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Celebration of Onam
Onam is the biggest and the most important festival of the state of Kerala.
High spirited people of Kerala celebrate Onam with gaiety and fervor.The festival is celebrated for a period of ten days, starting from the first day Atham and continuing till tenth and the biggest day called Thiru Onam.
The spectacular festival attracts thousands of tourists from across the country and globe. Immense popularity of the festival is further promoted by the Government of India by celebrating Kerala Tourism Week during the time of Onam. Onam Malayalam: ??? is a festival celebrated by the people of Kerala, India. It is also the state festival of Kerala with State holidays on 4 days starting from Onam Eve Uthradom to the 3rd Onam Day. Onam Festival falls during the Malayalam month of Chingam Aug Sep and marks the commemoration of Vamana avatara of Vishnu and the subsequent homecoming of mythical King Mahabali. Onam is reminiscent of Kerala agrarian past, as it is considered to be a harvest festival.
The festival falls during the Malayalam month of Chingam Aug Sep and marks the homecoming of the mythical King Mahabali who Malayalees consider as their King. In Kerala, it is the festival celebrated with most number of cultural elements such as Vallam Kali, Pulikkali, Pookkalam, Onatthappan, Thumbi Thullal, Onavillu, Kazhchakkula, Onapottan, Atthachamayam etc.
2. What is Onam
Onam is the biggest and the most important festival of the state of Kerala. It is a harvest festival and is celebrated with joy and enthusiasm all over the state by people of all communities. According to a popular legend, the festival is celebrated to welcome King Mahabali, whose spirit is said to visit Kerala at the time of Onam.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.Carnival of Onam lasts from four to ten days. First day, Atham and tenth day, Thiruonam are most important of all. Popularity and presentation of rich culture of the state during the carnival made Onam the National Festival of Kerala in 1961. Elaborate feasts, folk songs, elegant dances, energetic games, elephants, boats and flowers all are a part of the dynamic festival called Onam.Government of India has taken due notice of this vibrant and colorful festival. It promotes Onam internationally in a big way and celebrates Tourist Week for Kerala during Onam celebrations. Thousands of domestic and foreign tourists visit Kerala to be a part of Onam.
3. When is Thiru Onam
Onam Festival is celebrated in the beginning of the first month of Malayalam Calendar Kolla Varsham called Chingam. This month corresponds to August September in Gregorian Calendar and Bhadrapada or Bhadon in Indian Hindu Calendar.Onam carnival continues for ten days, starting from the day of Atham and culminating on Thiru Onam. Atham and Thiru Onam are the most important days for Onam festivities. The day of Atham is decided by the position of stars. Onam festival commences from lunar asterism a cluster of stars smaller than a constellation Atham Hastha that appears ten days before asterism Onam or Thiru Onam. Atham is regarded as auspicious and holy day by people of Kerala. Thiru Onam corresponds to the Shravan day in the month of August or September, hence it is also called Sravanotsavam.At this time sun is in the Zodiac sign of Leo Simha rasi, which happens to be the sun house as well.The dayof Onam is decided in accordance with the legend of King Mahabali in whose honor Onam is celebrated. People believe that it was this particular day in the month of Chingam when Lord Vishnu took his fifth avatar as Vaamana, appeared in the kingdom of King Mahabali and sent him to nether world.
People believe that it is on the last day, Tiruonam that the spirit of King Maveli visits Kerala, hence the day is marked by feast and festivities. Devotees of Maveli celebrate the golden era witnessed in Maveli reign during Onam. To welcome their revered ruler, people lay flower mats Pookalam in the front courtyard, prepare a grand meal Onasadya, dance, play and make merry. All this is done to impress upon King Mahabali that his people are prosperous and happy.
4. Legends of Onam
Just as in the case of many other festivals of India, there are several interesting legends behind the origin of Onam. The festival is celebrated by all in the state of Kerala, but Nambudiri Brahmins of Kerala are the most spirited when it comes to Onam celebrations as they attribute its origin to their own community. Nambudiri also called Namputiri is the dominant caste of Kerala. Its members regard themselves as the true repositories of the ancient Vedic religion and of the traditional Hindu code.Mahabali gradually became a powerful ruler of all the realms heaven and earth, with the able guidance of his guru Shukracharya. The Devas gods saw the rise of the Asura king as a threat. Envious of Mahabali prosperity, the gods approached Vishnu and asked for his help, to which Vishnu agreed.A variation of this story says that Vishnu stopped Mahabali as a boon to Aditi, who was the mother of the Devas. Kashyapa had two wives, Diti and Aditi, who were the parents of the demons and the gods Asuras and Devas respectively.
Kashyapa, who had gone to the Himalayas to do penance, on his return found Aditi weeping for the fall of the Devas and the rise of Asuras. He consoled her, asked her to pray to Vishnu and taught her Payovrata, a ritual that has to be observed from the 12th day of the bright half of Karthika Sukla paksha Dvadasi. Since Aditi carried out the Vrata with a pious heart, Vishnu appeared before her and agreed to help Indra, the king of Devas.Another version of the story says that Mahabali grew pompous, due to the praise and respect by his courtiers and subjects, and came to believe that there was no greater person in the world other than him. Believing himself to be the ruler of the three worlds, he took pride in thinking he could grant anyone whatever they asked. It is said that in order to curb his pride, Vishnu decided to teach Mahabali that the Almighty was still above him.
5. King Mahabali & Onam
The legend of King Mahabali is the most popular and the most fascinating of all legends behind Onam. Onam celebrates the visit of King Mahabali to the state of Kerala every year. The festival is celebrated with fervour as King Mahabali is greatly respected by his subjects. King Mahabali is also popularly called Maveli and Onathappan.The story goes that the beautiful state of Kerala was once ruled by an Asura demon king, Mahabali. The King was greatly respected in his kingdom and was considered to be wise, judicious and extremely generous. It is said that Kerala witnessed its golden era in the reign of King Mahabali. Everybody was happy in the kingdom, there was no discrimination on the basis of caste or class. Rich and poor were equally treated.
There was neither crime, nor corruption. People did not even lock their doors, as there were no thieves in that kingdom. There was no poverty, sorrow or disease in the reign of King Mahabali and everybody was happy and content.Disguised as Vamana, Vishnu said he was a poor Brahmin and asked for a piece of land. The generous King said, he could have as much land as he wanted. The Brahmin said that he just wanted as much land as could be covered by his three steps. The King was surprised to hear but agreed.A learned adviser of the King, Shukracharya sensed that Vamana was not an ordinary person and warned the King against making the promise. But, the generous King replied that it would be a sin for a King to back on his words and asked the Brahmin to take the land. The King could not imagine that the dwarf Brahmin was Lord Vishnu himself.
Onam is an ancient festival which still survives in modern times. Kerala rice harvest festival and the Festival of Rain Flowers, which fall on the month of Chingam, celebrates the Asura King Mahabali annual visit from Patala the underworld. Onam is unique since Mahabali has been revered by the people of Kerala since prehistory.The King is so much attached to his kingdom that it is believed that he comes annually from the nether world to see his people living happily. It is in honour of King Mahabali that Onam is celebrated. The deity Vamana, also called Onatthappan, is also revered during this time by installing a clay figure next to the floral carpet Pookalam .The birthday of Sri Padmanabhan, the presiding Deity of Thiruvananthapuram, is on the Thiruvonam day in the month of Chingam. Thiruonam day is the most important day of Onam. In Onam 2014 Thiruvonam date is September 7.
Onam mythology may have been devised as a political allegory/tool where by the subjects could remind the rulers about an Ideal King and a welfare state. Onam songs mentions many of the modern social/economic indicators of a Welfare State including Crime rates, Child Mortality rates etc. Rulers may also have promoted it as it may have served as an indicator/barometer of the popularity/unpopularity of their Governance policies. The beauty of the festival lies in its secular fabric. People of all religions, castes and communities celebrate the festival with equal joy and verve. Onam also helps to create an atmosphere of peace and brotherhood by way of various team sports organised on the day.
7. Rituals and activities
Onam falls in the month of Chingam, which is the first month according to the Malayalam Calendar. The celebrations begin within a fortnight of the Malayalam New Year and go on for ten days. All over the state of Kerala, festive rituals, traditional cuisine, dance and music mark this harvest festival. The ten day Onam festival is considered to be flagged off with Atthachamayam Royal Parade on Atham Day in Thripunithara a suburb of Kochi City. The parade is colourful and depicts all the elements of Kerala culture with more than 50 floats and 100 tableaux. The main center of festival is at Vamanamoorthy Thrikkakara temple within Kochi City, believed to be the ancient capital of King Mahabali. The temple is dedicated to Lord Vamana and is directly linked to the mythological background of Onam.The ten days of Onam are celebrated with great fanfare, by Malayalees. Of all these days, most important ones are the first day, Atham, and the tenth and final day, Thiru Onam Thiruvonam. The rich cultural heritage of Kerala comes out in its best form and spirit during the festival.
The floral carpet, known as Onapookkalam, is made out of the gathered blossoms with several varieties of flowers of differing tints pinched up into little pieces to serve the decorator purpose. It is considered a work of art accomplished with a delicate touch and a highly artistic sense of tone and blending. In a similar manner North Indians make something called Rangoli which is made of powders of various colors. When completed, a miniature pandal, hung with little festoons is erected over it.Traditionally, Atthapookalams pookalam made on the Atham day included flowers endemic to Kerala and the Dashapushpam 10 flowers, but nowadays all varieties of flowers are used. Earthen mounds, which look somewhat like square pyramids, representing Mahabali and Vamana are placed in the dung plastered courtyards in front of the house along with the Pookalam, and beautifully decorated with flowers. In the recent years, the floral designs have evolved from the traditional circular shape to unique designs depicting different cultural and social aspects of Kerala life. All over Kerala, Pookalam competitions are a common sight on Onam day.
9. Onam Sadya feast
The Onam sadya feast is another very indispensable part of Thiruvonam, and almost every Keralite attempts to either make or attend one. The feast is served on plantain leaves and have more than 13 to 15 curries, along with traditional pickles, papadam and a dessert called payasam a sweet dish made of milk, sugar, jaggery and other traditional Indian savories. In hotels and temples, the number of curries and dishes may go up to 30. The importance of the feast to the Kerala Onam celebration culture is captured in the famous Malayalam proverb Kaanam Vittum Onam Unnanam which means One must have the Onam lunch even one is forced to sell his property.
10. Onam Wishes
The state festival of Kerala, Onam, is celebrated with zeal. All through the ten days of the festival, the air is filled with excitement, while people are busy in welcoming their King Mahabali. Feasting, laying Pookkalam floral carpet on floor, singing songs and shopping are the highlights of the festival. Malayalees from the nook and corner of the country as well as abroad make it a point to visit their loved ones back home in Kerala, during the festive season. Wishes are exchanged at the time, when people exchange gifts and present Onakkodi new clothes especially purchased to wear on Thiruvona to their near and dear. If you want to wish your beloved a very Happy Onam.Aishwaryathintheyum,samridhiyudaeyum Thiruvonam aashamsikkunnu. Ellavarkkum ente hridayam nirannja Onashamsagal!
Hope this Onam brings in good fortune & abounding happiness to you! Wish you and your family a frivolous Onam!
May this Onam be the forerunner of good luck and joyfulness and may it bring you joy, that lasts all year!
Nilavilakinte Parishudhiyum, Tumbapoovinte Nairmalyavumai, Varunna Ponnin Chinga Masathile Ponnonatte Varavelkan Niranja Snehathode Ende ONAM Ashamsagal.
May the color and lights of Onam fill your home with happiness and joy. My heartful wishes to you, on Onam.
Fortunate is the one who has learned to admire, but not to envy. Good Wishes for a joyous Onam.
Pookkalavum,Pooviliyum,Onakkodiyum. Onasadhyayumayi oru onam koodi. Ponnonashamsagal!
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