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Onam, the harvest festival in Kerala, is the most celebrated vibrant and colorful festival in all parts of Kerala, India, which marks the homecoming of legendary King Mahabali.

Onam is celebrated in the beginning of the month of 'Chingam', the first month of Malayalam Calendar (Kollavarsham). This corresponds with the month of August-September according to Gregorian Calendar.

The Carnival of Onam is celebrated for ten days. First day, 'Atham' and tenth day, Thiruonam' are most important of all. The festival programmes reflect the culture of Kerala.

The Nambudiri Brahmins, which is the dominant caste of Kerala, attribute the origin of Onam festival to their own community and hence they are the most excited to celebrate this festival. The celebration reflects the culture and tradition of Kerala.

Decorated Pookalam, Snake Boat Race, ambrosial Onasadya and Kaikottikali dance are few of the most remarkable features of Onam festival.

Now days Onam has assumed a secular character and is celebrated by people of all religions and communities. The ten day long festival, rich cultural heritage of Kerala is seen. People of Kerala make various rituals and preparations to celebrate best way.

The most attractive part of Onam is the grand feast called 'Onasadya', prepared on Thiruonam. It is a nine course meal consisting of 11 to 13 essential dishes.

Onasadya is served on banana leaves and is eaten by seating on the mats laid on the floor. Snake Boat Race, an another enchanting feature of Onam is Vallamkali, which is held on the river Pampa.

It is a colourful and very exciting sight to watch the fully decorated boats oared by the hundreds of boatmen amidst chanting of songs and cheering up people. 'Onakalikal' is also a tradition to play games, collectively.

Men go in for rigorous sports like Talappanthukali (played with ball), Ambeyyal (Archery), Kutukutu and combats called Kayyankali and Attakalam.

Women indulge in cultural activities by making intricately designed flower mats called, 'Pookalam' in the front courtyard of house to welcome King Mahabali.

'Kaikotti kali' and 'Thumbi Thullal' are two graceful dances performed by women on Onam. Folk performances like 'Kummatti kali' and 'Pulikali' are also a special attraction.


Onam Rituals

All the customs, rituals and traditions set by their ancestors are followed by the religeous people of Kerala. A number of cultural programmes, dances, songs and feasts mark the festival.

Atham Day

Atham is the first day of celebration. The day is very holy and auspicious and the people take early bath on the day and offer prayers in the temples.

'Pookkallam', making of the flower carpet starts from this day which is very remarkable. 'Attha Poo' is prepared by girls in the frontage of courtyards to welcome the spirit of King Mahabali. Boys help in gathering flowers.

'Thiru Onam' begins in a big way in indivisual styles. House cleaning starts on a big scale and everything is made to look neat and tidy. There is also a set breakfast consisting of steamed bananas and fried pappadam (pappad).

This remains the same till the day of Thiru Onam. The youngsters take great delight in swinging and singing on the swings decorated with flowers and tied on the branches of trees.

Ninth day-Utradam

A day prior to Onam is the ninth day of the festivities and is known as 'Utradam'. On this day members of the families give presents to 'Karanavar'.

The eldest member of the family, like farm products consisting of vegetables, coconut oil etc. This gift from the family members are called 'Onakazhcha'. The Karanavar in return for Onakazhcha offers a treat to the members of family.

Thiru Onam

This is a very remarkable day of Cultural extravaganza, music and feasts, which adds colours of happiness and joy to Kerala. People wake up as early as 4 am on the day of Onam. Day begins with cleaning of the houses.

On this day conical figures of sticky clay, painted in red are made and are decorated with a paste made of rice-flour and water. They are placed in the front court yard and other important places in the house.

Some of these clay models are in the shape of cone, and figures of Gods. The tradition of making clay cones for Trikkara Appan has its roots in mythology, which says that festival originated at Trikkakara, a place 10 km from Cochin.

Vallamkali, the snake boat race

Trikkara is also said to be the capital in the reign of legendary King Maveli. A senior member of the house plays the role of the priest and conducts the rituals with Elaborate prayers.

As Onam is a harvest festival, people thank God for the bountiful harvest and pray for the blessings in the forth coming years.

Later a traditional custom called, 'Aarppu Vilikkukal', is followed wherein the men make loud and rhythmic shouts of joys, which represents the beginning of Onam.

Later the people dress up nicely in new clothes and offer prayers in the local temples. As per the tradition, the eldest member of the family, gives new clothes as gifts, called Onapudava, to all family members and servants.

Other family members also exchange gifts among themselves.

The Big Feast - Onasadya

After completing the morning rituals, it is time for the family to get ready for the grand meal called Onasadya. The biggest and most prominent place in the house is selected to lay the meal.

It is traditionally served in a row on a mat laid on the floor.

The central place in the row is occupied by the eldest member of the family. In front of him is placed a lighted brass lamp at a distance. Towards the west of the lamp is placed a small plantain leaf on which the food is served.

This is an offering made in the name of Lord Ganapathy. Later on, the food is served to all. The elaborate meal consists of various vegetarian dishes and is served on banana leaves.


Onam celebration

After the grand meal, people indulge in to recreational activities, when the strong men participate in rigorous sports and senior members play indoor games like chess, cards etc.

The traditional games to be played on Onam are collectively called, 'Onakalikal', which includes outdoor games such as - ball games, combats, archery and Kutukutu.

Kutukutu is similar to the game Kabaddi played in Maharshtra. Dances like Kaikottikali and Thumbi Thullal are performed by the women, which is are very graceful clap dances.

Besides, there is also a tradition of playing on a decorated swing hung from a high branch. Onappaattu - Onam Songs are also sung on the occasion.

Vallamkali, the snake boat race

Celebrations and cultural programmes are held all across the state to mark the festival of Onam in which a large number of people participate.

Prominent amongst them are Vallamkali- the Snake Boat Race and entertaining events like Kummatti kali and Pulikali. The other high point of Onam is the dazzling display of fire works.

The state of Kerala can be seen engulfed in light and spirit of merriment when people burst patassu or fire crackers.


Onam Legend

The King Mahabali

This is about the mythological King Mahabali who brought the golden age to Kerala. The king was so loved and popular among people that the Gods could not bear it and seeked help from Lord Vishnu who was worshiped by King Mahabali.

Later, Lord Vishnu took the avatar of 'Vaman', a poor and dwarf Brahmin and came to the kingdom of Mahabali. Mahabali had just finished his morning prayers and gave boons to the brahmin, Vaman.

The brahmin, who was lord Vishnu, asked for the stretch of land which could be covered by his three strides. The King happily agreed to his demand.

Suddenly, the brahmin, Vamana grew into a huge cosmic size and covered the whole of the sky with his one stride and with the other one he covered the whole of earth.

Then he asked for a place to put his third stride. Mahabali realised that the brahmin was not an ordinary Brahmin and asked him to to put his third stride on his head.

Immediately the boy did it and king Mahabali was pushed into the nether world, 'Patal'. With his generousity, Lord Vishnu was pleased and granted him a boon.

The King, who loved his people, said he would like to visit Kerala and his people every year. Lord Vishnu granted him his demand. So, once a year the king comes back home to Kerala, to visit his people and the day is celebrated as Onam.

Also.the king was released from the cycle of life and death, hence Onam is celebrated by wearing new clothes and people lead to live a new life of love and affection.


Onam Recipes

1 - Parippucurry


Lentils (green gram daal) - 1 Cup
Water - 3 Cups
Turmeric powder - 1/2 Tspn
Ghee - 2 tspn
Salt - as per requiement


Fry the lentils in a pan slightly and wash them. Boil 3 cups water then add to the washed lentils and turmeric powder.When it boils, simmer the flame.

When the lentil is cooked well add ghee adn salt as per requirement. Stir it well and take out from fire.

2- Injithair


Curd - 6 spoons
Chopped ginger - 4 spoons
alt - as required
Procedure- Mix all the ingradients and stir well and serve.

3 - Finger Khichadi

Curd - 2 cup

Lady finger pieces - 4 cups
Dry red chillies - 3
Green chillies - 2
Mustard - 1 dsp
Grated coconut - 1/2 cup
Curry leaves - 2 springs
Oil - 2 spoons
Salt - as required

Slice the lady fingers in small round pieces,then fry lady fingers in oil till they become crisp.Grind grated coconut, green chillies and mustard.Season mustard, red chilli and curry leaves in 2 tsp oil.

Make the flame slow and add curd and the ground ingredients.Keep it stirring well, then add fried lady fingers and salt.When it boils, remove from the fire.

4 - Pradhaman Onam


banana leaf
1 cup Rice flour
1 tbsp Sugar
1 tbsp Ghee
1 cup grated jaggery
4 cups Fresh grated coconut
1tsp Cardamom powder
1 tsp Ginger powder
1 tsp Cumin powder


1 Mix the melted ghee and rice-flour with water and make a thick batter
2 Warm the banana leaf on fire and spread the batter over it and roll the batter
3 Steam these rolls for about 10 minutes
4 Cook the rolls then peel and cut them into small pieces
5 Take half cup of water


Kaikottikali Dance


September Festivals