Onam is more than a Hindu religious festival to Kerala; each and every tradition, custom and celebration associated with this grand festival shows the rich cultural heritage of Kerala. The ten day carnival is celebrated to commemorate the home coming of the legendary king, Mahabali to his land to visit his subjects and to shower blessings on them. The ‘Atham’ which marks the beginning of Onam celebrations also marks the commencement of festivities which reaches at its zenith on the tenth day. Be it Onappookkalam, the beautiful floral carpet, the sumptuous Onam feast, Vallamkali, the most captivating boat race, people of Kerala celebrate them with great zeal and enthusiasm. Special offerings are made in temples and the state witness traditions like ‘Athachamayam’ and ‘kaikottikali’ which commemorates them of those good old days when people lived with utmost peace and prosperity. Read on to know to more about the celebrations associated with Onam and get familiarized with the beauty of this amazing festival.
Onam in Kerala
Atham - The First Day Of Onam
The ten day festival Onam commences with Atham (first day of Chingam – the Malayalam month). This day marks the celebrations associated with Onam when each family cleans their houses and thresholds and decorates it with floral mats (Pookkalam). This day also marks the beginning of Onam celebrations in the famous Thrikkakara temple which is considered as the abode of Mahabali. The day also witnesses Athachamayam in Thripunithura to commemorate the royal procession which the king of Cochin royal family used to take from his palace to the Thrikkakara temple. Currently, Athachamayam is also being promoted as a tourist event.
Chithira and Chothi, the second and third day Onam witness the size of Pookkalam grow in size with people using four or five different flowers. The third day also marks the commencement of shopping activities in the state as the festival is also associated with the gifting of new clothes.
On the eighth day of Onam celebrations, some districts witness a traditional ritual in which statues of Mahabali and Vamana is washed and cleaned ands taken around in a grand procession. This statue will be installed in the center of Pookkalam and the statues will be decorated with rice-flour batter. In some places, kids do this ritual of smearing. From this day, the status is known by the name ‘Onathappan’.
Uthradam – the Ninth day of Onam
The ninth day of Onam is celebrated with great zeal as the whole state witness a shopping frenzy which includes vegetables, fruits and other provisions for the tenth day, Thiruvonam. Also known by the name, ‘first Onam’, the day also marks the descent of King Mahabali. Uthradam day also marks the beginning of preparations for Thiruvonam lunch. Even ‘Uthradam’ lunch is a grant tradition which is attended almost all the family members.
Thiruvonam- The Tenth Day Of Onam Celebrations
The tenth day of Onam is the most important day in the ten day carnival. It is on this day that Mahabali, the mighty king who ruled the state visits the houses of his subjects to shower blessings on them. The day is characterized by people taking early bath, cleaning the houses, decorating it with a huge Onappookkalam with the statue of Mahabali in the center, smeared with rice-flour batter and the elder member of the family distributing clothes to the younger members of the family. Another striking feature of Thiruvonam is the ‘Thiruvonasadya’ (Thiruvonam lunch or feast) in which the sumptuous meal with 10 to 12 gravies and ‘payasam’ (dessert) are served on a plantain leaf. The day also witness Thiruvathirakali (dance form) and Pookkalam competitions.
Recreations and Events
A number of recreational events are held in the following two days of ‘Thiruvonam’. This includes ‘pulikali’ in which trained artists perform by dressing themselves as tigers and ‘Kummattikali’ in which masked figures visits houses, amusing kids and carrying small gifts.