Onam Festival, the most important festival in the state of Kerala, is widely celebrated by the Mayalees in India and around the world. Onam celebration is a spectacle of rituals and traditions marked with fun and fervor. Thiruvonam, the tenth day of Onam, is the most eagerly awaited day of the festival.
About Onam Festival
Historically, Onam was celebrated as a private family affair and reunion, yet today it has transformed as part of community life. Both the locals of Kerala and different Malayalee organizations across India annually participate in this festival as a means of celebrating cultural heritage and strengthening social ties. Get to know more about Onam Festival with our list of what to know and see in this spectacular Onam celebration.
Attam marks the start of the Onam celebration. This day is the tenth day leading to the first day of Onam. During this time, people decorate the entrances of their houses with Onam pookalam or floral rangoli. This flower pattern arrangement is part of the celebrating Onam. Pookalam Designs can range from the most simple to the very intricate, using flowers such as roses, jasmine, and marigold. Children also help out by gathering flowers for pookkalam. Locals also use color to spruce up their floral creations. Another must see are the Pookkalam competitions held in Malayalee communities. Find more onam pookalam images.
The main dance of the Onam festival is the Kaikotti kali or Thiruvathira kali. This dance is a tradition which showcases the rich heritage of Kerala culture. Kaikotti kali is performed by eight to twelve middle-aged women who are clad in saree and gold jewelry; they stand and dance around deepam.
Another dance performance is called Pulikali or Kaduvakali, in which performers (mostly men) paint themselves in bright yellow, black, and red colors to look like tigers. They dance ferociously to music made with such musical instruments such as udukku and thakil.
Games are part of the celebration of Onam. All Onam games are called “Onikalika”. Kayyankali (a dual between two men without any weapons), Talappanthukali (ball game), Attakalam (a fight between groups of men), Kutu Kutu or Kabaddi, and Ambeyyal (archery) are the most popular Onam games among locals. Kummattikali is also performed by male artists clad in costumes of plaited grass and a big wooden mask in some places in Kerala.
Onam Sadhya or Grand Feast
Onam celebration isn’t complete without a feast to celebrate with! It is popularly known as Onam sadhya or Onasadya. It is common belief that every Malayali should eat and prepare different kinds of Onam dishes, even if it means having to sell all their possessions. All Malayalees feast on Thiruvonam regardless of religion and caste. People prepare a wide range of delicious Onam dishes ranging from vegetarian to non-vegetarian meals, depending on which part of the state you are in. A recommended food to feast on is pasayams specially made during Onam.
This popular snake boat race, otherwise known as Vallamkali, is organized in different parts of the state as as part of the onam celebration. It is held on uthratadhi nakshatram of Chingam, or the Malayalam month. Vallamkali is particularly popular in the southern districts of Kerala, and it is annually held in the Pathanamthitta District of Kerala on the Aaranmula River.
Shopping and Gifting
Onam celebrates a new beginning, so locals celebrate! Not only is it a part of Onam celebration and tradition to buy (and wear) new clothes for oneself and for loved ones, but also to shop for new furniture as well! Sale outlets such as government-owned Maveli stores or fair price shops open up during this season to provide people with a variety of clothing and home furnishings at a reasonable price. Here are some of Onam gift ideas you may consider.