Onam Festival in Kerala

Onam is the iconic festival of Kerala where the epicenter of the festival is the homecoming of King Mahabali. The festival symbolizes the centuries old culture and heritage of Kerala.

When is Onam Celebrated ?

The first month of the Malayalam calendar signifies the beginning of Onam festival. The Malayalam month Chingam, that is the August month of he Gregorian calendar has a special place among the people of Kerala celebrating the Onam festival lasting for TEN. The next Onam celebrations are between 1st September and 13th September , 2019.

Where is Onam Celebrated?

The most important and biggest festival of Kerala is Onam which is considered as most significant and sacred. The most spectacular celebrations take place in Kochi, Trivandrum, Thrissur, and Kottayam.

The Onam festival has a backdrop of events as per the Hindu legends. One of the incarnations of Lord Vishnu in the form of a small ascetic boy called Vamana visited the reign of the demon King Mahabali. The purpose of His visit was to curtail the fame and popularity of the King as he was generous and popular. Lord Vamana requested him three pieces of land measured by Himself. Without knowing his identity, the King granted Him what he desired for.

When Lord Vamana completed measuring the earth and the sky, King Mahabali realized the God’s presence and offered his head as the third piece of measurement. Moved by his gesture, the God gave him a boon of visiting his country and people once in a year to know about their well being. Thus he was sent to the underworld by Lord Vamana. Thus, the legend goes.

The place where this incident is believed to have happened is the Thrikkakara near Kochi and Ernakulam and there is a temple with the presiding deity named as Vamanmoorthy.

Every year, the homecoming of King Mahabali is celebrated as Onam and the festival commences from the Vamanamoorthy temple.

How is Onam Celebrated ?

The floral decorations called the Pookalams are the main attractions of the Onam festival. Right from the first day of the festival, the homes are decorated and in front of the houses, huge pookalams are arranged and the types of flowers used for the pookalams increase day by day. This is a mark of respect to welcome the King Mahabali who would visit everyone’s house and a small idol is also kept with decorations in front of the houses.

New clothes, grand feasts, dancing, sports and games are the other striking features of this festival.

What Rituals are performed?

The ten days of the Chingam month with the Malayalam star Atham marks the commencement of Onam festival with flag hoisting and special poojas in the Vamanamoorthy temple.

On Atham, people start the day with an early bath, perform prayers, and start creating their floral decorations on the ground in front of their houses. The floral decorations (pookalams) continue during the 10 day lead up to Onam, and pookalam competitions are organized by various organizations.

Pakalpooram, the grand procession on the day prior to Onam is the highlight of this festival, when the processional deity of Lord Vamana is taken around on an elephant, followed by the parade of caparisoned elephants.

The Onam feast is yet another significance of the Onam festival. You must really enjoy the grand feast called the Onam Sadya, which is the mega meal served hot on a banana leaf with a maximum of 42 varieties of dishes.

The last but one day marks the departure of King Mahabali. His idols made of sand are immersed in the nearby waterbodies with the great sigh of grief from his devotees.

People start rearranging things and get ready to resume their normal routine with the pleasant memories and the expectations for the next onam festival, wherein friends and families reunite and rejuvenate the spirit of togetherness.

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