The captivating allure of Onam, a deeply rooted cultural jubilation in Kerala, paints the calendar with splendor from August 20 to August 31 this year. This ten-day extravaganza, known as Thiru-Onam or Thiruvonam, infuses the air with excitement and jubilance as it hails the homecoming of the revered King Mahabali, fondly called Maveli. These dynamic celebrations serve as a testament to Kerala’s cultural magnificence and profound heritage.
Every day of Onam unfurls its own distinctive significance, weaving a vibrant tapestry of festivities. From Atham, Chithira, Chodi, and Vishakam to Anizham, Thriketta, Moolam, Pooradam, Uthradom, and culminating in Thiruvonam, each day brings with it rituals, traditions, and moments that resonate deeply within the hearts of the people.
Thiruvonam, the zenith of the Onam festivities, brims with auspiciousness. This culminating day signifies closure, marking the end of the elaborate celebrations. Families and communities unite to partake in the grand tradition of Onasadya, a sumptuous feast that epitomizes Kerala’s culinary opulence. Onasadya is a culinary masterpiece, showcasing an array of delectable dishes that are savored with unparalleled enthusiasm.
Taking place between the months of August and September in the Malayali calendar, Onam heralds the arrival of the Malayalam year, Kolla Varsham. Rooted in the legend of King Mahabali, a benevolent ruler, the harvest festival bridges the gap between the divine and the mortal worlds, symbolizing his return to Kerala as a joyous homecoming.
Imprinted in legend, King Mahabali’s dominion over the three realms incited the envy of the Gods. To restore cosmic harmony, Lord Vishnu took on his fifth incarnation as the Brahmin dwarf, Vamana. Approaching Mahabali, Vamana requested three paces of land. In a magnificent display of divine power, he encompassed the sky and the netherworld in his first two strides. Touched by Mahabali’s selflessness, Vishnu granted him the right to rule his kingdom until the end of Kalyuga, along with the privilege of visiting his subjects during Onam.
Kerala resonates with fervor during Onam, a harmonious symphony of customs and rituals. Early morning baths, meticulous home cleaning, vibrant floral designs known as Pookalam, and the sumptuous Onam Sadhya feast featuring a plethora of dishes are integral components of the festivities. Dressed in new attire, families exchange traditional garments and jewelry, nurturing bonds of love and unity.
As Onam unfolds its cultural tableau, Kerala reverberates with exuberant activities. Traditional games like Onakalikal, the thrilling boat race known as Vallamkali, the colorful street performance of Pulikali with its tiger and hunter motifs, and the precise art of archery combine to craft a celebration echoing with history, heritage, and unity.
Across every corner of Kerala, Onam transcends mere festival status; it is a celebration of harmony, love, and culture that echoes through generations and hearts in a melodious chorus of joy.
Minister for Culture in Kerala: Saji Cherian