Date: Onam 2019 will begin on September 2(Monday) and ends on September 13(Friday).
The most important day of Onam (known as Thiru Onam) is on September 11, 2019.
Location: All over Kerala.
Here comes the Onam Season that brings with it the assurance of love, peace, happiness, prosperity, and harmony. A season to celebrate the homecoming of our beloved King Mahabali with colourful Pookalam, lively songs, graceful Thiruvathirakali, vibrant Pulikali, and delicious Onasadya. Originally ONAM is a harvest festival and it is the state festival of Kerala. It’s the biggest festival of the year in Kerala, in South India, and the whole state rejoices in celebrating it. Read on to learn more about Onam Festival.
Blending gaiety and culture, Onam is the biggest and most vibrant festival of God’s Own Country. It arrives with the ray of hope for the people of Kerala to forget the hardship of the rain-drenched month of Karkkidakam (July-August) by pouring the light of happiness and prosperity. And also signifies the season to reap the harvest. Regardless of any caste and religion, Keralites celebrate Onam with great fervor and enthusiasm. And the festivity of Onam lasts for ten days with exciting celebrations and activities like dance, music, snake boat races, Pookalam decorations, and many more.
Onam falls on the Malayalam month of Chingam which is often celebrated between the months of August and September. Atham (September 2, 2019) marks the first day of Onam festival and the tenth day is the Thiruvonam which is the most auspicious one. This year Thiruvonam is on September 11, 2019.
Thousands of native and foreign tourists visit Kerala to join the festival. Indeed, it is a treat to be a part of the grand carnival.
The grand celebration of Onam attracts the attention of various tourists because of which, Kerala tourism sees a significant boom during the festival. I think the best way to know about Onam when you cannot witness it in person, is to read about it and we would like to have you join us on this reading venture.
Kerala turns colourful and full of life with the arrival of Onam. The air is filled with the fragrance of flowers and the smell of Onam delicacies, especially the banana chips and Sarkara varatti (jaggery coated banana chips). Houses adorns with attractive Pookalam (floral carpets). Children having fun swaying on the swing and merrymaking in Onam games. Pulikali dancers, disguised as tigers dancing on the road with hunters behind them, entertaining people and caparisoned elephants on the scene. Performances of traditional art forms reflecting the rich culture of the state. Women in traditional attire dancing Thiruvathira. The absolute thrilling boat races. Finally, the sumptuous Onasadya with variety of delicious Payasam. Everything adds to the fun and flavors of Onam celebrations in Kerala.
Legend of Onam Festival:
The history of Onam festival dates back to the Sangam Period and the celebrations lasted for a month. The legend behind Onam Festival is associated with King Mahabali who was an asura by birth but wise and extremely generous by virtue. Kerala witnessed its golden era during his reign. All people were equal and there was no discrimination based on caste and creed. There were no crime nor corruption and not even thieves in the region during his rule. And his kingdom witnessed no sorrow, poverty, disease or untimely death.
But the Gods were jealous about the rising popularity of Mahabali that they approached Lord Vishnu for help. And the Lord disguised himself as a poor dwarf Brahmin named Vamana and appeared in front of Mahabali and asked him for three steps of land. King Mahabali was so kind enough to grant his request. Meanwhile, Lord Vishnu increased his size and took a gigantic form and covered the entire earth in one step and the entire heaven in the second. To place his third step, Mahabali humbly offered his head to the Lord. Being pleased with his goodness, Lord Vishnu blessed Mahabali with everlasting life. He also granted a boon to him to return to his kingdom every year to see his subjects. Hence, Onam is celebrated by the Keralites with great ardor to welcome their beloved King Mahabali who they fondly call Maveli.
Cultural Significance Of Onam Festival:
Onam Festival heralds the New Year for Keralites and is also celebrated as the harvest festival of the state. Even though the myth behind the Onam festival originates from the Hindu tradition, the celebrations are not restricted to Hindus alone, every religion prevailing in the state celebrates it with great zeal and it shows the religious harmony of the region.
Hence, the Onam Festival spreads the message of togetherness and the unique bond of brotherhood, removing all the disparities of religions. It gives an opportunity to share happiness and making merry with each other and to fill the air with love and positive vibes.
Explore the colorful fairs & festivals of beautiful Kerala during this season with our customized festival tour packages. This festive season shows the best of Kerala’s abundant culture and Traditions.
Special Attractions of Onam:
Tripunithura Athachamayam: The Athachamayam festival held at Tripunithura, near Ernakulam, kick off the celebrations of Onam festival.
Athachamayam is a spectacular cultural extravaganza which offers you the rare opportunity to witness almost all the traditional art forms of Kerala. It includes street parade accompanied by caparisoned elephants, carnival floats, musicians, dancers along with various traditional Kerala art forms.
Pakalpooram at Thrikkakara Temple: On the Atham day there is a special flag hoisting ceremony at Thrikkakara Temple which is dedicated to Vamana Moorthy, located in Ernakulam district. And the celebrations continue for the next 10 days with cultural events, music, and dance performances.
On the Thiruvonam day, there is a grand procession called Pakalpooram at this temple in which the main deity, Vamana is carried in procession on an elephant around the temple grounds, followed by a group of beautifully decorated elephants.
Pookalam: Onam festival is synonymous to Pookalam. Decorating Pookalam is an ancient tradition as well as the most interesting part of the Onam festival. People make variety and intricate designs on the floor and decorate it with colourful flowers.
Every door front and temples are adorned with Pookalam during this festivity. The Pookalams are a real treat to the eyes and taking part in its making is a wonderful experience. Pookalam competitions are also held in schools, colleges, offices and various associations.
Thrikkakara Appan or Onathappan: Thrikkakara Appan or Onathappan is a small pyramid structure made of clay or mud with four faces and a flattened top. This unique structure is also known as Onathappan and it represents the Vamana avatar of Lord Vishnu. Some people also represent it as both Vamana and King Mahabali. Also, the main deity of Thrikkakara Temple in Ernakulam District of Kerala is called Thrikkakara Appan.
During Onam celebrations, this clay structures of Thrikkakara Appan or Onathappan is placed on a bed made of rice flour dotted with flowers and special pujas are performed. It is also placed along with Pookalam.
Snake Boat Race: The exciting Snake Boat Races are the ultimate entertainer during the Onam season, especially the Aranmula Uthrittathi Boat Race. Held annually on the Pampa river, this boat race at Aranmula commemorates the installation of the idol of Lord Krishna at the famous Aranmula Parthasarathy Temple.
Like the renowned Nehru Trophy Boat Race held every year at Punnamada Lake, the Aranmula Uthrittathi Boat Race also enjoys the presence of several tourists. It is a must-visit activity if you are in Kerala on this Onam season.
Thiruvathirakali: Thiruvathirakali is another blissful attraction of Onam festival which is performed by women. They dress beautifully in traditional Kasavu saree, wear traditional gold ornaments and jasmine flowers in their hair and with gentle swaying movements in a circular pattern and rhythmic clapping of hands, they perform to the tune of the Thiruvathira song.
This traditional dance form of Kerala even owns a place in the Guinness Book of World Records for the largest ever Thiruvathirakali performed by more than 6500 girls and women from different states of India for 16-minutes, in the year 2017.
Pulikali: Pulikali which literally means the ‘play of tiger’ is a wonderful spectacle exclusive for Kerala. Hundreds of men, nowadays women also, get themselves painted and dressed up as tigers and dances on the street to the beat of traditional percussion instruments. It is really a tedious process to decorate a person as it takes almost 4 hours to complete it. Also, prizes are awarded for the best-dressed tiger and the best dancer.
Swaraj Round in Thrissur is the best place to witness the pomp and grandeur of Pulikali. Many natives as well as tourists flocks here to watch Pulikali add to their clicks and memories.
Kummattikali: Another unique folk dance of Kerala you can witness during Onam season is the Kummattikali which is prevalent in Thrissur, Palakkad and South Malabar Region of Kerala.
It is a form of processional mask dance in which masked and grass-clad Kummatti dancers move around the streets to entertain people.
Swings Decorated in Flowers:
Swings that are fixed to long branches of trees and are decorated with flowers also enrich the celebrations of Onam. Young men, women and children indulge themselves in rocking each other on swings. It is a wonderful activity to watch as well as to experience.
Grand Feast – Onasadya: Without the grand feast served in banana leaves with 26 varieties of delicacies, Onam is incomplete. In the end, you will be served with a variety of Payasam which are so appetizing.
26 mouth-watering Onasadya dishes:
- Upperi (Banana chips)
- Sarkara Varatti (Jaggery coated banana chips)
- Lemon Pickle
- Mango Pickle
- Inji Curry (Ginger curry)
- Pineapple Pachadi
- Chena Mezhkkuperaty
- Kootu Curry
- Parippu Curry
- Poovan Pazham
- Palada Pardhaman
- Ada Pardhaman
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How Keralites Celebrates the 10 days of Onam Festival?
Day 1: Atham
Atham marks the first day of Onam festival and is believed to be the day when Mahabali starts his preparation to head towards earth. On this day, Keralites take an early bath and visit the nearby temple to offer prayer. The traditional ritual of laying Pookalam also starts on this day. They make small Pookalam (called Athapoo) on the first day with simple designs and use only yellow flowers and the size of the Pookalam will keep on increasing until the final day.
Day 2: Chithira
Another layer of flowers is added to the Pookalam on the second day. Cleaning of houses and other preparations for the Onam festival starts on this day.
Day 3: Chodi
The third layer of flowers is added to the Pookalam and flowers of different colours are used. It is also the day for buying new clothes and jewellery for the family members as well as to gift their relatives and friends.
Day 4: Vishakam
Preparation of Onasadya (grand feast) begins on this day with each family member contributing something to it. And this elaborate feast almost contains 26 delicacies.
Vishakam day also marks the beginning of several competitions that are held during Onam.
Day 5: Anizham
This is the day when the traditional snake boat race starts in many parts of Kerala.
Day 6: Thriketa
By this time, the Pookalam gets very large with elaborate designs and contains 5 to 6 flowers added to the original Pookalam. This is the time people visit their ancestral homes to celebrate the festival with their dear ones and also exchange gifts with one another.
Day 7: Moolam
At several places and most of the temples in Kerala, special Onasadya is served from this day.
Pulikali and traditional dance forms like Kaikotti Kali are performed on this day.
Day 8: Pooradam
The Pookalam will now have become bigger in size, colourful and beautiful. The statues of Mahabali and Vamana are washed and are taken around the house. Also, they are installed at the centre of the Pookalam. The statue will be called Onathappan from this day. And Mahabali is finally invited to visit houses of his subject on this day.
Day 9: Uthradam
Uthradam day is considered as the Onam eve when people buy fresh vegetables, fruits and other provisions to prepare the grand feast on Onam. Also, it is believed that King Mahabali reaches the state of Kerala on this day and will spend the next four days touring his erstwhile kingdom and blessing his subjects.
Day 10: Thiruvonam
Thiruvonam is the most auspicious day of the Onam festival. Keralites celebrate the Thiruvonam day in a grand manner with exciting activities and sumptuous lunch called Onasadya that serves 26 mouth-watering delicacies and different varieties of Payasam.
People clean their houses, take an early bath and apply rice flour batter on the main entrance. They wear new clothes; gifts are distributed among each other and special prayers are held in temples.
Many cultural competitions are held in different parts of Kerala and people also take part in various Onam games (Onakalikal) and dances like Thiruvathira, Kaikottikali, Pulikali etc and for the whole 10 days, Kerala wore a festive mode.
Special Customs on Onam Festival:
- Keralites renovate and decorate their homes, and even buy new furniture as part of the Onam celebrations
- They buy new dresses for themselves and their dear ones to wear on the Thiruvonam day. And these new clothes specially purchased for the Onam festival is called Onakodi. Gifting Onakodi is an important custom of this festival.
- Dazzling lamps adorn the Hindu temples of Kerala during the festival and a palmyra tree is set up in front of the temples which are later burned to ashes, signifying the sacrifice of King Mahabali.
The festivity of Onam continues for two more days following Thiruvonam day as Third and Fourth Onam. The day after Onam (Third Onam) is called Avittam which marks the ascension of Legendary King Mahabali to the Heavens. The Onathappan statue which is placed in the middle of Pookalam during the celebrations is immersed in a nearby water body on this day and the Pookalam is also removed.
Chathayam (fourth Onam) the day after Avittam marks the end of Onam festival with a mega dance festival held in Thiruvananthapuram.
Onam is celebrated in a grand manner not only in Kerala but also worldwide wherever Malayalees are, preserving all its traditions and culture. It is a festival that symbolizes prosperity, harmony, and peace. Also, it is the pristine occasion for us to uphold the values of humanity, brotherhood and unity.
There is no better festival season in Kerala that showcases the rich culture and heritage of the state with many fascinating rituals and customs, than Onam. If you wish to experience the cultural heritage of Kerala, indulging in its most vibrant and spectacular festival, then fly to Kerala this September to make wonderful memories to cherish life-long with our Culture of Kerala tour package.
Besides Thrikkakara Temple in Ernakulam district, which is the centre of Onam celebrations, you can be a part of grand celebrations at Thripunithura, Kochi, Thrissur, Kozhikode, and Trivandrum with a spectacular display of fireworks.
On this special occasion, plan a trip to Kerala with our customized festival tour packages for you to enjoy the splendour of Onam celebrations in various parts of Kerala.
May the joy of Onam wipe out all your worries and troubles and fills your life with everlasting happiness and prosperity.
How to reach:
Kerala can be easily accessed by Air, Rail, Road and Water.
Kerala is the only state in India that has 4 International airports. And they are Cochin International Airport, Thiruvananthapuram International Airport, Karipur International Airport and the newly inaugurated Kannur International Airport.
Kerala has around 200 railway stations and is well-linked to all major cities of India like Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore, Kolkata, etc via rail.
Kerala has a good network of roadways which directly connects the neighbouring states of South India like Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. Kerala State Transport buses and private buses also run to and from various parts of the state.
One can even reach Kerala via Ship also. Prominent history of Kerala speaks about many seaports. The major ports of Kerala are The Port of Kochi and Vizhinjam International Seaport that serve as the major marine sea routes to Kerala from various countries. Kerala is also known for its picturesque backwaters which serve as a favourite tourist attraction as well as a popular and old means of transportation. One can make use of public ferry services, houseboats and speed-boat to travel in Kerala. Passenger boat service is operated along the waterway from boat jetties at Kollam, Alappuzha, Fort Kochi, Ernakulam etc.
Festivals In Kerala Is To Experience The Rich Culture and Traditions Of God’s Own Country, through the grand celebration of their festivals.
Get involved and catch your own blessing of happiness and prosperity in Kerala with Kerala Tourism holiday.