If you ever want to explore the scenic beauty of Kerala and get a taste of its culture and tradition, you must visit it during the Onam festival. This is the religious occasion when all the Malayalee communities of Kerala and other states come together and get submerged in the celebration. The celebration is so majestic that it is highlighted as one of the attractive features of Kerala in tourist magazines.
Onam is a ten-day festival that includes outdoor as well as indoor celebration. The lavishness and involvement of people in exalting this festival is so vibrant and intricate that people wait desperately for its arrival. And when it finally appears in the starting month of Chingam, they spare no ends to make it big and memorable. It brings two important occasions for the people. The homecoming of their favourite King, Mahabali and the harvest festival.
Onam is an important festival for Hindu Malayalees all over the world. This is the time to welcome King Mahabali and enjoy the harvest. This joyous moment is enjoyed with a huge feast, cultural activities, dance, sports and arts. Children, women, men and old all participate in this religious event. People get to enjoy to their fullest and relish the feast with friends and family.
Legend of Onam
Kerala is inhabited with Malayalee-speaking population. It was ruled by Mahabali, the grandson of Prahalada, in the primitive period. Despite being born in a demon race, he bore some moral. His subjects were happy under his rule. The state flourished and progressed during his reign. The kingdom was gifted to him by Lord Vishnu for his devotion and to end Indra's pride. At one time, he became the ruler of earth and heaven.
Seeing his popularity among the masses and control over heaven, Lord Indra and others became jealous of him because he had all the privileges and rights similar to Indra.
When Indra's pride was contained, Vishnu decided to release heaven from Mahabali's control and balance the universe since one cannot rule both the world simultaneously. So, Vishnu disguised himself as a Vamana, a short Brahmin, and asked Mahabali for alms. Though Guru Shuklacharya recognized the Brahmin and warned Mahabali about the consequences, Mahabali asked him what he wants. The Brahmin asked him to give as much land as he covers in three steps. Vishnu knew that he will never back or eat his words. So, the Lord appears in his original form and covers the entire earth in one step. In the next step, he covers the heaven. When both the loka were covered with Vishnu's enlarged figure, Mahabali requested the Lord to place the third step on his head. And the third step sends the generous king to the netherworld.
However, for his true devotion, Vishnu promised him he would rule the heaven in each era, and he can also visit his kingdom that he so loved once a year. Hence, the Onam festival is celebrated every year as the people believe that the spirit of Mahabali visits Kerala during this period and stays for ten days.
Kerala's true colours come out with Onam. The festive spirit during these ten days is indeed a treat for tourists to enjoy. Lavish preparation and intricate decoration with flowers and rangoli are done in each household. People go for shopping and dressed in their best for all the ten days. The first day is entirely devoted for decoration, which is called Phookolam. This decoration is done with flowers and petals in the open courtyards. It is compulsory to use flowers in the decoration as part of the tradition. Competition of floral decoration is also held in a spacious auditorium from the first day which is known as Atham. This competition goes on for ten days and all participants have to make new designs every day. For the competition, rangolis, dry fruits and crushed coconuts are used. Spectacular displays of arts are observed during these days.
Women wear traditional sarees and jewelry and get ready for dance performances. They form a group of eight to twelve women. Then, they stand around the traditional brass lamp. The dancing of the group around the lamp is known as Kaikotti Kali. Men paint their bodies with yellow, red, and white colors. They draw pictures of tigers and dance with full of energy to the beat of Uduku and thakil.
Another celebration that is so popular and magnificent is the boat race which they call it Vallamkali. Various snake boats participate in groups. People beat the drums and cheer their boats standing near the lake. The energy and the speed of the boat during the race is worth to watch.
Onam is never complete without varieties of lip-smacking dishes. The festive feast is known as Thiruvonam. The food cooked for the celebration include both vegetarian and non-vegetarian. The most famous dish that is a must to taste during Onam is the payasam. Every rich and poor family in the state has to cook, eat and serve this meal to guests on the occasion of Onam.
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