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Onam is the biggest and most important festival of the people of Kerala, India. It is a harvest festival that marks the beginning of the month of Chingam, the first month of the solar Malayalam calendar. Every year it falls in August or September. This year, Onam starts from 2 September and ends on 13 September.
There are four main days - the most important day of Onam is known as Thiruonam or Thiruvonam (Sacred Onam Day) which is on 11 September. The festivities and rituals commence 10 days before Thiruonam on Atham (2 September 2019).
The Origin Of Onam
The festival is believed to have originated in the Vamanamoorthy Temple in Thrikkakara, Northeast of Ernakulam, near Kochi. The temple is dedicated to Lord Vamana, the fifth incarnation of Lord Vishnu.
Legend has it that the demon King Mahabali's home was Thrikkakara. His popularity, power and generosity concerned the Gods and as a result, Lord Vamana is said to have sent King Mahabali to the underworld with his foot, and the temple is situated at the same spot where the incident occurred.
The king asked a wish to Lord Vamana to return to Kerala once a year and his wish was granted, and King Mahabali comes to visit his people and his land during Onam.
Significance Of Onam (Day-wise)
Atham (2 September 2019)
It is believed that on this day, King Mahabali prepares to return to Kerala. People start their day with an early bath, followed by temple visits and prayers. The women create 'pookalam' in front of their homes on the ground to welcome the king. The colours chosen to create pookalams are used to please the Gods, and only yellow flowers are used on Atham for the first layer of the pookalam.
Chithira (3 September 2019)
On this day, shopping starts and people buy new clothes, jewellery and gifts. More layers are added to the pookalams, using mostly orange and cream yellow colours.
Vishakham (4 September 2019)
Onam meal is prepared on this day as well as pookalam design competitions also start on this day.
Anizham (5 September 2019)
In Kerala, snake boat races start off and a mock race is held at Aranmula as a rehearsal for the race.
Thriketta (6 September 2019)
Fresh flowers are used to create pookalams and people start visiting their families on this day.
Moolam (7-8 September 2019)
On this day, people start serving smaller versions of the traditional Onasadya meal.
Pooradam (9 September 2019)
People start by making pyramid-style clay statues, known as Onathappan, in the centre of pookalams as they represent King Mahabali and Lord Vamana.
First Onam/Uthradom (10 September 2019)
It is considered to be an auspicious day as it is believed that King Mahabali arrives in Kerala on this day.
Second Onam/Thiruvonam (11 September 2019)
It is said that on the second day, King Mahabali visits people's homes. People wear new clothes and families gather together to enjoy their grand feast known as Onam Sadya or Onasadya.
Third Onam/Avvittom (12 September 2019)
People prepare for King Mahabali's departure by immersing Onathappan statues into the river or sea.
Fourth Onam/Chatayam (13 September 2019)
Post-onam celebrations continue for the next couple of days which include snake boat races, Pulikkali (tiger play), and Kerala Tourism's Onam Week program.
How Is Onam Celebrated?
A street procession goes with decorated elephants and floats, musicians, and various traditional Kerala art forms. On Atham, a special flag hoisting ceremony is held at Thrikkakara temple. Celebrations continue in full swing for 10 days with music and dance performances.