The true spirit of Kerala and the rich cultural heritage comes out in the best form during the ten day long festivities of Onam. Magnificent preparations are made in order to celebrate the festival in best possible manner. The most remarkable part of the celebration is the grand nine course meal called Onasadya, consisting of 11-13 dishes. The lavish meal prepared on Thiruvonam, is served on banana leaf and people sit on a mat laid on the floor. Another mesmerizing feature of Onam is the grand Snake Boat Race, Vallamkali that is held on River Pampa. The colours, the enthusiastic ambience, the music and the cheering spectators, all together make it an enchanting sight. Also, the celebrations include playing games, Onakalikal, where men go in for sports like Talappanthukali (played with ball), Ambeyyal (Archery), Kutukutu (Kabaddi) and combats called Kayyankali and Attakalam. Women, on the other hand, indulge in cultural activities of making Pookalam. Folk dance performances like Kummattikali and Pulikali add to the zest of celebrations. Continuing till tenth day, the extravagant festival catches the attention of thousands of tourists from across the globe. This immensely popular festival is promoted by the Government of India by celebrating Kerala Tourism Week during the time of Onam.
Commencement Of Celebrations
The festival begins with maiden girls collecting flowers and creating intricate floral carpets called Pookalam. With each passing day, different flowers are added to the Pookalam. Girls take great pleasure in designing them and displaying in the front courtyards of their house, and boys take delight in helping them gather flowers for Pookalam. Special prayers in the local temples are also said on the first day, Atham.
Celebrations on Thiruvonam
The grand carnival day of Onam is Thiruvonam, the last day of festivities. On this biggest day, festivities begin as early as 4 in the morning. People clean their houses, wear new clothes, and perform prayers in their homes and temples to seek heavenly blessings. Pookalam takes a substantial shape, which is displayed in the front of homes to welcome the spirit of legendary King Mahabali. Highlight of this day is the enormous feast called Onasadya. The meal consists of 11-13 dishes. As there's a saying in Malayalam, "Kanam Vittu Onam Unnanam", which means "We should have the Thiruvonam lunch even if we have to sell all our properties"; the people of Kerala are extremely zealous about preparing this meal.
Recreational Activities And Events
There are several activities that take place all over the state of Kerala during the ten days of Onam. Pulikali performers paint themselves in the yellow, orange and red paint as a tiger, and enact hunting scenes in order to entertain people. Kummattikali artists put on an attire of plaited grass and big wooden mask. They move from house to house collecting small gifts and amusing children. At Thrissur, ornamentally decked up elephants move out in a procession and present a majestic view. At Cheruthuruthy, Kathakali artists cast a spell on the audience with their amazing performance. Women execute their graceful and enthralling traditional clap dance, Kaikottikali. Vallamkali, the popular Snake Boat Race is also organised in several parts of the state to mark the day. Various games are organised which are collectively called Onakalikal. Archery is also a part of Onakalikal. Senior members have their share of fun by playing indoor games like cards and chess. There is also a tradition of swinging on Onam and young men and women take pleasure of swinging on a decorated swing, while singing traditional songs.