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Onam Festival 2019: Date, Importance, Meaning, Events & How To Celebrate

Onam Festival 2019: The harvest festival of Kerala is celebrated with pomp and splendour


India is a country of Festivals and each state has its own festive occasion that they celebrate with zeal. One of the most popular festivals of Kerala is known as Onam. The harvest festival is celebrated with pomp and show in God’s Own Country. It is celebrated each year in August-September as per the Malayalam calendar. Malayalees from far corners arrive home to celebrate it with their near and dear ones.

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Here is all that you need to know about Onam:

About Onam:

Onam is the most popular festival in Kerala and is believed to be the National festival of Kerala. Onam is celebrated each year according to the Malayalam calendar that is the first month of the year called Chingam. The festivities of the Onam last for ten days in which old and young participate with equal enthusiasm.

Meaning of Onam:

Onam is believed to have been originated from the Sanskrit word Shravanam. In Sanskrit, it refers to one of the 27 Nakshatras or constellations. Thiru in South India is used for anything associated with the Lord Vishnu and Thiruvonam is believed to be the Nakshatra of Lord Vishnu who pressed the great King Mahabali to the underworld with his foot.

Significance Of Onam Festival:

Onam festival history dates back to the Sangam period when Onam was used to be celebrated for a month. According to the ancient legends, this festival was celebrated to commemorate the arrival of Asura King Mahabali’s annual visit from Patala. As per the mythological story, Kerala was ruled by demon king Mahabali (grandson of Prahlad) who was known for his generosity. His growing popularity became a threat to the gods. Sensing their concern, Lord Vishnu disguised himself as a poor Brahmin called Vamana. He asked Mahabali to grant him land that he could cover with his three steps. The generous king granted the wish and soon Vamana covered the earth with one step and the sky with his other. The king put forward his head for the third steps and was pushed into Patala by Vishnu. But due to his kind and sacrificing nature was granted a boon that he can annually visit his people which led to the celebration of the Onam festival.

Date and Location of Onam Celebration:

The much-awaited Onam festival is held every year in August or September. This year it is on 11th September 2019. The 10-day festival is celebrated with great enthusiasm in entire Kerala. Nowhere is the celebration grander than at the Thrikkakara Vamana Moorthy Temple near Kochi. It is dedicated to Lord Vishnu’s Vamana avatar and is one of the most important Vishnu temples in Southern India. Even Thrippunithura in Ernakulam hosts numerous cultural events.

Events During Onam Festival:

Here are the events during the Onam festival.

1. Tripunithura Athachamayam

This marks the first day of Onam which is celebrated with grandeur and zeal. The day is filled with a colourful street parade. This includes musicians, dancers and carnival floats and decorated elephants which walks down the streets.

2. Pookalam: The Floral Decorations & Arrangement

Onam festival is also called the festival of flowers and Pookalam is where the people make designs on the floor and decorate that with various flowers. This is usually at the door fronts and temples. With each passing day, a new layer of flowers is added to the Pookalam. At some Pookalam competitions are held at some places.

3. Pulikali: The Grand Tiger Dance

Pulikali means ‘the play of the tiger’, which was started 200 years ago. For the dance hundreds of people get themselves painted and dressed as a tiger and later they perform the dance on traditional music.

4. Vallamkali: The Snake Boat Race

Snake Boat race of Kerala is famous worldwide. The Vallamkali or the snake boat race is held on the Pampa river. 100 boatmen compete with each other in a boat riding competition. The boats are decorated beautifully in different patterns. Men and women from across the city come to witness this race.

5. Onam Sadya: The Complete Meal

The Onasadya or the ‘Onam Feast’ is the highlight of this 10-day celebration. This is a nine-course meal which comprises of 11-13 traditional dishes which is served on a banana leaf. The number of vegetables in the meal varies from house to house but most of the well off families cooks nine to eleven dishes for the Onasadya. Restaurants offer as many as 30 dishes for the Onasadya.

How Kerala Celebrates Onam Festival in 10 Days?

Day 1: Atham

On the Atham day, Keralites take an early bath and offer prayer in the temple. It is said that King Mahabali starts the preparation to come down to Kerala. Men gather the flowers and women make the pookkalam to welcome the legendary king. On this day the pookkalam is small in size and known as Athapoo. The size will keep on increasing until the final day. The design will be simple and only yellow flowers can be used.

Day 2: Chithira

On the second day, new flowers are added to the pookkalam The planning for the festival finally begins on Chithira so that nothing remains undone.

Day 3: Chodhi

Another layer is added to the Pookalam on this day. The family starts buying new clothes and jewellery for each other.

Day 4: Vishakam

Vishwakarma marks the beginning of the main meal known as Onam Sadhya. Malayalis take much pride in this elaborate lunch.

Day 5: Anizham

On this day, the traditional snake boat race takes place along the Pampa River at Aranmula.

Day 6: Thriketa

On the sixth day, people who have migrated to other regions visit their ancestral homes to celebrate the festivity with their dear ones. They also exchange gifts with one another.

Day 7: Moolam

Not only the families visit each other but the Hindu temples in Kerala start serving vegetarian meals (special sadhyas). Various traditional dance performances including the Puli Kali takes place on this day.

Day 8: Pooradam

The small idols of Vamana and Mahabali are placed in the middle of the pookkalam. On this day, Mahabali is invited and greeted by the people. Now the figurine will be called the Onathappan. With so many layers added, the design of the pookalam gets bigger and beautiful.

Day 9: Uthradam

On the Uthradam day, gala feasts are arranged. According to ancient myth, the king will tour his kingdom and bless the people.

Day 10: Thiruvonam

Thiruvonam is the final day when people clean the houses and as a welcome sign apply rice water mix at the entrance. The eldest woman of the family distributes new clothes to the family members. The evening is celebrated with bright lights and firecrackers.

 Also Read: Sawan 2019: Dates, Rituals, Significance, Do’s & Don’ts about the Holy Shravan month

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