Onam – A Guide to the Harvest Festival of Kerala

Onam - A Guide to the Harvest Festival of Kerala

Every year, the Keralites in Kerala get to celebrate the fullest of their lives during the Onam celebration. It is a famous festival for the Keralites and is also known as the harvest festival of Kerala. This festival brings along a lot of joy, happiness, and togetherness amongst people. The Onam festival is celebrated with the involvement of the people of all faiths and castes together. People say that this festival marks the yearly homecoming of Kerala’s loving king names King Mahabali. This festival is a sign of respect and gratitude towards the favorite Asura king who was loved by every Malayali. This festival is of Hindu religion, but people from all castes and religions celebrate it which signifies unity amongst all religions and castes.

Story of the legendary King Mahabali

As per the Hindu mythology, once upon a time, there was an Asura (demon) king named Mahabali who ruled Kerala. He was the grandson of Brahmin sage Prahlada and had achieved victory over the three worlds by defeating the gods. Despite being an Asura, he was loved by the people because of his generous, wisdom, benevolence, and helping nature. Hence, the gods approached Lord Vishnu for help and asked him to fight against Mahabali. But Vishnu refused as Mahabali was a good ruler and people were fond of him.

King Mahabali was a devotee of Lord Vishnu and performed a Yajna after his victory over the gods. After this Yajna Mahabali had to grant any one person a gift or fulfill a request. Vishnu took this opportunity to test King Mahabali’s devotion and approached him in the form of a dwarf boy named Vamana to ask for a gift. The King’s preceptor, Sukracharya warned Mahabali not to grant any wish to Vamana as he had realized that he was not an ordinary man. But King did not listen to Sukracharya and kept his promise by asking Vamana to ask for his gift.

Vamana asked a gift in which he demanded three paces of land and Mahabali as said fulfilled his wish. Mahabali saw that the dwarf boy Vamana instantly grew huge. He covered the land and water with one foot, sky with his other foot, and now has to place his third foot. King Mahabali soon realized that his third foot would destroy the world and hence offered himself to Vamana to put his third foot on him. Lord Vishnu’s third foot trampled King Mahabali far into the hell. Vishnu granted King Mahbali a boon that he can visit his kingdom once a year. Therefore, his annual homecoming is a celebration of the Onam festival in Kerala.

Where and How Onam is Celebrated

Onam is a festival in Kerala, a state of India. This festival is a resemblance of the togetherness of people keeping aside the caste and religions as every person sends Onam greetings and wishes to each other.

Onam festival spans for at least ten days. It starts with a procession that starts from Thripunithara in Kochi. It is a parade that involves elephant marches, flag hoisting of the Onam festival, drum beats, folk art forms, etc. There are also traditional dances performed by the people. An essential dance form shown by the Keralites is Kathakali, and some other dance forms are Pulikali, Thumbi Thullal, Onam Kali, and many more.

Onam boat race is an essential event during Onam celebrations which includes a dash of snake boats, traditional boats, and paddled longboats. The people sing boat songs during the competition for the sake of entertainment. It takes place in the Pampa river of Kerala.

Next coming to the Onam pookalam, this is a floral carpet that is decorated with different petals and flowers. Pookalam is made up of various flowers in different patterns in the center of the floor of entrances. The making of pookalam involves a lot of patience

Onam Pookalam Designand creativity to form a floral art on the floor. The Onam pookalam design is very similar to rangoli, which is made using colors. There are also pookalam competitions held during Onam.

People serve each other with a traditional feast on the occasion of Onam, which is Onasadya. It is a meal served on a banana leaf. It has 29 different dishes served, which depict the spirit of Onam such as to avail, pickle, dal, thoran, rasam, coconut chutney, moru, payasam, etc.

Onam Quotes and Messages

The people send each other Onam wishes, quotes, and images to wish each other on occasion. Few Onam wishes in English are as follows:

  • May the Onam brings a lot of joy, happiness with it to your family. May the pookalam, kathakali, boat songs be as entertaining and fun as they are every year. Happy Onam 2019!
  • Every year we wait for this time to come where we can be with our people and enjoy our best. So let’s make this Onam the memorable one. We wish you and your family a Happy Onam.
  • Here comes one more Onam to make us remember King Mahabali’s life. Let us also join together and spread happiness, generosity, and kindness amongst each other. Have a blessed Onam!

Products to send your loved ones on Onam

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Onam in 2019

Onam falls at the starting of the month of Chingam which is the first month of Malayalam Calendar known as Kollavarsham. As per the Gregorian Calendar corresponds to August and September. The celebration of Onam lasts from four to ten days out of which the first, eighth, and tenth days are essential. Onam date in 2019  will be on 11th September 2019.


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