Major Annual Cultural Event for all Malayali people in and outside Kerala: ONAM.
Onam is a harvest festival of Kerala and it is observed with numerous festivities. Onam celebration includes boat races, tiger dances, flower decorations, worship, a different form of dances, food and music and much more. Onam is the official state festival of Kerala and also celebrated by Malayali around the world. Even though it is a Hindu festival, it is celebrated across all communities considering as it is a cultural festival
According to legends, the festival is celebrated to commemorate King Mahabali. It is said his spirit visits Kerala at the time of Onam. Mahabali was Prahlada’s grandson and great devotee of Vishnu. Mahabali came to power by defeating Gods and then taking over three worlds. Then Gods approached Lord Vishnu to help in their battle with Mahabali. Lord Vishnu refused to join Gods as Mahabali was his devotee and a good ruler. Vishnu instead decided to test Mahabali’ s devotion. Mahabali after his victory over Gods performs Yajna and declares that he would grant anyone any request. The Lord Vishnu takes the avatar of a dwarf boy called Vamana and approaches Mahabali. The former said all he needed was “three paces of land” and Mahabali agreed.
The Vamana grew to an enormous size and covered everything Mahabali ruled in just two paces. For the third pace, Mahabali offers his head and Vishnu accepted as devotion. Lord Vishnu grants him a boon that Mahabali could visit once every year the lands he previously ruled. This revisit marks as the festival of Onam. The last day of Mahabali’ s stay is remembered with a nine-course vegetarian meal called ONASADYA.
There is another legend, which says Onam festival celebrates Parashurama’s creation of Kerala. Vishnu took the avatar of Parashurama or Rama with an axe. Parashurama killed the king Kaatavirya and all his warriors and threw the axe and wherever it fell, the sea retreated, creating the land of Kerala.
More than religious this is celebrated as a cultural festival and is celebrated by Kerala Christians and Muslims too. This was viewed as a form of integration with Hindus and mutual respect for sharing the tradition.
The Onam celebrations starts off with a grand procession at Thrippunithura. The procession includes elephants marching, drum beats, folk music, and beautiful people. The procession ends at Vamanamoorthy temple in Ernakulam district. The temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu avatar Vamana. After arrival at the temple, the marchers offer prayers.
Another important feature of this festival is Flowercarpets,calledOnapookkalam. It is made out of the gathered blossoms of the season and they are decorated on the floor in different designs and patterns.
The flower carpet starts on day 1 with a small design and later grows in size progressively with each day of the Onam festival. The Onathappan statue which is placed in the middle of the pookkalam is immersed in nearby waters after the festival.
This year Onam is ending on September 13th. May this festival bring immense joy and prosperity to each one of us.