Kerala has its on festivals and festivities which invest the state with a unique atmosphere of gaiety and charm. And Kerala has so many of them that no one can probably have a better festi calendar then kerala. Some of Keralas innumerable festivals however stand out because of their uniqueness.
Onam is the most important harvest festival of Kerala and is an attraction for thousands of people within and outside the kerala. After 3 months of heavy rains, the sky becomes a clear blue and the forests a deep green.The brooks and streams come alive, spitting forth-gentle white foam, the lakes and rivers overflow and lotuses and lilies are in full bloom. It is time to reap the harvest to celebrate and to rejoice. The harvest festival of onam corresponds with the Malayalam new year,Chingam. There are many unique rituals , ceremonies and art forms related to this 10 days long festival, which is celebrated from the Attam asterisks to the Thiruvonam asterisks in the Malayalam month of Chingam.Of these, the most prominent day is Thiruvonam,the 10 the day of the festival.
According to the legends,kerala was ruled by the demon King Mahabali. He was such a great ruler that his rule was known as the ”Golden rule of Mahabali”. His fame spread far and wide that the Gods feared that He might become too powerful. So they approach Lord Vishnu, to curb Mahabali’s power.
Lord Vishnu, the God of sustaining as per Hindu mythology, took the form of Vamana, the dwarf and approach Mahabali. He asked the good king for 3 paces of land. King Mahabali was so kind that he looked at the small person and advised him to ask something bigger. But the guru of the demons, Guru Shukracharya, realized this was not ordinary Brahmin and told the King to refuse any boons. But king Mahabali refused and granted 3 paces of land to vamana.
At that the dwarf grew in height till he almost touched the sky. With his 1st step, he measured the heavens. With his 2nd , the nether world. for his 3rd pace, there was no place and King Mahabali offered his head. He did so and Mahabali was pushed into the nether world. But Lord Vishnu was so pleased with this great King that he showed him His Vishwasrupa and gave him a boon. Then the good King Mahabali requested that he should visit his people once a year and see his beloved subjects. Lord Vishnu granted him his boon on the day of ‘Onam Festival’ of Kerala. After this day is celebrated as onam.
Customs of Onam.
Think of Onam, the 1st image one gets will be that of a colorful pookalam or floral carpet, prepared of freshly plucked flowers, adorning the courtyards. An oojnal or swing is made and children have a nice time on it. Many exquisite artistic rituals are also conducted , like the onathaar or a theyyam dressed up as Mahabali, usually performed by a small boy, onathullal, ammaanattom and noku vidya.All this performance are fork in nature and have interesting myths and lore’s behind their origin.
On the day of utradam, 9th day since the begin of the festival houses are well cleaned and decorated and gala feasts are arranged. Then the images of deities and cones made up of sticky clay painted red are placed there. They are known as “Thrikkakaraappan”.These images are adorned with lines tastefully drawned with rice flour mixed with water and then they are worshiped. After the pooja, the male members raise loud rhythmic shouts of joy known as “aarpuvilikala”.
An amazing range of art forms is another hallmark of onam.pulikali meaning the tiger dance in which men dresses up and paint themselves as tigers and dance on the streets such an attraction. Mudiyatam and tumbi tullal are the ritual forms performed by woman..Kummatti kali, in which the dancers ware brightly colored wooden masks, is another wonderful art form. Kaikottikali, a group dance form performed by married women is also a beautiful art form.
And, one should not forget the ever thrilling boat races. The rivers and backwaters of kerala go for some lively hours as the boats slice through them.Aranmula, payippad and chambakulam are some of the prominent boat races held as part of the onam celebrations.
There is melodious part of onam as well.Onapattu or onam songs, which best expresses the rustic parts of kerala, is a precious part of the state legacy.
Unforgettable part of onam.
Onam without a feast? It is simply unimaginable. a variety of Kerala delicacies including side dishes like aviyal, koottukari.thoran,sambar and payasam, the sweet dessert, will be served in a plantain leaf. The homes get in to a feast mood days before onam.the smell of lips smacking delicacies fills the air.