The festival of Onam continues for a period of ten days in Kerala. It is said that, in olden times, the celebrations went on for the whole of month and with grandeur and glory. However, Onam is still celebrated with much joy and splendour. There are set rituals for each day which are dutifully followed by the people of Kerala. The full of life people are ever ready to indulge in joyous activities. They are cheerful and enthusiastic throughout the ten days of festival. Of all these days the first day Atham and the tenth day Thiruvonam, are the most significant ones. Ninth day Uthradam is also considered to be extremely vital from the point of view of festivities in several parts of Kerala. The festivities are witnessing constant transformations to suit the needs of the modern times. But, one thing that remains unaltered is that, people still strongly believe in their tradition and values. The essence of the festival is unaffected. They give due importance to the customs and rituals and follow them religiously. Follow to know more about the ten days of Onam and the celebrations involved.
10 Days of Onam Festival
Day 1: Atham
It marks the beginning of the Onam festival, and to complete the rituals of Atham people take early bath to offer prayers in the local temple. The day is considered to be very auspicious by the people of Kerala. On this day, people start preparing the Pookalam, also called Athapoo, an intricate floral mat laid in the front courtyard by maidens of the house. This is done to welcome the holy spirit of legendary King Mahabali that is believed to visit Kerala during Onam. A grand procession called Athachamyam is also carried on the day of Atham to mark the beginning of the grand carnival of Onam.
Day 2: Chithira
The second day is known as Chitira. On this day, there are no special rituals to be performed but people visit the temples to seek the blessings of God. Maiden girls add more flowers to the Pookalam.
Day 3: Chodhi
The third day is called the Chodhi or Chothi and is marked with a lot of activities. The day also witnesses a buzz of people in the market; people get engrossed in buying new apparels, accessories and various items of decorations for the households. Gifts for near and dear ones are also purchased. Heavy discounts are offered by shopkeepers on this day.
Day 4: Visakam
Visakam is the fourth day of Onam. Vigorous activities in the market and households can be witnessed on the day of Visakam. Women engage in preparation of elaborate meal of Onasadya on Thiruvonam. Making of various types of pickles and pappadams (papad) along with various other things begins on this day. It is an attractive sight to watch women dressed in their traditional attire working on the Pookalam. They sing and make merry along with giving shape to their creativity.
Day 5: Anizham
The fifth day of the festival highlights the event of grand Snake Boat Race, called Vallamkali. This popular competition happens on the banks of river Pamba at Aranmula. A lot of tourists visit here to witness the liveliness and passion involved in the race. Each boat is decked with flowers and is oared by hundreds of oarsmen. In Kerala, by this time, excitement spreads in the atmosphere.
Day 6: Thriketta
Triketta or Thriketa is the sixth day of the festivities of Onam. Cultural programmes and social gatherings are organised by various cultural societies all over the state. There are no set rituals set for the day of Triketta but it marks the home coming for people staying away from their families for various reasons. By this sixth day of the festival, euphoria can be felt among the people of Kerala.
Day 7: Moolam
The excitement for the great extravaganza after two days can be seen gripping the people of Kerala. Moolam is the seventh day of the festival of Onam. The bright and the flashy commercial areas become loaded with goods and stuffed with people. The hustle bustle of the excited people everywhere is vibrant and the happiness to meet their Onathappan is visible on their faces.
Day 8: Pooradam
Eight of this ten-day festival is an important day, where the devotees create clay idols in the shape of small pyramids. The idols created on this day of Pooradam, are also called Poorada Uttigal. Every idol is adorned with flowers. Cleaning of the houses begin rigorously as people want to ensure that everything looks neat and tidy to welcome the Lord. Friends and relatives visit to exchange warm greetings on the joyous occasion.
Day 9: Uthradam
Utradam or Uthradam is the ninth and the second last day of the festival of Onam. On this day, people start making special arrangements for welcoming the spirit of King Mahabali. The entire nation gets involved in a full-fledged manner in the celebrations of the Onam festivity. On the day of Utradam tenants and dependents of Nayar Tarawads (traditional large joint families sharing a common kitchen) bring produce of their farms or the product of their labour to the Karanavar (eldest member of the Tarawad). Village artisans also bring their handicrafts to the Karanavar and are courteously rewarded.
Day 10: Thiruvonam
The tenth day is known as Thiruvonam; this is the main day of Onam. The entire state of Kerala echoes with the chants of Onaashmsakal, wishing everyone and exchanging warm greetings. It is believed that on this very day the sacred spirit of King Mahabali visits the state of Kerala. Events begin early morning on this day, with people cleaning their houses, wearing new clothes and participating in special prayers organised in homes and temples. In the noon the grand feast of Onam called Onasadya is prepared. Consisting of 11 to 13 compulsory dishes (strictly vegetarian) which are served on a banana leaf, Onasadya is the most important part of Onam. Dances, games, shows and get together are the other highlights of the day. Patassu (fire crackers) are also burnt to celebrate the grand occasion.
There are some rituals also marked for the eleventh and twelfth day called Avittom and Chatayam or Chathayam respectively. But the major celebrations get over on the tenth and the most important day of Thiruvonam.