There are three main Hindu festivals as per Malayalam Calendar – Vishu, Thiruvanthira, and Onam. Onam is a rice harvest festival and is mainly celebrated in Kerala. It also embarks the homecoming of benignant king Mahabali. Also, the day is celebrated as a birth date of Lord Vishnu’s tenth avatar Vaman. This is a ten days long festival and includes several ceremonies like boat race, martial arts, tug of war, etc. The whole state is decorated with flower arrangements and you can hear Carnatic music being played in the background. Also, people get to witness the tiger dance, mask dance, women dance and folk dance on the streets of Kerala during this time.
When is Onam celebrated?
In the year 2023, the Onam will be celebrated on 29 August, Tuesday.
The festival date is calculated as per the Malayali calendar and is celebrated on Thiruvonam nakshatra in the month of Chingam. The festival starts from Atham nakshatram and ends on Thiruvonam nakshatra, thus making it a ten-day festival.
It is particularly of significance because it embarks the annual homecoming of the greatest king of Kerala – Raja Mahabali. It is believed that the people of Kerala saw the best day of their life during his reign. There was prosperity everywhere. However, The Gods wanted to end his reign on earth, so Lord Vishnu took the avatar of Vaman and tricked the king to acquire whatever he had. The king then had to quit his kingdom and go to the lower world.
However, during the same instance, Lord Vishnu also awarded him a boon that he can come to visit his land and his people once every year. This period is popularly known as Onam. Hence, you see festivities everywhere.
Also, Kerala being a rice harvesting land, people can spend and hence there is a festive atmosphere everywhere.
Various rituals of Onam
All ten days of Onam are full of joy and various activities that are peculiar to Kerala. You can see flowers arranged in a beautiful design in front of the houses. These are made by women of the house. Lamps are lit everywhere to invite King Mahabali to their houses. People like to visit each other and wear new clothes during this time. Also, people love to gift each other to embark on the festive season. There is a special garment that people wear during this festival which is called “Onakkodi” in Malayali.
There are grand feasts everywhere. The feast has got thirteen different dishes prepared for the occasion which is served to the guests in the traditional Malayali way on a banana leaf. Mostly the center of the leaf is filled with a lot of rice and surrounded by various kinds of dishes, pickles, and papads. A sweet dish that is characteristic to Kerala is prepared – popularly known by the name of Payasam. It is like traditional kheer prepared in North India, however, the rice is different, and it contains coconut, giving it a peculiar taste to go with all other south Indian dishes prepared during this festival.
Onam is one of the most important festivals for people of Kerala and this can be seen as how people celebrate it. The grandness of this festival is visible on the streets of Kerala. People wear tiger masks dance away on the Carnatic music everywhere.