One of the biggest and the most important festivals in Kerala, Onam, is a harvest fiesta that also marks the start of the New Year as per the Malayalam calendar.
It is a 10-day long festival that falls during the Malayalam month of Chingam, marking the remembrance of Vamana Avatara of God Vishnu and debarkation of the legendary king Mahabali.
Celebrated with great opulence and fervency in Kerala, this carnival like festival includes a grand feast, boat races, pookalam (rangoli of flowers), traditional dances, folk music and much more.
ixigo brings you your own Guide book to the Onam Festival. Read on and know about the most interesting things about Onam and its celebrations.
# Kicking off the celebrations with Athachamayam festival
The colourful start to this vibrant festival is marked by the Athachamayam festival that features a street parade accompanying decorated elephants, traditional Kerala art forms and musicians.
Tracing back to the interesting beginnings of this festival, the Maharaja of Kochi used to march from Tripunithura to Vamanamoorthy Temple in Thrikkakara where according to legends the festival of Onam originated. Following his footsteps, the entire town gets swinging with decorations, street stalls, amazing flower arrangements and more to begin the celebrations in full force.
# Top places to experience the zeal of Onam
Onam is grandly celebrated throughout Kerala with a lot of cheerfulness and glee. But there are a few places where majority of people gather for celebrating the festival. These include:
- Tripunithura, where Athachamayam festival is celebrated.
- Trichur or Thrissur that hosts a colourful parade with the display of Pulikalli or Tiger Play which is one of the major attractions of this festival.
- Kovalam that hosts the famous Kathakali dance performances. This place is also known for its beautiful local art fairs during this time of the year.
- River Pampa in Kuttanad region which celebrates Onam with Snake Boat Race or Vallamkali. More than 100 oarsmen in each boat participate in the celebration and sing worship songs of King Mahabali while racing.
Trivandrum, the state capital, gets into the festive mode with at least 20 venues hosting variety of events including dance competitions, stage shows, Pookalam contests, folk art celebrations and much more.
# Onakkodi (New Clothes):
Onam is incomplete without the tradition of Onakkodi wherein new clothes are purchased for the festivities. It is quite significant and is considered prosperous to dress up in the traditional attire of the state to pay respect to the sincere life of the followers during the reign of the King Mahabali. This festival will showcase men dressed up in mundu (white dhoti completed with a golden or colourful border) and women in kasav saree (white saree with a golden border).
# Onasadhya (Feasting):
The highly scrumptious part of Onam is Onasadhya which is known to be one of the most extravagant and majestic meals put together by any civilisation in the world. Prepared on the last day of Onam, the feast is a picture-perfect description of a banana leaf spread with piping hot delicious dishes. There are around 22 to 26 dishes which are prepared and served on a big green leaf. Some of the dishes include Erissery, Kalan or Pulisseri, Olan, Aviyal, Sambhar, Rasam, Payasam and more along with brown rice, traditional pickles and papad.
One of the most intriguing part of this festival are the Kathakali and Bharatnatyam dancers heavily painted and dressed up for the performances along with flower decoration all over Kerala and adorned elephants lined up for the procession. With so many things to experience and enjoy, chalking out a plan to visit this place and celebrate Onam should definitely be on your bucket list. Happy Onam everyone!