Onam is undoubtedly the most popular festival of Kerala. The people of Kerala make regal display of their culture and talents on this day. When the feast is over, members of the family participate in the games, both indoor and outdoor. The elderly being tranquillised prefer indoor games and are usually seen playing the games like chess, dice or cards. The younger are more energetic and so they indulge in outdoor games. The outdoor recreations consist of Talappanthukali, Kayyankali, Archery or Ambeyyal, Kutukutu, others like Pulikali, Kummattikali, Thumbi Thullal, Kaikottikali and the Vallamkali etc. Men mostly engage in game that involves the acts of bravery. The most famous games that are commonly seen playing are listed below.
Onam Festival Games
A collective name for several games played during the festive days of Onam is Onakalikal. After the extravagant feast, Onasadya, people indulge in a bit of enjoyment and sports. The sports require energy and so are mostly played by energetic men.
A ball game that is played in groups is Talappanthukali. It is one of the extremely popular outdoor games that are played at the time of Onam. Its ball is prepared in a very different way. Several layers of dried up plantain are wrapped in the shape of a ball. Some pebbles are also kept inside to increase weight. Prepared mass is then covered with plantain fibre or coconut fibre and made into the size of a tennis ball. To play this unique ball game, two teams are divided; natta (a stick) is planted at one end of ground and a boundary is drawn at the other end to mark the space beyond which the ball should not be thrown. A player from the team 1 playing from one side of natta serves the ball to team 2. If a player from team 2 hits the ball and a player from the opposite team catches it then the player who hit it is declared out, otherwise gets another chance.
Kayyankali is an extremely violent combat, in which only the energetic men take part. In this game men fight one-to-one without using any weapon and the man of strength wins. This sport, played on the event of Onam is very popular and attracts a lot of spectators. Injuries, wounds and blood are a common sight during this game. Several deaths too have been recorded in the past.
Another combat that is played on the occasion of Onam is Attakalam. Comparatively less dangerous than Kayyankali that is played singly, Attakalam is played in batches. Battleground for it is prepared by drawing a large circle on a plain sand floor. One team stands inside this circle while the other takes its place outside it. The game requires the team standing outside the circle to make an effort to pull players of inside team out of the drawn circle.
One of the many games that are played in Kerala at the occurrence of Onam festival is Ambeyyal. It is an archery competition that tests the skill and patience of the player. Two teams are formed to play Ambeyyal and each player is given an 18-inch long bow. The teams have to shoot arrow on each other. Although the arrows are blunted, still the players get wounded. A lot of blood shed is there as the game proceeds.
A popular and entertaining game played during Onam is Kutukutu, which is very much like Kabaddi, as it is called in rest of India. The game is extremely challenging in nature as it involves higher level of strength, skill, patience and enthusiasm. The court where the game is played is divided into two equal halves by drawing a line. The players are divided into two teams. The game begins as a raider from one team crosses the dividing line and enters the area of the opposite team. He has to keep saying 'Kutu Kutu' out loud and clear in one continuous breath while trying to touch a player of the opponent team. The raider then has to reach the central line without getting caught by the players of opponent team. If he's caught then he's out of the game, otherwise the player (from the opponent team) he touched will be declared out. The game will then carry on in similar fashion, with one player from each team taking turns, alternatively.