About Onam - In the beginning of the month of Chingam which is the first month according to the Malayalam calendar and is August- September according to Gregorian calendar is the time when people in Kerala celebrate the biggest festival of the state, Onam. The harvest Onam Festival is celebrated by people of South India with great enthusiasm and it continues for ten days.The story behind this festival goes like this.
The Demon King Mahabali once ruled this place and at this time Kerala witnessed the golden era. The king was highly regarded by his subjects and everyone was enjoying prosperity at this time. But apart from all his goodness he had one shortcoming as well which was his ego. This weakness of Mahabali was utilized by the gods against him and as a result he lost his reign. But because he was so attached with his people he was granted a boon that he could visit his people once a year. On this day of his visit to earth, people of Kerala celebrate it in a grand way and the festival is known as Onam. Feast, dances, boat races and lot more is done on this day.
Kerala which is a very culture and tradition rich state celebrates this mega festival according to the rituals. The festival is celebrated for full 10 days with all pomp and show, starting from Antham and ending on Thiru, the tenth day.
It is the firstday of the onam festival and is considered to be the most auspicious among all. On this day people take early bath and offer prayers. For breakfast they prepare steamed banana and fried Papad. Athapoo, the floral mat is decorated by women of the house to welcome the king Mahabali. Athachayam is a grand and royal precession which is also carried on this day at Kochi.
The second day of Onam is celebrated as Chithira. On this day girls add new floral designs in the Athapoo. People offer their prayers to Lord Maveli on this day.
The third day of this festival is called Chodhi or the Chothi. On this day people start shopping for this festival season. You can see the crowd in the markets and can understand the importance of the day. Gifts for family members, relatives and even for the servants are bought this day and new flowers are added into the Athapoo.
Women start preparing for Thiruvonam from this day. They start making a variety of papads and pickles from this day and girls of the house add some more new flowers in their Athapoos.
This is the fifth day of the Onam and is more known for its world famous Snake Boat Race which is held on the day. The event happens on the banks of river Pamba. This mega event attracts domestic and international tourists in large numbers.
Sixth day of the carnival is Thriketa. There are not so many rituals that are associated to this day but many events are held during the day. New designs and more flowers are added to the Athapoo by women of the families.
Not many rituals are associated with seventh day but festivities are accelerated. People who stay away from families come back to their homes to reunite with their family members. New flowers are also added to the Athapoo.
It is the eights day of this mega festival and is one of the most important days as well. On this day devotees make clay idols, known as "Ma" and decorate them with fresh flowers. The Athapoo gets new designs in it and some new and fresh flowers as well.
Uthradam is the ninth day and also very important day of the festival as the next day to it is the final day of the festival. On this day devotees start preparations to welcome the King Mahabali for his arrival on the Earth. They clean their houses and decorate them and the Athapoo gets even bigger with new designs and the new flowers added to it.
Thiruvonam is the last day of this onam festival and people greet Thiruvonam Aashamsakal to one another. They clean their houses, wear new clothes and special prayers are organized as on this day King Mahabali visits the state. Ma, the clay idols of Lord Vishnu and Mahabali are placed in front of Athapoo. Onasadya is prepared in noon which includes 11 to 13 dishes that are served on banana leaves. People also celebrate this day with fire crackers.
Puli Kali is a very interesting form of folk art. Puli Kali means "play of tigers" and it is because in this trained artists are painted like tigers and hunters and they perform on the beats of instruments like Udukku and Thakil. On the fourth day of Onam, Puli Kali artists act on the theme of tiger hunting.
Snake Boat race
Snake boat Race or the Nehru Trophy Race is one of the most popular events that is celebrated during Onam festival season. On the day fifth of Onam the world famous Snake Boat Race, also known locally as Vallam Kali is held in the Punnamada Lake near Alleppey.
Ona Sadhya is the name of mega feast that is given at the tenth day of the festival. It is a five course meal which is served on the banana leaves. The number of items that are served in this feast start from eleven and could reach to even thirty-five. Main course of Ona Sadhya includes dishes like Parippu, Sambar and Pulisseries.
Thrissur is the place where the festival Onam gets the regal touch. This is the place you will see the royal animal elephants all decked in gold and with silk and satin umbrellas on their top, they look magnificent. Spectacular procession of these elephants attracts the travelers from all around the world.
Making of Athapoo or Pookalam
Athapoo or the Pookalam is like a hallmark of Onam festival. The women of the family start designing it from the first day of the festival with flowers and each day they add some more flowers and more designs. Till the tenth day the design becomes very complicated and beautiful as well. The idol of Mahabali and Vishnu are kept in front of it on the final day of the Onam festival.