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Onam Festival, Kerala
26th Aug – 4th Sept 2017

Onam Festival falls during the Malayalam month of Chingam (Aug - Sep) and marks the commemoration of Vamanaavatara of Vishnu and the subsequent homecoming of mythical King Mahabali. Mahabali's rule is considered as the golden era of Kerala. The deity Vamana, also known as Onapattam too is revered during this time by installing a clay figure next to the floral carpet (Pookalam). Onam is reminiscent of Kerala's agrarian past, and is considered to be a harvest festival for the peasants. The birthday of Sri Padmanabhan, the presiding Deity of Thiruvananthapuram, is on the Thiruvonam day in the month of Chingam.

Intricately decorated Pookalam, ambrosial Onasadya, breathtaking Snake Boat Race and exotic Kaikottikali dance are some of the most remarkable features of Onam - the harvest festival of Kerala.

The ten days of Onam are celebrated with great fanfare and gusto by all Malayalees. Of these ten days, most significant ones are the first day, Atham, and the tenth and final day, Thiru-Onam (Thiruvonam). The rich cultural heritage of Kerala comes out in its best form and spirit during the festival. All the households are seen bubbling and bustling with energy, a sight reserved for Onam days. As per mythology, King Mahabali decided to leave for the nether world, failing to keep his promise given to Lord Vishnu who came in the guise of Vaamana. The ten days of mega celebration are namely Atham, Chithira, Chodhi, Vishakam, Anizham, Thriketa, Moolam, Pooradam, Uthradom, and Thiruvonam.

As for the delicacies served during Onam, one would wish it to never end. Payasam (the traditional Kerala dessert), the show-stopper among the Onasadya (the sumptuous feast) is itself of plentiful variety. It is very interesting to watch how kids make every festival their own. Children dart to the neighborhood in search of flowers for making floral carpets (pookkalam) that adorn their courtyards. Traditional forms of art and games throng the rustic ambience of the villages. The quintessential swing is a unique feature of this festivity. There are many Onam special programs conducted across Kerala including Kerala Tourism sponsored programs within the state.

The importance of the feast to the Kerala's Onam celebration culture is captured in the famous Malayalam proverb "Kaanam Vittum Onam Unnanam" which means "One must have the Onam lunch even if one is forced to sell his property".

Activities begin early in the morning. The local people clean their homes, apply rice flour batter on the main entrance (a traditional welcome sign), take an early bath, wear new clothes and distribute alms to the poor and needy. The eldest female member in each family presents clothes to all the members within the family. Special prayers and Masses are organized in temples, churches and mosques that highlight the secular nature of festival. The Pookkalam is prepared to welcome Mahabali.

Most cities in Kerala, such as the political, commercial and cultural capitals Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi and Thrissur, are lit up with lights and fabulous displays of fireworks. Sumptuous Onam Sadya feasts are prepared. The afternoon is marked with various traditional Onam games normally seen in rural areas and are organized by resident associations, clubs etc. in large cities. In some parts of Kerala, people indulge in various games and dances (Onakkalikal and Kathakali) during and post Thiruvonam. These include Thiruvathirakali, Kummattikali, Pulikali, etc.

The main ritual of the day is to take the Onathappan statue which is placed in the middle of every Pookalam during the 10 days festival, and immerse it in nearby rivers or sea. The pookalam is cleaned and removed after this. This day is very important, as the famous Puli-kali is held in the city of Thrissur, where men dressed as lions and tigers parade through the city in large numbers to mark the ceremony. The Puli-Kali also marks the end of traditional Onam celebrations.

Here's an opportunity to experience a great festival that marks the supreme and ethereal joy of Mahabali's omnipresence.

Come and feel it…