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Story behind Onam and some major attraction of this festival

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Onam 2020 will begin on Saturday, 22 August and ends on Wednesday, 2 September

Onam is the annual harvest festival celebrated in the state of Kerala during the month of Chingam(August-September) in the first month of the Malayalam Calendar. Onam is celebrated with joy and enthusiasm all over the state by people of all communities. Onam celebrations include worshipping, music, folk dances, sports, boat races, and delicious foods.

onam festival in kerala

This festival has two specific significances. One of them is, the celebration of the harvest and the other is remembering the glory of the legend Mahabali. People believe that Mahabali visits everyone's home during the Onam festival. They welcome the King Mahabali with beautiful Pookolams (Flower Decorations) in front of their homes.

The story behind Onam: 

Once upon a time, there lived a king called Mahabali who ruled Kerala. He worshiped Lord Vishnu. Mahabali was a wise and generous ruler. He treated the rich and the poor equally. Needy People never returned empty-handed from his door. His fame and power extended to the netherworld and heaven. All the gods felt challenged and began to fear his growing powers. Aditi, the mother of Devas made an emotional appeal with Lord Vishnu to reduce Mahabali's powers.

Vishnu in the avatar of Vamana approached Mahabali while he was performing a yajna. Vamana said he was a poor Brahmin and asked for a piece of land. Mahabali said he could have as much land as he wanted. Vamana said he just wanted as much land as could be covered by his three steps. The King was surprised to hear and sensed that Vamana was not an ordinary person. But the king believes that it would be a sin for a King to back on his words and asked the Brahmin to take the land.

Vamana began to expand himself. His first step covered the earth, the second step covered the sky and he then asked the King where is space for him to keep his third foot. Mahabali knew that his third step can destroy the world and with folded hands bowed before Vamana and asked him to place his last step on his head so that he could keep his promise. Vamana placed his foot on the head of the King pushing him to the nether world. Lord Vishnu granted a boon to the King Mahabali for a Visit to Kerala.

Celebration of Onam: 

It is one of the best times to visit Kerala during the Onam festival. This carnival lasts for four to ten days. Each day has a different name.

  • Day 1 (Atham): On this day, of Onam people believe that Mahabali when starts his preparation to head towards earth
  • Day 2 (Chithira): another layer of flowers is added to Pookalam and cleaning of houses starts on Chithira.
  • Day 3 (Chodi): People start their shopping on this day.
  • Day 4 (Vishakam): This day is the beginning of several competitions that are held during Onam.
  • Day 5 (Anizham): On this day, Vallamkali Boat Race starts in many parts of Kerala.
  • Day 6 (Thriketa): On this day, people start devoting all their time to the celebrations.
  • Day 7 (Moolam): On this day, at several places, Onasadya and the dances related to the festival starts being performed.
  • Day 8 (Pooradam): On this day, the statues of Vamana and King Mahabli are washed and installed in the middle of the Pookalam.
  • Day 9 (Uthradom): It is believed that on this day, King Mahabali reaches the state of Kerala.
  • Day 10 (Thiruonam): This is the final day of Onam celebrations. On this day, people take bath early in the morning, distribute gifts. Special prayers are held in temples. Onam Special Meal Onasadya is prepared in everyone's house. It is believed that Mahabali visits his people on the last day. They grandly celebrate this festival to impress their beloved King that they are happy.

Some of the major attractions of the Onam celebration:

  • Pookkalam: Pookolam refers to flower Decorations or rangolis with different types of flowers in front of the house. As each day passes during the Onam carnival, a new layer is added to the Pookkalam. Women perform several traditional dances around Pookkalam.
  • Onasadya: On the day of Thiruvonam a grand meal is prepared and served on a Banana leaf.  It is a nine-course meal having a minimum of four to 5 vegetables.
  • Vallamkali Boat Race: It is also known as the snake boat race. This is one amongst the amusing events of the Onam celebrations.100 boatmen compete with each other in a boat riding competition on this day.
  • Elephant Procession: The elephant procession is one of the most awaited events of Onam celebrations. The elephant is decorated with flowers, ornaments in gold and other metals and made to take a round of whole Thrissur where this procession is held. During this event, the elephant dances and interacts with people through small gestures.

Onam is promoted internationally in a big way to celebrate 'Tourist Week' for Kerala during Onam celebrations. Thousands of tourists visit Kerala to be a part of Onam.


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