Onam 2023 will be celebrated from August 20 to August 31. The main day of Onam is Thiruvonam, which falls on August 31 this year.
Onam is a traditional harvest festival celebrated in the Indian state of Kerala. It is one of the most significant festivals in the region and holds great cultural and social importance. Onam usually falls in the Malayalam month of Chingam, which corresponds to August-September in the Gregorian calendar. The festival lasts for ten days, with the main celebrations occurring over the first four days.
Here’s a detailed overview of the Onam festival:
Onam is rooted in the legend of King Mahabali, a benevolent demon king who ruled Kerala. According to mythology, he was a beloved ruler who ensured the well-being of his subjects. However, his popularity and power began to worry the gods, and Lord Vishnu took the form of Vamana, a dwarf Brahmin, to humble Mahabali. Vamana asked for three paces of land and measured the entire universe with three steps. Mahabali, recognizing Vamana’s divinity, offered his own head for the third step, thus being pushed into the netherworld. Lord Vishnu granted him a boon that he could visit his kingdom and people once a year, which is celebrated as Onam.
Preparations and Decorations:
Kerala witnesses a vibrant transformation during Onam. Homes are adorned with intricate flower carpets called “pookalam,” which are made by arranging colorful flower petals in beautiful designs at the entrance of houses. This tradition adds to the festive ambiance and showcases the artistic talents of the people.
One of the most significant aspects of Onam is the traditional vegetarian feast known as “Sadya.” It consists of a variety of dishes served on a banana leaf and is a culinary delight that showcases the rich flavors of Kerala cuisine. The meal usually includes rice, numerous curries, pickles, sweets, and other dishes like avial (mixed vegetable curry), olan (pumpkin and coconut curry), sambar, and rasam.
Vallam Kali (Boat Race):
Boat races, known as “Vallam Kali,” are an integral part of Onam celebrations, particularly in the backwaters of Kerala. Snake boat races are the most famous, where long, narrow boats with raised prows resembling snakes compete in a thrilling spectacle. The Nehru Trophy Boat Race is a popular event that attracts both locals and tourists.
Pulikali (Tiger Dance):
Pulikali, or the “tiger dance,” is a unique folk art performance that takes place during Onam. Men paint themselves as tigers and hunters and dance to the beat of traditional drums. The dance showcases the joyful spirit of the festival and entertains the onlookers.
Onakalikal (Games and Sports):
Traditional games and sports are organized during Onam to engage people of all ages. These can include activities like tug-of-war, traditional ball games, and other traditional competitions.
During the festival, various cultural events, including music, dance performances, and traditional art displays, are organized to showcase Kerala’s rich cultural heritage.
Exchanges and Gifting:
It’s a common tradition to exchange gifts, known as “Ona Sadya,” during Onam. New clothes, especially traditional attire, are worn during the festivities.
On Thiru Onam, which is the second day of the festival, people visit temples and offer prayers to seek blessings for prosperity and happiness.
Unity and Harmony:
Onam is a time when people from all walks of life come together to celebrate irrespective of their background. The festival promotes unity, harmony, and a sense of community among the people of Kerala.
Onam is not just a festival; it’s a celebration of Kerala’s culture, heritage, and the spirit of unity among its people. It continues to be an integral part of the state’s identity and is celebrated with enthusiasm and joy by Keralites around the world.