Onam, Kerala’s most popular festival is celebrated with great fervour across the state. Celebrated each year in August-September, Onam falls on the first month of the Malayalam calendar called Chingam. The festivities last for ten days which sees an equally enthusiastic celebration from people of all ages. This year Onam begins on September 1 until September 13.
Onam is also called Thiru-Onam or Thiruvonam (Sacred Onam Day). Sravanmahotsav is another name for this festival.
Each day is given a different name and there are specific celebrations on each day. There also are post-Onam celebrations in Kerala which adds to the ten-day festival.
The word Onam is said to have 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.
Ten days of Onam and their meaning
Day 1, Atham: Marked by designing Pookalam which is only done with yellow flowers. Pookalam’s size grows day by day.
Day 2, Chithira: Another layer of flowers is added to the Pookalam and house cleaning begins on Day 2.
Day 3, Chodi: Families begin shopping on this day, along with a new layer of flowers added to the Pookalam.
Day 4, Vishakam: The various competitions begin on Day 4.
Day 5, Anizham: Vallamkali Boat Race starts in many parts of Kerala on Day 5.
Day 6, Thriketa: Schools start closing on Day 6 for Onam celebrations and people start devoting all their time to the celebrations.
Day 7, Moolam: Several places see the beginning of Ona Sadya and the dance performances related to the festival. Decorations are aplenty 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: Day 9 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.
First Published: Aug 31, 2019 15:45 IST