Onam is Kerala’s most popular festival which is celebrated with great zeal. It is generally celebrated each year in August-September and falls on the first month of the Malayalam calendar called Chingam.
The festivities last mostly for ten days and each day is filled with equal passion from of all ages. This year Onam starts on September 1 will last till September 13.
Onam is also called Thiru-Onam or Thiruvonam (Sacred Onam Day). Sravanmahotsav is another name for this festival.
Each day has a a distinct name and there are different celebrations each day. There also are some post-Onam celebrations in Kerala which adds to the ten-day festival.
The origin of the word Onam is originated from the Sanskrit word Shravanam which means one of the 27 nakshatras or constellations. Thiruvonam is believed to be Lord Vishnu’s nakshatra. He is said to have pushed King Mahabali into the underworld with his foot.
How is Onam celebrated?
Onam brings all the colours, history, culture and its beliefs of Kerala together. Flower carpets called Pookalam, banquet lunches, boat races, Puli Kali, and the Kaikottikkali dance are some of the major attractions of the festival.
What do the ten days of Onam stand for?
Day 1, Atham: Marked by designing Pookalam which is only done with yellow flowers.
Day 2, Chithira: Another layer of flowers is added to the Pookalam and house cleaning begins.
Day 3, Chodi: Families begin shopping and a new layer of flowers is added to the Pookalam.
Day 4, Vishakam: The various competitions begin.
Day 5, Anizham: Vallamkali Boat Race starts in many parts of Kerala.
Day 6, Thriketa: Schools start closing and people start devoting all their time to the celebrations.
Day 7, Moolam: The beginning of Ona Sadya starts and the dance performances related to the festival. Decorations are plenty across the state and a treat to the eyes by this time.
Day 8, Pooradam: Statues of Vamana and King Mahabali are cleaned and installed in the centre of the Pookalam.
Day 9, Uthradom: This day is one of the most crucial days of the festival. People buy fresh vegetables and traditional meals are cooked. It’s believed that King Mahabali reaches the state on this day.
Day 10, Thiruonam: Preparations are in full swing on Day 10. People take an early bath, distribute gifts and go to temples for prayers. The grand Thiruona Sadya (Special meal for Onam) is prepared in all households. Competitions like dance and boat races continue across the state.