Onam is one of the most important and popular festival of Hindus and is celebrated with great pomp and vigor all over the south India, especially Kerala. The celebrations spanning over a period of ten days are remarkable and exhibit the rich and diverse cultural heritage of the region. The first day of the festivities is called Atham and the jubilations last till the tenth and the most important day called Thiru Onam. According to the legends the festival of Onam is observed to celebrate the visit of the mythical king Mahabali, who comes to visit his kingdom on earth from the nether world during this period. Falling during the period between August and September, the festival of Onam is known for the various festivities organized during the course of these ten days namely snake boat races, Onappottan, Kaazhchakkula in Guruvayoor and Puli Kali. To learn more about Onam celebrations in India scroll down.
Legends Associated With Onam
According to a legend Lord Vishnu in his Vamana Avatar vanquished king Mahabali from his kingdom, which now corresponds to the region in and around Kerala. Mahabali then went to live in the nether-land, but received a boon from Vishnu according to which every year he would appear on earth to visit his lost kingdom. Since then the festival of Onam has been celebrate every year to commemorate the visit of the great Mahabali to his kingdom.
Onam Customs & Traditions
The festival is celebrated for ten days with remarkable vigor and devotion in the region. The beginning of the festival is marked with floral carpets called Pookalam which are laid in front courtyards of all the houses in Kerala. Special prayers are also offered on Atham in local temples. The most important and happening day of the festival is the day of the carnival called Thiruvonam. Festivities begin as early as 4 am. People clean up their house, take early bath, wear new clothes and perform elaborate prayers to seek divine blessings. A massive and most exquisite pookalam is prepared on this day to welcome the spirit of King Mahabali. The most fascinating aspect of this magnificent and dazzling festival is the grand lunch called 'Onasadya'.
A myriad of activities takes place all over the state of Kerala during Onam. At Thrissur, caparisoned elephants move out in a procession and present a regal view. While at Cheruthuruthy, Kathakali artists cast a spell on the audience with their enchanting performances. Women perform their graceful traditional clap dance, Kaikotikalli on the day and mesmerize the audience. Vallamkali, the popular snake boat race is also organized in several parts of the state to mark the day. A numbers of sports events are also organized on the day throughout the region. These are collectively called Onakalikal. Some of them are rigorous sports like Talappanthukali, Kutukutu and combats like Kayyankali and Attakalam. Archery is also a part of Onakalikal. Senior members have their share of fun by playing indoor games like cards and chess. There is also a tradition of swinging on Onam. A decorated swing is swung on a high branch and young men and women take the pleasure on it while singing traditional songs.
Along with the people of south India the celebration associated with the festival can be witnessed all across the country. The spectacular and enthralling festivities attract hordes of tourists from across the country and globe who pour in to witness this magnificent and gran affair. With the passage of time this festival has gained immense popularity as it is promoted by the Government of India for Tourism. Onam is a daytime festival. Shops and markets are spruced up and some shops are even illuminated at night.
Onam is one of the most colorful festivals of India and the celebration has been marked by great jubilations. If you wish to learn more about the festival then read the lines above and acquaint yourself with various aspects of the festival.
Onam is the time for festivities in South India. Here is an account of Onam celebration across India.