At once when we hear the term Kerala, it automatically cited to Onam celebration. Obviously, Onam is one of the most famous religious festivals in South India. This is most popularly celebrated in the state of Kerala. It is also considered as a cultural festival, the reason is that non-hindu community people also involvedin this festival celebration.Onam festival celebration is a new year for Malayali people, because it is celebrated in the first month of Malayalam Calendar (KollaVarsham) called Chingam. Usually, Onam falls at the end of August or at the beginning of September.

 

 

PURPOSE OF CELEBRATION:

 

 The festival of Onam is dedicated to the King Mahabali. By birth, he was considered as an Asur, a person with negative thoughts. But he was Asur because of his dignity and honorability towards people. Mythical story describes that king Mahabali sacrificed everything else he had in order to stand true to his words and none of the needy ever returned empty handed from his door. So Onam festival is celebrated as a reward for his sacrifice towards his dignity. It is believed that Onam celebrations started during the Sangam Period.

 

FESTIVAL CELEBRATION:

 

Onam is not only a religious, cultural festival; it is also an official state festival of Kerala. The Kerala government announces public holidays that start four days from Onam Eve (Uthradom). Onam is ten day festival and that are sequentially known as Atham, Chithira, Chodhi, Vishakam, Anizham, Thriketa, Moolam, Pooradam, Uthradom and ThiruvOnam.Each day has a unique name, significance and several activities are conducted.

 

 

 Atham is the first day of Onam, that day is believed when Mahabali supposedly starts his preparation to head towards earth. On this day, women’s designing Pookalam full of Yellow flowers and the statues of Vamana and King Mahabali are also installed in houses.On second day they will add another layer of flowers and started to clean their houses. Third day is considered as shopping day, people started to make purchase for the remaining days. On vishakam, which is the fourth day of the Onam festival, they will conduct several activities and cultural programmes during Onam. On fifth day they will conduct boat races (Vallamkali).This happen in many parts of Kerala.

 

 

During Thriketa, sixth day most of the schools get closed and they started Onam celebration.The state has been beautifully decorated and dance programs will be conducted on the seventh day. During eighth day, the statues of Vamana and King Mahabli are washed, decorated and installed in the middle of pookolam, which is huge in size. Each and every day the decoration layer of pookolam has been increased. During Uthradom, people believed that king Mahabali, reaches the state of Kerala on ninth day of Onam.

 

 

So people will start cooking delicious vegetarian food items. They are channa dal payasam, puliinji, avail, olan, beans mezhukupuratti, cabbage thoran, cucumber kichadi, vendakkapachadi, sharkarapayasam, narangaachar, rice and paruppu curry, sambar, rasam and pulissery.

 

 

ThiruOnam is the final day of Onam celebration. All these celebrations reach a climax. On this day, people wake up and take bath early in the morning, men and women wear traditional dress, and particularly Kerala sari is more popular. On this day special puja’s are conducted in temple, specials gifts will be distributed to the winners. After this,Onam special meal is prepared in the entire house and they will enjoy meal with their family and friends.

 Onam festival is also celebrated by Christians of Kerala, in its churches by lightning nilavilaku followed by pushparathi over the bible. After the prayers they will start eating Onam meal together with Hindu community people with lots of mutual respect and sharing which starts from here.Some of the Muslim people are also involved in these practices. This shows Unity in Diversity of our culture. Onam festival is not only a beginning of the year; it is the beginning of happiness and culture.

Happy Onam!