Falling on the end of August or beginning of September, Onam is a festival of fiest, harvest and happiness. It is celebrated in the beginning of the first month of Malayalam Calendar (Kolla Varsham) called Chingam. It lasts for about seven to ten days and it is believed that the legendary king Mahabali’s spirit visit’s the state at this time.
As legend has it, the King Mahabali was a just and kind ruler whose fame was wide spread. When he started to extend his rule to the heavens and netherworld, the gods plotted against him and sent Lord Vishnu as a dwarf Brahmin called Vamana. The king was so impressed with him that he granted the Brahmin one wish. Vamana asked for three paces of land. The first step covered the sky and the second covered the netherworld. The third step the great king asked to keep on his head or else the earth would be destroyed. Vishnu’s third step sent the king to netherworld but after granting a boon that the king would be able to visit his land once in a year. . Onam is the celebration that marks the homecoming of King Mahabali who happily gave his life for his subjects. That is why Onam is celebrated by wearing new clothes and resolving to lead a new life of truth, piety, love, and humility. It resembles a cycle of birth and death.
Vallamkali or the Snake Boat Race is the most enchanting facet of the festival of Onam. It attracts a large number of tourist.Vallamkali boat are no ordinary boats and there are fixed measurements to it. It is about 100 feet long and has a seating capacity of 150 men. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru was so impressed by this race that he announced a trophy for this race known as Nehru Trophy Boat Race. It is the biggest team sport event in the world today.
Onam is celebrated for ten days. The first known as Atham and the tenth day known as Thiru Onam. Each day is celebrated with fervor and enthusiasm. On the tenth day when Kerala is engrossed in cultural extravaganza, music and feasts. People wake up at four in the morning of Onam and clean the house. Prayers are performed by the priests. Then the people prepare for the fiest known as Onasadya. The biggest and most prominent place in the house is selected to lay the meal which is traditionally served in a row on a mat laid on the floor. One dish is kept in the west region for the lord and then only the meal is served to the other members. The elaborate meal consists of 11 to 13 strictly vegetarian dishes and is served on banana leaves. After the grand meal, the people indulge in recreational activities and enjoy the festival. There is a set of traditional games to be played on Onam which are collectively called, Onakalikal. It includes ball games, combats, archery and Kutukutu (kabbadi) Women go in for dancing activities as there are specific dances like Kaikottikali and Thumbi. The other highpoint of Onam is the dazzling display of fire works.
It is the best time to visit kerala and see the grand traditions there and get involved in the happy atmosphere there.
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