Festival Of Onam
Onam is a major, annual harvest festival, celebrated by the Malayalis with great enthusiasm and joy, in Kerala and all over the world. It is an ancient Hindu festival of the state which celebrates the harvest of rice. It is the New Year day for Malayali Hindus and the Malayalam calendar lists this festival in the month of Chingam (the first month in the Malayali calendar), which coincides with the months of August-September, in the Gregorian calendar. The festival is believed to be celebrated to welcome King Mahabali, whose spirit visits Kerala at the time of Onam. This festival has been declared the official state festival of Kerala and public holidays are granted from the eve of Onam (Uthradom) till upto four days. The Government Of India also endorses Onam festivities internationally in a big way and organizes ‘Tourist Week’ for Kerala during the Onam festival, where both domestic as well as international tourists throng the state to partake of these celebrations.
Onam festivities extend from anywhere between four to ten days and in this year of 2018, the celebrations have begun on the 15th of August and will go on till the 24th or 27th of August (dates may vary in different places). The first day (Atham) and the tenth day (Thiruonam) are the most important of all. In Thiruvananthapuram, the capital of Kerala, one can actually rejoice in the many festivities that are held across 30 venues. Considered an important religious and cultural affair, the celebrations all over Kerala are carried out on a grand scale and include folk songs and dance, colourful costumes and masks, flower arrangements, plantain offerings, music, martial arts, tiger dances, boat races, elaborate feasts and worship.
Though considered an important Hindu festival, non-Hindus in Kerala also partake in this revelry. During the festival of Onam, people from other religions in Kerala also observe a few traditional rituals and share an Onam meal together with the Hindus, promoting a feeling of community and brotherhood among members of different faiths and stressing the importance of respect and tolerance for each others beliefs and traditions.
On the day of Atham, the Keralites start the festival at the famous Vishnu temple, Vamanamoorthy Thrikkakara, at Kochi. Believed to be the abode of Mahabali and the integral centre of Onam, festivities start with the raising of the festival flag. Colourful parades featuring elephants marching to drum beats, other music and dance, colourfully dressed people with masks and floats depicting the culture and ethos of Kerala are held and many more festivities roll out thereafter.
Pookkalam (flower arrangements) is another important ritual during the Onam festival. Starting on the Atham day, a floral carpet or flower mat is made out of the beautiful, vibrantly coloured blossoms gathered for this purpose, on the floor, at the entrances or temple premises and lamps are arranged around it or within the design created. Similar to the Rangoli, a design with coloured powder, this work of religious art is carried out by the girls and women with love and devotion. On the first day, flower arrangement made is relatively small and is then made bigger progressively, with each passing day of the Onam festival. Subsequently Pookkalam competitions are also held all over the state.
The Onam Sadya is another very essential ritual of Thiruvonam and almost every Keralite enjoys either making or attending one. This feast is traditionally a nine course meal, made with seasonal vegetables of yam, cucumber, ash gourd etc and may consist of more than two dozen dishes, which is then served on plantain leaves. Items like Sharkaraveratti (fried pieces of banana coated with jaggery), banana or other kind of chips, Pappadam, various vegetable dishes including the famous Avial, soups, Sambhar, Dal, Kichadi (not khichdi), Pachadi (its sweet counterpart), curd, pickles, buttermilk, chutney etc. The feast ends with a traditional dessert called Payasam (sweet made of milk, sugar, jaggery, wheat) and other traditional Indian sweets.
During Onam, the Keralite Hindus bring home an image of Thrikkakara Appan or Onatthappan (Vishnu in the form of Vamana), much like the Hindus who install Lord Ganesha during Ganesh Chaturthi. People also indulge themselves with buying and wearing new clothes during the festival. Elements of the celebrations in Kerala are carried out by the Malayalis the world over and is especially evident in the U.A.E, Singapore and U.S.A.
HAPPY ONAM !
Picture Credits : Indianhoiday