Onam, being the most notable festival of Kerala, is celebrated all over the state with great pomp and joy. The celebrations continue for ten days in which the first day, Atham and the last or tenth day, Thiruvonam are the most significant ones. During this festive time, the people of Kerala follow their traditional rituals and customs very sincerely, whereas people who are away from Kerala celebrate this festival following the rituals at the place where they are living, be it India or overseas. As it is the harvest festival, various rituals are performed by the people but mainly the farmers. Together, they enjoy the festivities of Onam by shopping, singing, dancing, playing several games and enjoying the visual treat of a Snake Boat Race. It is the best occasion for family get-togethers and arranging a sumptuous feast. Thus, there are several rituals related to the celebration of Onam festival. Read to know get more information related to the Onam rituals.
Rituals Of Onam
Making Of Pookalam and Greeting of Lord Mahabali
The time of merriment starts with Atham day in the Malayalam month of Chingam (August or September). It is said that King Mahabali visits Keralite households on this day. The traditional ritual of making Pookalam commences on the day of Atham. However, the size of Pookalam is small on this day and is called as Athapoo which gradually grows bigger day after day. On this day, only yellow flowers are used to make the Pookalam and also the statues of Mahabali and Vamana are placed on the main entrance of every household. Traditional Onam songs known as Onapattukal are sung and the swing is also attached on a high branch of the tree and is embellished with flowers. The youngsters enjoy on the swing by singing folk songs of Onam.
Ottamthullal is a very famous art form of Kerala and was created by Kunchan Nambiar. It is a dance-drama performing art and was used by Kunchan Nambiar as a medium to go against the existing social-political structure and prejudices of society during those days. Thus, it became the most famous folk art in Kerala. The most unique element of this art form is the performer himself singing as well as playing the story. The other musical instruments used in the performance of this art form include Idakka and Mridangam.
On the fifth day of Onam i.e. Anizham, the great snake boats known as Vallamkali are taken down in the river for the boat race. These snake boats are very beautifully decorated with green and scarlet silk umbrellas and, to make them more beautiful and attractive they is painted with attractive designs, adorned with ornaments, gold coins and tassels. Each boat includes 150 men out of them four are helmsmen, 25 men are singers and around 125 are oarsmen. The most notable feature of this race is the team spirit.
On the seventh day of Onam known as Moolam, the smaller versions of traditional Onasadya begins in some parts of Kerala and most of the temples too start offering special sadyas for this day. Also, Pulikali (Masked Leopard Dance) and traditional dance forms such as Kaikottikali are performed. The official celebrations commence from this day with heavy lightings in Thiruvananthapuram City, Kochi city and Kozhikode, including the fireworks.
On Uthradam, the ninth day of Onam celebrations, it is believed that King Mahabali comes to Kerala and that the he will spend the next four days in this state, blessing his people. Pookalams take a larger and more attractive form. Urthada lunch, which is very popular tradition, is also prepared on this day. Houses are cleaned properly and decorated; gala feasts are arranged. After this, the images of deities and cones, also known as Trikkakara Appan, made up of sticky clay and painted in red colour are placed inside the homes and Pookalams. These images are then embellished with lines tastefully drawn with rice flour mixed with water and are worshipped. After the puja (ritualistic worship) gets over, the male members raise loud rhythmic shouts of happiness called as Aarppu Vilikkukal. Last but not the least; it is the best day to buy fresh vegetables and fruits together with other things required for Thiruvonam.
On the ninth day of Onam, tenants of the family, dependants and hangers-on present the reward of their labour, such as vegetables and coconut oil to Karanavar, the eldest member of the Tarawad, in a ritual known as Onakazhcha. In return, they are treated with a grand feast on the last day of Onam. Also, it is a custom for the village artisans to present the Karanavar of each Nayar Tarawad with a piece of his handiwork in return of the gifts of cloth or rice.
This is the last day of the Onam celebrations and is known as the Second Onam. It is believed that on this day King Mahabali was suppressed to Patala (underworld) by Vamana. Also, on this day, people clean their house and put rice flour batter on the main doorway, make the biggest Pookalam and give food and alms to the needy and poor. The most significant is the Thiruvonam Sadya which is famous for being one of the most lavish and sumptuous feasts ever prepared. The feast is served on the banana leaves with a number of curries ranging from 15 and so on. On this, day various games are also organised.