Onam is the biggest
festival in the South Indian state of Kerala. It falls during the first month of
Malayalee calendar which is Chingam (August'September) and marks the homecoming
of the legendary King Mahabali. The festival lasts for ten days and is linked to
many elements of Kerala's culture and tradition.
Onam is one of the most
significant harvest festivals of Kerala which is also is an attraction for
thousands of people outside and within the state..People wear new clothes,put
pookkalam(floral designs),have a grand feast and enjoy the day with music,
dance, sports, boat races.
Legend of Onam (Reign of King Mahabali)
The story goes that the beautiful state of Kerala was once ruled by an
Asura (demon) king, Mahabali. Mahabali was the grandson of Prahlad (son of
Hiranyakashyap who was slain by Vishnu in his Narasimha Avataram). Prahlad,
despite being an Asura, had great faith in Vishnu. Mahabali learned the love and
devotion of Vishnu from Prahlad's lap as a child.The King was greatly respected
in his kingdom and was considered to be wise, judicious and extremely generous.
It is said that Kerala witnessed its golden era in the reign of King
Everybody was happy in his kingdom, there was no
discrimination on the basis of caste or class. Rich and poor were equally
treated. There was neither crime, nor corruption. People did not even lock their
doors, as there were no thieves in that kingdom. There was no poverty, sorrow or
disease in the reign of King Mahabali and everybody was happy and content.
felt challenged with the growing popularity of Mahabali. They seeked help from
Lord Vishnu who was worshiped by King Mahabali. Lord Vishnu took the avatar of a
poor and dwarf Brahmin, called Vamana and came to the kingdom of Mahabali just
after his morning prayers, when the King gave boons to the Brahmin.
disguised Lord Vishnu asked for as much land as could be covered by his three
steps. The King made a promise to do so. Suddenly, Vamana increased to a massive
size. With his one step he covered the whole of the sky and with the other he
covered the whole of earth. He then asked for a place to put his third step.
King realised that the boy was no ordinary Brahmin and asked Vamana to to put
his third step on his head.
The boy did so, pushing Mahabali in the
nether world, the patala. Lord Vishnu was pleased with King Mahabali generosity
and granted him a boon. Deeply attached with his people, the King said he would
like to visit Kerala and his people every year. As Lord Vishnu was very pleased
with his devotee,he happily granted Mahabali's request. It is this homecoming of
King Mahabali that is celebrated as Onam every year.
Onam lasts from
four to ten days. First day, Atham and tenth day, Thiruonam are most important
of all. This year its celebrated from August 14 to August 23,
Atham- The first day of Onam Celebrations
Onam starts with Atham day in the
Malayalam month of Chingam. Its believed that King Mahabali start his
preprations to descend from heaven to Kerala on this day. The day also marks the
start of festivities at Thrikkara Temple (considered as abode of Mahabali). The
Onam celebrations across the state, starts off with a grand procession at
Thrippunithura near Kochi called 'Athachamayam'
The traditional ritual of
laying Pookalam (floral carpet) starts on Atham day. The size of pookalam on
this day is called as Athapoo and will small which eventually grew day after
Only yellow flowers will be used on this day and the design will be simple.
Also the statues of Mahabali and Vamanan will be installed on the entrance of
each house on this day.
Uthradam- The ninth day of Onam
Uthradom (August 22nd 2010) is the ninth and the penultimate day of the festival of Onam.
It is considered as Onam eve and celebrated in a very big way. The importance of
this day is last minute extreme shopping frenzy called as Uthradapachal and is
considered the most auspicious day for purchase of fresh vegetables and fruits
along with other provisions from the Thiruonam day.
Uthradam is known as
FIRST ONAM because it marks the day when King Mahabali descends Kerala and the
traditional myths says that the king will spend the next four days touring his
erstwhile kingdom and blessing the subjects. Due to this Urthadom is celebrated
in a very pompous manner with larger pookalam and celebrations in household. The
Urthada lunch is very famous tradition. Women normally cuts the first set of
vegetables on this day that marks the celebrations of Thiruonam in each
household and preparations for grand Onam buffet starts in evening of Uthradom
Thiruonam- The tenth day of Onam
The tenth and
the most important day of Onam celebrations is known as Thiru Onam or the Tiru
Onam(Sacred Onam).People believe that it is on the tenth day that Lord Mahabali
comes to visit his people. Thiruvonam falls on August 23 this year
Elaborate preparations are made to celebrate Thiru Onam in the grandest
possible way. Activities begin early in the morning. People clean their house,
smear the main entrance with rice-flour batter (a traditional welcome sign),
take early bath, wear new clothes and distribute alms to needy. The eldest
female member of each family presents clothes to all the members of the family.
Special prayers and Masses are organized in temples, churches and mosques that
highlight the secular nature of festival. Later a very special and the biggest
of all days, Pookalam is prepared to welcome Mahabali. The most
important activity of Thiruonam is the grand Thiruona-Sadya, well known for
being one of the most sumptuous feasts ever prepared by mankind. The level of
sumptuous varies at each individual household, however every household tries to
make as grand as possible as they can. The feast served on plantain leaves have
more than 13 to 15 curries apart from other regular items. In hotels and
temples, number of curries and dishes can go upto 30 for the feast. Whatever may
happen no malayalee will miss the Grand ona-sadya. There is a saying in
Malayalam that "Kanam Vittum Onam Unnanam" which means "We should have the
Thiruvonam lunch even if we have to sell all our properties" which shows the
importance of the grand lunch on the Thiruvonam day.
Wishing you all Happy Onam
Ellarkum Ende Hridayam Niranja Onaashamsakal
Edited by anjkhoney - 21 August 2010 at 11:56am