Onam 2023: Welcome the Spirit of Kerala’s Enchanting Festival

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Nestled in the heart of India‘s southern tip lies the vibrant state of Kerala, often referred to as “God’s Own Country.” Among its many treasures, the state hosts a grand festival that captures the essence of its rich culture and traditions—Onam. This year Onam commenced from August,2o to conclude on 31st August. This Godlike festival, a harmonious blend of religiosity and merrymaking, reverberates with the beats of drums, trumpets and joyous laughter. It is during Onam when Kerala turns into a colorful place with lively colors, loud music, detailed art and delicious smells.

Whether you’re a Malayali or from any other corner of the world, the spirit of Onam is universal, uniting hearts in celebration. In this blog post, I’ll explore the wonderful festival of Onam for you all. We’ll learn about where it comes from, the things people do during this festival, the lively parties and how it makes many people feel happy inside.

Origins and Legends of Onam

Deeply rooted in Hindu mythology, Onam is steeped in the legend of Mahabali, a great ruler who once reigned over the three worlds. In stories from Hindu books, Mahabali was a good ruler. His time was full of prosperity, peace and happiness. But the Gods called Devas, were worried because he was very strong. They asked Lord Vishnu to make him less powerful. But Vishnu, recognizing Mahabali’s virtues and devotion, chose a different path.

Lord Vishnu Vamana Avatar

Vishnu assumed the form of a dwarf named Vamana and approached Mahabali during his grand Yajna. Vamana asked for three paces of land and Mahabali, in his generosity granted the wish. With his first step, Vamana covered the earth, with his second he measured the skies. When he asked for space for his third step, Mahabali offered his own head. In a symbolic act, Vamana pushed Mahabali into the netherworld. Touched by Mahabali’s sacrifice and devotion, Vishnu granted him the boon of visiting his kingdom once a year, which led to the celebration of Onam.

Onam’s Kaleidoscope of Celebrations

When Onam comes, it’s like Kerala’s culture wakes up with lots of energy. People create intricate patterns on the ground using lots of different flowers. Positive concepts like wealth and abundance are represented by these patterns. They provide Mahabali a heartly welcome. And what’s this? To determine who can create the most beautiful designs, there are also unofficial competitions. This gives this great ritual of giving flowers an extra dash of excitement and enthusiasm.

Attachamayam: The Grand Prelude

Onam commences with Attachamayam, a resplendent procession showcasing Kerala’s culture. Elephants adorned with ornate decorations lead the parade, accompanied by drumbeats, folk art performances and colorfully decorated floats depicting scenes from Indian epics. During the procession, people show respect to Vamana, who is like a form of Vishnu, and they walk to the Thripunithara temple.


Vallamkali: The Thrilling Boat Race

Thousands of people go to the calm waters of the Pampa River to see the sight known as Vallamkali or the snake boat race. The rhythmic paddling of longboats and snake boats, accompanied by traditional boat songs creates a symphony of unity and competition. The maritime legacy of Kerala and the sense of community are celebrated in this exciting event.


Pookalam: The Art of Floral Carpets

The intricate art of Pookalam takes center stage during Onam. Homes and temples are adorned with vibrant floral carpets, meticulously arranged by women. People make detailed designs on the ground using many different flowers. These patterns greet Mahabali and denote positive things like riches. This floral custom is even more unique since there are even contests to determine who can create the finest patterns.


Traditional Dances: Unveiling the Culture

Onam resonates with the rhythm of traditional dances like Kathakali, Thiruvathira, Pulikali and Kummattikali. Through elaborate makeup, vibrant costumes and expressive movements. The well-known classical dance art of Kathakali recounts stories. An elegant female dance known as Thiruvathira honors devotion to Lord Shiva. Pulikali, the ‘Leopard Dance’ and Kummattikali, with their vibrant masks and energetic steps, add a lively charm to the festivities.


Onasadya: A Feast of Abundance

The heart of Onam beats in the sumptuous Onasadya—a vegetarian feast served on banana leaves. Onasadya is a tribute to Kerala’s culinary skill with about 29 meals that exhibit a symphony of tastes, colors and textures. Every meal from rice and sambar to crunchy chips and mouthwatering payasam conveys a tale of tradition and celebration.


Onam: A 10 Days of Celebration

Onam is a multi-day affair, unfolding its magic over ten distinct days. From Atham, the day of the festival’s inception, to Thiruvonam, the day Mahabali blesses homes. Each day is steeped in unique traditions, signifying preparation, worship and celebration. As the main day of Thiruvonam concludes, the festival transcends time, spilling into the days of Avittom and Chatayam. These days are marked by a sense of unity as the clay statues of Onathappan are immersed and the Pookalam is cleared. Even after the festivities wind down, the spirit of Onam continues to permeate the atmosphere as a reminder of the relationships that people share across cultures.

Onam’s Global Footprint

Onam is not confined by geography or ethnicity; it’s a festival that resonates across borders and beliefs. Moreover, the Malayali diaspora, whether in the UAE, the USA, Singapore or beyond keeps the flame of tradition alive. The happy celebrations including the detailed art, the lively dances—these things make people feel close and united.

In a world where there are often separations and divisions in the societies, Onam shows that festivals can bring people closer and celebrate how wonderful it is to be different.  The spirit of Onam with its bright colors, energetic music and joyful parties allows us to know about the Kerala and its people. As the last morsels of the delectable Payasam are savored and the echoes of laughter fade, one truth remains—Onam is not just a festival: it’s a timeless celebration of life, love and unity.


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