Onam, Kerala’s most important festival is celebrated with religious fervour and festive mood through ten days sometime during August and September in Chingam month.The rice harvest and rain flowers festival commemorates demon king Mahabali’s annual visit from Patal-loka (nether world). Onam spans from Atham (first day) to Thiruvonam (final day). Temples teem with votaries who perform special pujas in the morning. Blessings of the elders are eagerly sought by youngsters to make the year ahead a successful one.Traditional rituals are observed with veneration and followed by sumptuous feasts featuring 21 homemade curries and payasam served on plantain fronds. Onam’s appeal increases manifold times with the extravagance created by fireworks, elephant carnivals, boat races, Kathakali dances etc.
Mahabali, the legendary king, ruled Kerala in ancient times and is still revered for his magnanimity. His reign is considered as the golden era in the history of Kerala. Subjects of Mahabali led a happy, harmonious and prosperous life free of worries and threats. This glorious period saw its conclusion when in return of a boon granted to Vamana incarnation of Lord Vishnu, Mahabali had to relinquish his kingdom and retreat to Patala. Vamana was so pleased with the generosity of Mahabali that he permitted him to visit his people once every year.Onam is the time when it is believed that Mahabali pays a visit to his subjects.
Mahabali is given a grand welcome through Pookalam, a flower carpet prepared in front of houses. Beautiful flowers of different varieties and hues are collected and petals severed into small pieces for embellishing the intricate designs made on ground. The artistic carpets are delicately done and then small pandals with decorative festoons are erected over them.Flowers endemic to Kerala are used for making Dashapushpam. The pookalams are accompanied by earthen mounds of square pyramid shapes, representative of Mahabali and Vamana, put in courtyards with walls plastered by cow dung. Special competitions are held across Kerala wherein people prepare lavish and spectacular pookalams in vibrant and unique designs.
Onam sadhya is the traditional multi course vegetarian feast served on plantain fronds. Steamed rice is the chief attraction of sadhya and accompanied by numerous delectable dishes. The nine course meal essentially comprises of 11 to 13 dishes which vary from region to region. People sit cross-legged on mats laid on floors to enjoy the feast.
Onam apart from having religious significance also fosters societal bonds. Onam Kalikal collectively refers to the various games played during Onam days. Hardworking Kerala folks are known for their energy and after indulging in lip-smacking Onam Sadhya, these games provide the needful refreshment and merriment. Men involve themselves in vigorous pastimes like Talappanthukali, a ball game, archery or Ambeyyal, Kutukutu and combative sports such as Attakalam and Kayyankali. Women take part in cultural activities.
Elder folks play indoor games such as Chathurangam, cards and dice. Kayyankali is an exhibition of the strength and physical force where participants aggressively challenge each other and fight with fists. In Ambeyyal, blunted arrows and bamboo bows are used wherein members of opposing team try to deprive the other of arrow stocks.
The Snake Boat race organized is another attraction of Onam. Extravagantly decorated boats accommodating hundreds of men with oars in their hands participate in the race of supremacy. Chanting of songs and cheering by spectators make the event a colourful sight.
People drape themselves in traditional attire during Onam. Younger members in the family are gifted ‘onakkodi’ or ‘onappudava‘ by the elders. Kodi and pudava stand for new and clothes respectively. Men and women engage in purchasing of mundu and saree, traditional attires of men and women. Onam season experiences a surge in the demand of kasavu saree and kasavu mundu which are hand woven attires with golden brocades. Miniature versions of mundus called ‘chittada’ are gifted to children and infants. Modernity has steeped in and modern attires such as ‘onakkodi’ are also exchanged as they are convenient to wear.
We, at Punnamada organize special sadhya for guests during the festive days of Onam (INR 600 per head) and events such as Attapookalam festival and cultural events like Mohiniyattam. Come and enjoy the unique offerings of ‘God’s Own Country’.