Onam Festival in Kerala

    Onam, also spelled Thiru Onam or Thiruvonam festival, is a fascinating and spectacular festivity, is the biggest festivals in Kerala. Onam is a ten-day annual festival which falls during the Malayalam month of Chingam (August - September), starting from the day of lunar asterism Atham and concludes on asterism Thiruonam. Also known as the harvest festival, Onam Festival marks the arrival of the legendary King Mahabali. The carnival of Onam invokes the Kerala culture and tradition with its traditional feasts (Onasadya), folk songs and dances, exquisitely decorated Onam Pookalam (Athapookalam), stunning Vallamkali (Snake Boat Race) and traditional Kerala games. The Keralites make fabulous arrangements to invite King Mahabali and celebrate in a grand manner. This year, the date of Onam Festival 2011 is on  9th September 2011, Friday. Onam festival starts with Tripunithura Athachamayam on 31st August 2011 and ends on the Thiruonam (main Onam) day.

    Legend of Onam Festival in Kerala

    One of the legends associated with this festival is the story of King Mahabali. He was a wise and generous asura (demon) king, highly revered by everyone in his kingdom. As the Gods could not tolerate his growing popularity, they sought the help of Lord Vishnu. This is because the king was an ardent devotee of the Lord. The Lord disguised himself as a poor and dwarf Brahmin, called Vamana (one of the dasavatars of Lord Vishnu) and visited the kingdom of Mahabali.

    The generous king granted boons to the Brahmin. Lord Vishnu asked for the land to the extent that could be covered by his three steps, which was agreed by the king. At once, Vamana grew into a huge size and he covered the whole of the sky in his one step. The whole of earth was covered in another step. The Lord then asked for a place for his third step. The king then realized that the Brahmin was not an ordinary man and is Lord Vishnu himself, and showed his head to put his third step. The Lord pushed Mahabali in the patala.

    However, Lord Vishnu was pleased with the generosity of the king and granted him a boon. King Mahabali asked that he would like to visit Kerala and his people every year and his request was granted. Therefore the visit of King Mahabali is celebrated as Onam every year. The celebration is most prominent in Trikkakara which is about 10 km from Kochi (Cochin) on the Edapally - Pookattupadi road. This place is said to be the capital of the King Mahabali. Vamanamoorthy Temple dedicated to Trikkakara Appan or Vamanamurthy, who is Lord Vishnu himself in disguise, is located at this place.

    Onam Rituals

    Though all the ten days are important, the first day, Atham, and the last or tenth day, Thiru Onam, are notable ones. An interesting feature is the Pookalam or the flower carpet which starts from the first day. The front courtyard of almost every house in Kerala is decorated with Attha Poo to welcome the king. The Pookalam increases in size on the subsequent days with the addition of more flowers into it. Steamed bananas and fried pappadam (pappad) are included in the food till the day of Thiruonam. You can see the youngsters enjoying themselves swinging and singing in the beautifully decorated swings which form an important part during Onam.

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Onam Festival in Kerala

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