Onam

A TO Z INDIA - - Inside - - Pad­man­ab­han

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.

The Leg­end

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

Age.

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.

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