Onam is a ten-day long festival celebrated in honour of the kind-hearted demon King Mahabali’s annual visit to his kingdom of Kerala. Onam is the New Year Day in Malayalam calendar. Onam festival rituals begin 10days ahead of the Thiruvonam nakshatra of Chingam month and culminate on Onam.
Onam Date 2023
Tue , 29th Aug 2023
According to Hindu Mythology, King Mahabali was the grandson of Bhaktha Prahlada, Son of demon King Hiranyakashipu. Mahabali won a battle with Lord Indra and began ruling the whole world. Though he was a demon king filled with ego and pride to the brim, he was very generous. When Mahabali was performing a yagna, He announced that he would grant anyone any request appeared in the form of a diminutive Brahman in one of the yagnas of Mahabali and asked for three paces of land as Biksha. When Mahabali agreed, Lord grew into a size of a giant and measured Heaven and earth plane in two strides, when Mahabali realised that the dwarf was Lord Vishnu, he offered his head as the third place to occupy. This subdued the ego, arrogance and pride of King Mahabali. Since the king offered his head for the Lord to step on out of devotion, Vishnu granted him a boon, that Mahabali could visit the lands and people he ruled once every year. This revisit marks the festival of Onam.
Onam is the official state festival of Kerala; Malayalis of all religion and living in various parts of the world celebrate Onam festival enthusiasm and zest. The month of Chingam is the first month according to the Malayalam Calendar. The celebrations begin on the day of Atham nakshatra of Chingam month, followed by days with nakshatras Chithira, Chodhi, Vishakam, Anizham, Thriketa, Moolam, Pooradam, Uthradam and culminates on Thiruvonam which is Onam Festival. The first and last day of this 10-day span is celebrated with great enthusiasm.
Onam celebrations include Vallam Kali -boat races, Pulikali -tiger dances, Pookkalam -flower Rangoli, Onam Kali, Kathakali, Tug of War, Onathappan (worshipping Vamana avatar), Thumbi Thullal, Kummatti kali-mask dance, Onathallu -martial arts, Onavillu – music artform, Kazhchakkula, Onapottan and Atthachamayam. People also celebrate by purchasing new clothes or jewellery on the eve of Onam called Onakkodi or renovating their living spaces.
At the Thrikkakara temple (Kochi) for Lord Vamana avatar of Vishnu beginning from the day of Atham, every day of the festival showcases traditional rituals like Kathakali, Thiruvathira, Chakyar Koothu, Ottam Thullal, Patakam, Onam percussion instrument shows and songs.
Onam celebrations kicks off with a grand procession at Thrippunithura near Kochi called Atthachamayam. This mega procession is also referred as Thripunithura Athachamayam. This procession features magnificent elephants marching for drumbeats and bands playing traditional music, people dressed as character from the folklores. This parade floats scenes from Mahabharatha and Ramayana.
Pookalam is a floral Rangoli. The huge festive ones drawn on Onam is called Onapookkalam. This Rangoli is made out of variety of flower blossoms arranged into little pieces to design and decorate patterns on the floor at entrances and temple premises. Lamps are arranged in the middle or around edges of the pookolam. Statues or figurines of King Mahabali and Lord Vamanamoorthy are installed in the middle of the pookolam.
This celebration is also known as Kaduvakali. This celebration is one of the common sights after pookolam during the Onam season. In this dance, performers paint themselves like tigers in bright yellow, red and black colours, and dance to the beats of traditional instruments like Chenda and Thakil. This folk hails from the cultural district of Thrissur and thousands pour in on this day to witness this delightful art.
Vallamkali aka the snake boat race is another celebration event which is synonymous with Onam season. Aranmula Uthrattadhi Boat Race and the Nehru Trophy Boat Races are the significant races of the state of Kerala. Oarsmen row huge snake-shaped boats on the Pampa River. People from afar places visit and cheer the snake boat race at Aranmula.
Onam sadya is a traditional feast with dozens of delicacies of Kerala served on a plantain leaf. This feast is an indispensable part of Thiruvonam day. The Onam celebration culminates with Onam Sadya. The feast consists of nine courses; may include over two dozen dishes- Banana Chips, Chakkaveratti, -Fried pieces of banana coated with jaggery, Pappadam, various local vegetable soups like Injipuli, Thoran, Mezhukkupuratti, Kaalan, Olan, Avial, Sambar, Dal served with dollop of ghee, along with Eriseri, Mologashayam, Rasam, Puliseri, Kichadi and Pachadi, Moru (buttermilk), Pickles both sweet and sour, and coconut chutney. The feast ends with a series of desserts called Payasam- pudding made of milk, sugar, jaggery, fruits.
Music and Dance
Onam as a ten-day-long festival encompasses a wide variety of cultural and traditions rituals and customs. Music and dance are an integral part of this Onam celebrations. Traditional dances include Thiruvathira kali, Kummattikali, Pulikali, Thumbi Thullal, and Onam Kali. Thiruvathira Kali is dance where women gather and dance in a circle around a Kerala lamp. Kummattikali is a dance where performers sport a colourful mask.
Onam festival dates between 2019 & 2029
Wednesday, 11th of September
Monday, 31st of August
Saturday, 21st of August
Thursday, 8th of September
Tuesday, 29th of August
Sunday, 15th of September
Friday, 5th of September
Wednesday, 26th of August
Sunday, 12th of September
Friday, 1st of September
Wednesday, 22nd of August