Onam holds great significance in Kerala and the preparations for this festival begins days before. The most important days of this festival are the first and the last day. It is rejoiced in the starting of the first month of the Malayalam Calendar (Kolla Varsham) known as Chingam. It falls on the 12th day of the bright half of the Kartika in the sixth month of the Hindu calendar known as Bhadon or Bhadrapada which generally comes around August or September. During this time, Kerala looks beautiful with rich harvest and prosperity. People eagerly wait for this auspicious occasion to greet King Mahabali to his kingdom, to observe his subjects. This festival is celebrated by everyone no matter to which caste they belong. While men take part in Snake Boat Race and other exciting games, women are busy in preparing tasty dishes, decorating their homes with Pookalam and singing and dancing. Also known as the harvest festival, Onam is celebrated for ten days; the first day of the celebrations is known as Atham where as the last day is called Thiruvonam. However, in some regions, the Onam celebrations continue for 12 days and are known as Chatayam. Though, Atham and Thiruvonam are the most significant days of the Onam celebrations.
Significance Of Onam
This festival also corresponds to Shravana day in the month of August or September and this is why it is also called 'Shravanotsavam'. It is believed that on this day which falls in the Malayali month of Chingam, Lord Vishnu took his fifth avatar as Vamana and came to King Mahabali. Also, it is said that Onam is being celebrated since the Sangam period and the record of its merriment can be found from the era of Kulasekhara Perumals (800 A.D.) However, during that time, it is believed that Onam used to be celebrated for a month. Today, it is rejoiced to welcome King Mahabali in his state, who comes to visit his kingdom and to look after his subjects and their welfare. It is said that this festive time is celebrated to commemorate his realm which was full of prosperity and harmony. Also, this festival signifies the harvest season and the rich cultural heritage of Kerala. During this time, people make huge preparations to rejoice this festival in the best way. They make Pookalam which gets bigger and bigger till the last day of Thiruvonam. Preparations for Onasadya start from the first day of the festivities. Onasadya is the grand feast which is prepared on the day of Thiruvonam and is the nine course meal which includes anywhere between 11 to 20 essential dishes and curries. Another very impressive feature of this festival is Vallamkali, the Snake Boat Race which is organised on the River Pampa. Also, there is a tradition to play various games which together are known as Onakalikal. Folk performances such as Pulikali and Kummatikali are also performed.
In 2015, the festival of Onam will be celebrated on on 28th August (Friday).