Onam Festival Essay
Onam is one of the most popular festivals of our country. It is the official state festival of Kerala. People irrespective of their religion, age, or community celebrate Onam with a lot of zest and fervour. The celebration of this colourful festival has been going on for quite long, and it continues even in this modern era.
The word Onam originated from the Sanskrit word Shravanam. This word implies one of the twenty-seven constellations (Nakshatra). There are some other words for this festival like Thiru-Onam or Thiruvonam. Thiru refers to something related to Lord Vishnu. And Thiruvonam refers to the Nakshatra of Lord Vishnu.
Onam is usually celebrated at the end of August and the beginning of September. According to the Malayalam calendar, this month is known at Chingam. This annual harvest festival lasts for as long as ten days. These ten days serve to be the most delightful days for the people in Kerala.
Major attractions of Onam festival
The ten days of Onam is similar to a carnival. To witness these enthusiastic celebrations, tourists (both domestic and foreign) line up in Kerala. Some of the best features of the celebrations have been mentioned below:
This refers to a colourful and complex design which is made by using different kinds of flowers. It is usually made in front of the gate of your house. With the progression of the days of Onam, a new layer of flowers gets added to the Pookalam. Some places even hold competitions for this folk art.
Out of all the highlighted features of Onam, the folk dance stands out the most. Performed by women, these dance forms are certainly the major attraction of the festival. Some of the traditional dances include Kathakali, Pulikali, Kaikotti Kali, and Thumbi Thullal.
This is the lavish feast which is prepared on the tenth day of the festival. This grand meal consists of a variety of vegetarian dishes. It is mostly served on a banana leaf. Households prepare at least nine to eleven dishes for Ona Sadhya. Temples and restaurants can have as many as thirty dishes for the same.
Vallamkali Boat Race
This is the traditional snake boat race that serves to be the most fun event of Onam. This race takes place in river Pampa. Each boat is decorated beautifully and contains about a hundred men. People from all around the state come to the spot and witness this remarkable race.
This is one of the most awaited events of the celebration of Onam. Elephants are decorated with flowers and other precious metals. These majestic creatures are adorned with gold. The procession starts in Thrissur where they are made to take a whole round. Their small gestures entertain the crowd.
Why is Onam celebrated?
There is a story behind the celebration of this great festival. Onam marks the homecoming of King Mahabali. Ancient history references mention that Lord Vishnu disguised as a dwarf Brahmin (Vamana).
He then attended a Yaagam arranged by the King. The King had promised to fulfil all the wishes of the people who were present in the Yaagam.
Hearing this, Vamana declared his wish. He wanted to place three footsteps on the land and own those areas. Mahabali agreed to his wish.
Suddenly Vamana grew to be a giant. With just two footsteps, he claimed both Earth and heaven. As there was no more land left for him, Mahabali sacrificed something to protect his promise.
The great King offered his head for the piece of land. However, he had one condition. He wished to return to his home and be welcomed by his people once every year. It is believed that Mahabali rules the underworld (Patal).
Every year, he visits his subjects and blesses them. The ten days of festivities imply the time taken for him to travel back and forth between the two realms. Hence, Onam is celebrated with a lot of extravaganzas to welcome the much revered King.
The ten days of Onam Festival
Each day of this festival has its significance. These ten days are both unique in their names and the way they are celebrated. Here we have mentioned a few points on the same:
1. Atham – This is the auspicious first day of Onam. King Mahabali starts preparing for his journey to the Earth. People start designing Pookalam with bright yellow flowers. Idols of Vamana and Mahabali are placed in every household.
2. Chithira – This is the second day of the celebration. People start cleaning their houses. And another layer of flowers is added to the Pookalam.
3. Chodhi – Designs in the Pookalam get increased on this day. People also go for shopping.
4. Vishakam – This is the day filled with a lot of activities. Numerous competitions are organized on this day of the Onam celebration.
5. Anizham – The Vallamkali boat race starts in different parts of Kerala.
6. Thriketa – By this sixth day, all educational institutes are closed. People start to devote more time to the celebration. They visit each other’s homes in the get-together.
7. Moolam – This day is all about glee and joy. At many places, Ona Sadhya and other dance programs are organized. By this time, the entire state gets decorated and looks beautiful.
8. Pooradam – Devotees prepare the clay idols of Vamana and Mahabali. These idols are then installed in the center of the Pookalam.
9. Uthradam – This is the ninth day of Onam, and it holds a lot of value. Fresh vegetables are bought, and traditional meals are prepared using these items. It is believed Mahabali reaches the land of Kerala on this day.
10. Thiruvonam – The big day of this entire festival leads to the peak of celebrations. People wake up early and visit the temples. Special prayer sessions go on every temple on this final day. Several gifts get distributed. The special meal of Onam, Thiruona Sadya, is enjoyed by everyone.
Onam is certainly one of the three major celebrations for the South Indian community. It is a big part of their rich cultural heritage. Christians and Muslims of Kerala take pride in this celebration.
A range of activities like boat racing, fireworks, music, and dance are arranged for recreational purposes. So if you wish to visit Kerala, Onam would be the perfect time to do so.