the ancient legend of King Mahabali. According to the story, Mahabali was a just and benevolent king who ruled Kerala. His reign was considered a golden age of prosperity and equality. However, his success and popularity aroused the jealousy of the gods, particularly Lord Vishnu.
As a result, Vishnu took on the avatar of Vamana, a dwarf Brahmin, and sought alms from Mahabali. Vamana then requested three paces of land and, in three steps, covered the entire universe. In humility and respect for his promise, Mahabali offered his own head for the third step. Pleased with Mahabali’s devotion and selflessness, Vamana granted him a boon to visit his kingdom once a year, which is celebrated as Onam.
Onam Celebration and Customs:
Onam is marked by a series of colorful and vibrant celebrations that span over several days:
Pookalam: The festivities begin with the creation of intricate flower carpets called “Pookalam” in front of homes. People collect various flowers and arrange them in beautiful patterns to welcome King Mahabali.
Sadya Feast: A grand vegetarian feast known as “Sadya” is a hallmark of Onam. It is served on banana leaves and comprises a wide array of traditional Kerala dishes. The feast is a symbol of unity and equality, as people from all walks of life partake in it together.
Vallamkali (Boat Races): One of the most thrilling aspects of Onam is the traditional boat races that take place in the backwaters of Kerala. The most famous of these races is the “Nehru Trophy Boat Race,” held in Alappuzha. Spectacularly decorated snake boats, known as “Chundan Vallams,” compete in races that draw enthusiastic crowds.
Kathakali Performances: Kathakali, a traditional dance form of Kerala, is an integral part of Onam celebrations. Elaborate performances depict mythological stories and epics, with artists donning intricate makeup and costumes.
Cultural Events: Various cultural events, folk dances, music performances, and other forms of entertainment are organized to celebrate the spirit of Onam. It’s a time for people to come together, enjoy each other’s company, and revel in the rich cultural heritage of Kerala.
New Attire: People don new clothes, especially the traditional Kerala attire of white and gold-bordered sarees for women and dhotis for men, to mark the occasion.
Symbolism and Unity (Onam Celebration):
Onam symbolizes the essence of Kerala’s culture: unity, harmony, and diversity. The festival brings people from different walks of life together to celebrate their shared heritage. It’s a time when social and economic barriers are momentarily forgotten, and people come together as equals to celebrate the bounty of nature.
In summary, Onam is not just a festival; it’s a celebration of Kerala’s rich history, mythology, culture, and spirit of togetherness. It serves as a reminder of the importance of unity, compassion, and respect for all, embodying the values that King Mahabali and his reign stood for.
What is Onam All About?
Onam is a lively harvest festival that commemorates the golden age of King Mahabali, a legendary ruler of Kerala known for his benevolence and prosperity. It’s a time for revelry, family gatherings, traditional performances, and sumptuous feasts.
What’s the Significance of Onam?
Onam celebrates the return of King Mahabali to Kerala for a brief period, as it’s believed that he visits his subjects during this time. The festival symbolizes equality, abundance, and the unity of people.
How Long Does Onam Last?
Onam is typically celebrated over ten days, falling in the Malayalam month of Chingam. The grandest celebrations occur during the first four days.
What are the Main Attractions of Onam?
The main attractions include the grand procession known as the Athachamayam, the stunning floral carpets (Pookalams), the traditional dance form of Kaikottikali, and the thrilling snake boat races.
How Do People Decorate Their Homes During Onam?
Homes are adorned with intricate Pookalams made from vibrant flowers. Torches are also lit at entrances to guide King Mahabali’s path.
Tell Me About the Onam Sadya (Feast).
The Onam Sadya is an elaborate vegetarian feast served on banana leaves. It features a variety of dishes, each meticulously prepared and placed in a particular order.
What Role Do Flowers Play in Onam Celebrations?
Flowers hold immense significance during Onam. They are used to create Pookalams, rangoli-like designs, and garlands for adornment.
Are There Any Traditional Games Played During Onam?
Yes, traditional games like Talappanthukali (tug-of-war), Ambeyyal (archery), and Kutu Kutu are enjoyed by people of all ages.
What’s the Story Behind King Mahabali and Onam?
King Mahabali, known for his generosity, was pushed to the netherworld by Lord Vishnu. However, he was granted permission to visit his kingdom once a year, marking Onam.
Is Onam a Religious Festival?
While Onam has roots in Hindu mythology, it’s celebrated by people of all faiths, transcending religious boundaries.
How Has the Onam Celebration Evolved Over the Years?
Onam has evolved from a religious festival to a cultural extravaganza. It now embraces modern elements while preserving its traditional charm.
What’s the Significance of the Pookalam (Floral Rangoli)?
Pookalams are intricate floral rangolis created outside homes to welcome King Mahabali. They symbolize unity, prosperity, and a colorful life.
How Can Tourists Participate in Onam Celebrations?
Tourists can immerse themselves in Onam by witnessing the grand processions, indulging in the delectable Sadya, and taking part in various cultural events.
Are There Any Special Rituals Performed During Onam?
The traditional ritual of laying a flower carpet is performed each day of Onam. People also make offerings to deities and perform dances like Thiruvathirakali.
What Makes Onam Celebration Unique Compared to Other Festivals?
Onam stands out due to its egalitarian nature, the grandeur of Pookalams, the Sadya feast, and the spirit of unity that brings people together.
Q1: Is Onam only celebrated in Kerala? A1: While Onam’s roots are in Kerala, people across India and the world celebrate it to experience its unique traditions.
Q2: What is the significance of the boat races during Onam? A2: The boat races, known as Vallam Kali, showcase the unity and enthusiasm of the people as they row together in beautifully decorated boats.
Q3: Can tourists participate in creating Pookalams? A3: Yes, many places organize workshops for tourists to create their own Pookalams and experience this artistic aspect of Onam.
Q4: Are non-vegetarian dishes completely avoided during Onam? A4: Yes, traditionally, Onam Sadya is a vegetarian feast, but individual preferences may vary.
Q5: How can I experience Onam if I’m not in India? A5: You can join local Indian communities or cultural organizations that celebrate Onam abroad, or even plan a visit to Kerala during this festive season.
In an explosion of colors, traditions, and unity, the Onam Celebration emerges as a priceless gem of Kerala. Filled with history and myth, this festival celebrates equality, culture, and the bounty of nature. It embodies the very spirit of Kerala, links the past with the present, and signals a future where togetherness will prevail. Onam is much more than an event; It is a symphony of joy, a mosaic of traditions, and a testament to the enduring essence of Kerala’s heart and soul.