Onam is the biggest and the most important festival of the state of Kerala. It is a harvest festival and is celebrated with joy and enthusiasm all over the state by people of all communities. According to a popular legend, the festival is celebrated to welcome King Mahabali, whose spirit is said to visit Kerala at the time of Onam.
Onam is celebrated in the beginning of the month of Chingam, the first month of Malayalam Calendar (Kollavarsham). This corresponds with the month of August-September according to Gregorian Calendar.
Carnival of Onam lasts from four to ten days. First day, Atham and tenth day, Thiruonam are most important of all. Popularity and presentation of rich culture of the state during the carnival made Onam the National Festival of Kerala in 1961. Elaborate feasts, folk songs, elegant dances, energetic games, elephants, boats and flowers all are a part of the dynamic festival called Onam.
Government of India has taken due notice of this vibrant and colorful festival. It promotes Onam internationally in a big way and celebrates 'Tourist Week' for Kerala during Onam celebrations. Thousands of domestic and foreign tourists visit Kerala to be a part of Onam.
Story goes that during the reign of mighty asura (demon) king, Mahabali, Kerala witnessed its golden era. Every body in the state was happy and prosperous and king was highly regarded by his subjects. Apart from all his virtues, Mahabali had one shortcoming. He was egoistic. This weakness in Mahabali's character was utilized by Gods to bring an end to his reign as they felt challenged by Mahabali's growing popularity. However, for all the good deed done by Mahabali, God granted him a boon that he could annually visit his people with whom he was so attached.
It is this visit of Mahabali that is celebrated as Onam every year. People make all efforts to celebrate the festival in a grand way and impress upon their dear King that they are happy and wish him well.
Kerala People and Lifestyle
The people of Kerala are the most simple and down to earth people.They like to live in their own world of simplicity and originality. They are known as “keralites”,
since they are natives of Kerala.
The people of Kerala are very protective about their religion and ancient practices,rituals and traditions. They are proud of their culture and will go to any lengths to preserve them. The lifestyle of Keralites is uncomplicated and they seem happy and content with the simple pleasures of life.
The people of Kerala speak Malayalam. These people emphasize much on education and make it a point to ensure that the younger generation knows the religious teachings of their culture.The Keralites also are very progressive in terms of cleanliness,healthcare and physical quality of life.Most people are conversant in English and make it a point that their kids receive education at least till the primary level.
The people of Kerala dress very ordinarily. They do not believe in showing off. The Malayaly way of life is unassuming.They are content with the quality of life they lead.Regarding food,they are very particular about their health and are conscious about sticking to a balanced diet. They seek mental satisfaction more than materialistic pleasures. The women dress up in the traditional unique attire called Set Mundu, which requires draping skillfully two pieces of long cloth on oneself,the dress being somewhat similar to a sari,worn over a blouse.The men mostly wear white mundu (dhoti) with a shirt or a cotton “lungi” (a sarong like dress) with a towel on top. The men in cities wear pants and shirts,and the women,saris. The younger generation follows fashion and wear anything from jeans to salwar kameez.
Athachamayam - elephant Marching
Athachamayam marks the beginning of the ten-day Onam festival in Kerala. It is an occasion to witness almost all the folk art forms of Kerala.
Conducted every year on the Atham asterism of the Malayalam month Chingam (Leo), the event held at the historical town of Thripunithura is a celebration of a legendary victory of the Raja (King) of Kochi. In olden days it was customary for the king to travel with his entire entourage to the Thripunithura fort. This was also the occasion for his subjects to greet the king and see him at close quarters. The procession, now without the king, still retains its majestic charm, and is conducted in a spectacular manner. Caparisoned elephants, varieties of folk art forms, floats, musical ensembles etc form part of the procession.
The Great Elephant March, with events centered, successively, in Trochyr, Alleppey and Trivandrum. Created for visitors, it stages the caparisoned elephant-and-umbrella display of Trissur Pooram; the boat race of 100-oared vallams normally associated with Nehru Trophy Boat Race of Alapuzha; and the martial arts of Kerala, one of which has a center in Triuvananthapuram. There is also a most unusual display of masked dance, some preformed by artistes in towering headdresses, whose origins could go back to the Stone
Pookkalam - Flower Arrange ments
Pookalam comes from the words “poov” which means design and “kalam” which means sketches. It is usually done during Onam and involves lot of preparation. Various kinds of flowers are collected and their petals separated from the stem. Leaves are collected and made into small pieces.
In fact people in Kerala also use colour powder and coconut scrapings for the decoration.
Kathakali - Dance and Music
Music and dance also form an important part of the life of Keralites. Welcome to the magical land of melody and rhythm, Kerala. Classical as well as folk music and dance have kept alive the ancient thoughts and stories which still find a wide audience amongst tourists. Visit Kerala to witness the colourful play of melodies blended with the strategic rhythmic beats of the musical instruments.
Kathakali - Sensations of A Classic
Kathakali is the classical dance-drama of South India, Kerala. Red, green, white and flashes of gold, are the true colours of a Kathakali dancer. Kathakali is a dance with heavy costumes and elaborate masks. It is one of the world-renowned dance forms of Kerala. Kathakali is a group presentation, in which dancers perform various roles traditionally based on themes from the Hindu mythology, especially the two epics, the 'Ramayana' and the 'Mahabharata'. Kathakali recitals are longer than the other forms of dance and are more narrative.
Kathakali is a blend of dialogue and myth. This is mostly performed in the courtyards of the temple.
Mohiniattam - The Dance of Extraterrestrial Enchantress Koodiyattam - Let A Koodiyattam Entertain You Theyyam - The Enchantment of Folk Art Vallamkali - The Snake Boat Race Vallamkali or the Snake Boat Race is the most enchanting facet of the festival of Onam. The event is promoted as a major tourist attraction of the state of Kerala and draws a large number of domestic and international tourists. Vallamkali has been going on for good number of years and its popularity is soaring with each passing year. Much credit for the success of Snake Boat Race can be attributed to Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru who was so enamoured by this colourful event that he instituted a trophy for the race.
Onam Sadya - Feast
Food and feasting is an integral part of Onam celebrations. Typical meal for Onam is the Onam sadya. But this Onam sadya is much more than just a meal; it is an elaborate feast. The Onam 'Sadya' is the Malyalam word for a feast. Actually, Sadya is not just served during Onam celebrations. A Sadya can also be the meal served during a wedding or Vishu which is another Kerala festival. However, the Onam Sadya has its own specifications and particulars. For example, a set number of items and types of food have to serve in this feast.