Onam, the festival of Keralites

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‘Onam’ is the annual harvest festival of Kerala predominantly celebrated by Malayalees across the world. It is the official festival of Kerala. The ten-day-long long festival which begins on ‘Atham’ is celebrated with fervour and gaiety in God’s own country. On the occasion of Onam, ‘Pookalam’ (floral carpets) are laid across households. People wear traditional clothes and cook traditional feasts called ‘Sadya’.


Onam festival is celebrated to honour the benevolent King Mahabali. It is widely believed that he visits Kerala on the occasion of Onam. Hence, the day marks the homecoming of the righteous King.

The story behind ‘Onam’

Onam, the festival of Keralites

 Despite being a demon king, Mahabali was generous and his ruling period was considered a golden era. Onam falls in the Malayalam calendar month of ‘Chingam’.

 Mighty Mahabali, a fierce warrior, defeated the gods and reigned over three worlds. Gods grew jealous of him and seeked the help of Lord Vishnu in fighting the demon king.

 Mahabali was a big devotee of Lord Vishnu and it was very difficult for Lord Vishnu to take sides in the tussle for power.

 Ultimately, Vishnu visited Mahabali in the form of Vamana (a poor Brahmin). He got his wish granted from the kind-hearted king. Vamana had requested three paces of land from Mahabali.

 As he got his wish granted, the Vamana avatar grew in size. Lord Vishnu covered the entire world with his two-foot steps! A valiant Mahabali offered his head for Vishnu’s third step.


 Impressed by the generosity of the demon king, Lord Vishnu permitted him to visit Earth once every year. Thus Onam came into existence


 The ten-day long celebrations during Onam include Vallam Kali (boat races), worshipping of ‘Onathappan’, Tug of War, Onathallu (martial arts) etc ..


 As festive fervour grips the state, people from all walks of life come together and celebrate the joy of togetherness. Onam is widely celebrated in schools, colleges and also in other public & private institutions across Kerala.

The traditional feast- ‘Onam Sadya’

onam sadhiya

‘Onam Sadya’ is a 9-course meal consisting of 26 dishes. It includes Olan, Avial (vegetables in coconut curry), Kootu curry and Rasam. The much-loved dessert, Parippu payasam is the highlight of Onam Sadya.

Vallam Kali (Boat race)

Vellam Kali

 The traditional snake boat race, popularly known as ‘Vallam Kali’ is one of the major attractions of Onam celebrations. There can be approximately up to 100 men on each of these boats to do the rowing. The race mostly occurs at River Pampa. The Nehru Trophy Boat Race and the Uttratathi Boat Race are among the most popular boat races in Kerala.

Dance performances

Onam is never complete without the dance performances. On the eve of Onam, people widely perform dance forms such as Kathakali, Kummati Kali and Kaikotti Kali.

 ‘Onam’ showcases the culture of Kerala in front of the whole world. People across ages and different sections of society come together to celebrate the harvest festival with pomp and grandeur. The secular festival glorifies and celebrates the spirit of ‘Malayalees’ across the globe.

 Thus, Onam is an integral part of the Malayali identity and the memories related to it are cherished forever.

 Over the last couple of years, the Covid induced lockdown had affected Onam celebrations worldwide, especially in Kerala. The ‘season’ which is usually a money spinner for businessmen in the state turned out to be a dull affair for them as Covid continued its rampage in Kerala. Even though there were muted celebrations, Onam seemed to have lost its flair in the pandemic world. Hence the 2022 Onam celebrations become all the more important as it indicates the return back to normalcy.


 So let’s all come together and celebrate this year’s Onam in the most stylish manner and make it an ever memorable one!


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