Onam is a beautiful occasion. It is celebrated annually with great zeal in Kerala of South India. It marks the arrival of the harvest season and brings in a plethora of optimism about the new rice harvest. Onam is also profoundly known as Thiru-Onam or just Thiruvonam. The famous festival falls on the 22nd nakshatra thiruvonam in Chingam month according to the Malayalam calendar.
Significance of Onam
- There lies an incredible anecdote behind the celebrations of Onam. On the day of Onam, an extraordinary king Mahabali returned home from the Patal Lok. He was the grandson of Prahalad and a great believer of mighty Lord Vishnu. Although Mahabali was a demon, he was widely known for his decent nature. All the godheads were against him, but supreme Vishnu supported him. Once Vishnu landed on earth as an impoverished Brahman called Vamana to test King Mahabali.
- Vishnu, as Vamana, communicated three desires to King. He demanded three paces of land in his Kingdom. King Mahabali fulfilled his wishes. When Vamana was awarded paces, he developed in size. In the first pace, he covered the sky and the land in the second pace.
- Lord Vishnu asked Mahabali how to assess the third pace. Then, demon Mahabali offered him his head and asked him to conceal him underground. Vishnu was pleased to see Mahabali’s intense commitment.
- He blessed Mahabali with the boon of coming back to his kingdom annually. The day when King Mahabali arrives back in his territory in Kerala is commemorated as Mahabali.
Rituals of Onam
- The ceremony of Onam goes for as long as ten days. The period of these days is filled with the excitement of Onam and its celebrations. One of the unique parts of Onam is that tasty dishes are prepared on it. On Onam, Malayalis celebrate the great day by preparing more than twelve varied recipes and serving them on banana leaves in a traditional style. Sadhya takes place with utmost ecstasy in which grand feasts with cumulative dishes are organized. Some of the most prominent food items prepared on Onam Sandhya are- Pappadam, Sharkara Varatti, Upperi, Inji curry, mango curry, pachadi, naranga curry, avial, thoran, chor, Chenna Mezhkkupuratti, Parripu Curry, Kichadi etc.
- Thiruvathira takes place during the Onam celebrations. In thiruvathira celebrations, people idolize Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. According to the prominent legends, both deities finally met each other on Thiruvathira only. Women keep fasts on Onam and pray for the well-being of their husbands. Unmarried women also indulge in half fast and pray to the almighty for getting an ideal husband.
- Women participate in the Pookolam festival and carve elegant rangolis. They also perform a graceful dance style called Kaikottikali. Everyone adorns the best attires on Onam and celebrates the occasion with great zeal. Women dolls themselves in elegant Kasavu sari embroidered with glossy golden borders and pairs with heavy gold ornaments. Men wear dhoti and shirts of white colour.
- Onakalikalis is also a prominent ritual on Onam. In it, men engage in exciting games such as tug of war and archery. Vallamkali Boat Race is the major highlight of the entire Onam festivity. In this race, around 100 boatmen participate. People across the country come and witness this remarkable race.
- The grand elephant parade also glorifies the euphoria of Onam. Elephants are decorated, and they travel across the streets, meeting and greeting people around.
Boons of Onam
Onam brings in a wave of freshness. It is the best time to celebrate optimism and opportunities. It creates a very positive atmosphere and fills souls with sanguinity. Celebrating Onam with grandeur brings in fortune and prosperity in the house.
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