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Old 08-23-2017, 05:01 PM
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Default Full Details - The Onam Festival

Harvest time is special all over India, but in ‘God’s Own Country’, Onam, the 10-day harvest festival has a special significance.

Pookalam at a Thrissur temple; image courtesy sreekanthmoni.blogspot.in

The Onam Festival

Not only is Onam the new year for Keralites, it is also considered the day when King Mahabali, legendary ruler of Kerala, returns from ‘patala’ (the underworld) to visit his kingdom. Mahabali was an Asura king, who ruled over Kerala. Worshipped since prehistory, he is the grandson of Pralhad, son of the demon king Hiranyakashyap. Mahabali was said to be a wise and just ruler, much respected in his kingdom. His reign is celebrated as the golden era of Kerala. So much did this utopian king care for his people that his return is celebrated with the Onam Sadhya, the traditional feast of Kerala, in honour of his homecoming.

How Onam Is Celebrated

This secular festival is celebrated by all religions in Kerala. It comes during the Malayalam month of Chingam, which falls in August – September. This 10-day festival begins with Atham and ends with Thiru Onam.

The flower rangoli, pookalam for Onam

Day one, Atham, starts with a pooja in Thrikkakara temple, situated near Cochin. The temple was the residence of King Mahabali. Thrippunithura holds a grand procession with elephant rallies, folk dance and music, which makes it a tourist hotspot. People in Kerala install Mahabali and Vamana statues at the entrance of their homes. Houses are decorated with Pookalam, floral rangoli, which grows day by day. Yellow flowers are used on the first day.
Aranmula boat race; Keralatourism.org

On Chithira, day two, orange and cream-yellow flowers are added to the pookalam. On day three, Chodhi, 4 to 5 different colours of flowers are added. Pookalam competitions start on day four, Vishakam, one of the most auspicious days of Onam.

The snake boat races, known as vallam kali, start off in different parts of Kerala on day five, Anizham.On day six, Thriketa, people visit their families and the pookalam gets bigger.

Day seven, Moolam
, is celebrated with the leopard mask dance known as Puli Kali, and other classical dances such as Kaikotti Kali. The Onam Sadya starts from this day
on. Day eight, Pooradam, sees the procession of Mahabali and Vamana statues, which are kept in the middle of the pookalam.
On day nine, Uthradom, King Mahabali is said to roam his kingdom, and households host elaborate buffets to show their king how prosperous they are.

Onam sadya, the traditional Kerala meal

The tenth and last day, Thiruvonam, is when Mahabali was sent to patala by Vamana. The eldest female family member offers gifts to the others. Prayers are offered in temples, mosques and churches. Thiruvona-Sadya buffets are arranged for friends and relatives. Thiruvananthapuram and Kochi host grand firework displays on the last day.

Getting To Kerala For Onam

Onam is celebrated all over Kerala, but Kochi, Trivandrum, Thiruvananthapuram, Thrissur, and Kottayam have the most vibrant celebrations. All of them can be reached via rail and road. Kochi has an airport.

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