Onam is an annual Hindu festival
celebrated in the state of Kerala. It is the national festival of Kerala, reflecting the state’s culture and heritage in a unique way.
It is, indeed, the most revered festival of the state. Onam brings in the best festive spirit among Keralites, irrespective of social status and religion, and is celebrated with much splendor.
When is Onam celebrated?
The festival of Onam lasts more than ten days. It is celebrated in the month of Chingam (Simha), which is the first month in the traditional Malayalam solar calendar.
The festival extends from Atham (Hasta) Nakshatram
to Chathayam (Shatabhisha) Nakshatram
in the month of Chingam. The celebrations will be in full splendor on Uthradam (Uttara Ashada)
, Thiruvonam (Sravana)
, Avittom (Dhanishta)
, and Chathayam (Shatabhisha), which are generally regarded as Onnaam (First) Onam, Randaam (Second) Onam, Moonnam (Third) Onam and Naalaam (Fourth) Onam respectively.
The most important day of the festival is Thiruvonam. The festival name ‘Onam’ itself is a tweak of the word Thiruvonam. On the Gregorian calendar, Onam usually falls in late August or early September.
When is Thiruvonam 2023?
Thiruvonam 2023, the most important occasion of the festival of Onam, falls on August 29, Tuesday. So the festival date of Onam in 2023 is August 29. Atham, the day marking the beginning of celebrations, falls on August 20, Sunday.
Festival Date of Onam in 2023 is August 29
Onam 2023 – Important Dates and Timings
Sunrise: September 8 2022, 6:18 AM
Sunset : September 8, 2022, 6:26 PM
Thiruvonam Nakshathram Begins: September 7, 2022, 4:00 PM
Thiruvonam Nakshathram Ends: September 8, 2022, 1:46 PM
|Chithira (Chitra)/Chothi (Swati)
Onam 2023: Cultural Significances
Onam, the biggest festival in the state of Kerala, fills the hearts of people with gaiety and brings them together to be a part of the vibrant, cultural festival. All Keralites, their families, neighborhoods, and even the public and private organizations try to make the celebrations as grand as they can.
Every year, the Govt. Of Kerala
declares a 4-day holiday break to celebrate Onam. The four days are the First (Uthradam), Second (Thiruvonam), Third (Avittam), and Fourth (Chathayam) Onam days. Thiruvonam, the second Onam, is the main day that is celebrated with the most pomp and splendor. It is the most important festival that fills up gaiety in every nook and corner of the land. The celebrations range from families buying new clothes and feasting together to large social events showcasing various cultural and sports entertainments.
For Keralites, the Onam celebrations are a commemoration of the legendary King Mahabali. It is believed that during the reign of Mahabali, affluence, and righteousness prevailed all over this land, and Onam is a remembrance of that beautiful period. The common belief is that every year, on the day of Thiruvonam, Mahabali visits his land and people from PatalLoka (nether world). Some associate this festival with the birth of Vishnu’s fifth avatar Vamana.
Harvest festival of Kerala
Onam is also the rice harvest festival of Kerala. It falls at that time of the year when the monsoon takes a break. The weather will be perfect, neither too dry nor too wet, and the flowers will be in full bloom. The various customs and celebrations observed on the occasion of Onam are symbolic of agricultural prosperity and overall social affluence.
Onam is the most important festival of the Hindus in Kerala, but this occasion is enjoyed by other communities too. The grand celebrations of this festival eliminate all the religious disparities in society. It is a common practice for the other communities here to join the Hindus in their traditional Onam feast and other merrymaking. It unites people of all communities and spreads the message of peace and harmony.
All the celebrations associated with Onam are a display of Kerala’s rich heritage and culture. Various post-harvest sports, Onapattukal (Onam songs), Kaikottikkali, and all other cultural and entertainment programs depict the beauty and pride of a great tradition. This time of the year is also considered the tourism week in Kerala and is the best time to visit the state. All the shops and commercial establishments in the state enjoy maximum business in this period of the year.
The Legend of Onam
The history of Onam dates back to the Sangam period when it was used to be celebrated for a month. According to mythology, the demon King Mahabali (grandson of Prahlad), a mighty ruler, controlled the three Lokas – BhuLoka, Deva Loka, and PatalLoka (Earth, Heaven, and the Nether World). Even though he belonged to the Asura clan, he was known to be generous and kind to his people, and for that, he was adored. It was during his reign that people saw the best of times; prosperity and grandeur ruled everywhere. However, the Gods were unhappy with him because he had defeated them, and his power and popularity kept growing. Hence, they approached Lord Vishnu for help.
Vamana and Mahabali
Sensing their concern, Lord Vishnu disguised himself as a poor Brahmin Vamana and visited the king. Vamana asked Mahabali to grant him the land which he can cover with three feet. Being a kind and charitable person, Mahabali granted his wish, and soon Vamana started to grow huge in size. As he covered the Earth and Heaven with his first two steps, King Bali asked him to keep his last step on his head which lead him to Patala (nether world). However, for the good deeds of King Bali, Lord Vishnu granted him the boon to visit his people annually, which led to the celebration of the Onam festival. So, Onam celebrates the homecoming of King Mahabali.
Rituals of Onam Festival
Following are some traditions/practices commonly followed as part of Onam celebrations.
Also known as Athapookkalam, these are the artistic floral designs laid on the ground, usually in front of the house. Generally, on the day of Atham, the womenfolk of the family dressed up in traditional styles, collect flowers, and arrange the patterns. Nowadays, conducting Athapookkalam events is a common practice in which both men and women participate in large numbers.
The new clothes that people gift to their dear ones on the occasion of Onam.
Onasadya / Onam Sadya:
The traditional Kerala feast is served on banana leaves. Meals with more than 13 traditional dishes, including chips, pickles, and papads, are prepared for this. Payasam, a characteristic sweet dish made of rice, milk, sugar, and coconut, is a must for Onasadya.
This is the traditional Kerala boat race event, usually conducted on the occasion of Onam. Long wooden boats called Chundanvallam(Snake boats), rowed by hundreds of oarsmen, compete with each other, and the winners get huge amounts of cash as rewards.
This includes people with ‘yellow and black body paints, resembling tigers’ dancing and amusing the spectators. In recent times, this has grown to be a massive event and a major tourist attraction.
A dance form in which women, dressed in traditional style, form a circular pattern around a Nilavilaku (oil lamp) and move in sync with a song. Nowadays, schools, colleges, and offices conduct Kaikottikkali as a part of their Onam celebrations.
Onam 2023, 10-Day Celebrations
The first day (Atham):
This day marks the beginning of Onam celebrations. People would commonly start this day by visiting the temples. Also, they go around collecting or buying flowers and arranging the Pookkalam.
The second day (Chithira):
The second day of the Onam celebration will start with some prayers and worship. After that, new flowers will be added to the Pookkalam.
The third day (Choti):
From this day, people usually start shopping to purchase all the stuff required for the upcoming celebrations.
The fourth day (Vishakam):
On this day, various communities would start conducting events such as Pookalam competitions. Women might start preparing pickles and chips for the final day.
The fifth day (Anizham):
This day is known for the famous boat race, also known as Vallamkali.
The sixth day (Thrikketta):
The cultural events would become a common sight all around Kerala by this time. People would visit and participate in events with their near and dear ones.
The seventh day (Moolam):
Large crowds will be seen everywhere by this time. The markets and streets will be filled with vendors selling food items, clothes, etc.
The eighth day (Pooradam):
On this day, people would start creating pyramid-shaped idols made out of clay. These idols will be adorned with flowers and arranged near the Pookkalam.
The ninth day (Uthradam):
The penultimate day of Onam sees people prepare to welcome King Mahabali. There is a heavy rush to procure the final materials for Onam. This rush is commonly referred to as Uthrada-pachil (Uthradam rush).
The tenth day (Thiruvonam):
Thiruvonam is the most important day of Onam. It is believed that King Mahabali visits his kingdom on this day. The highlight of the day is the sumptuous vegetarian feast families enjoy during noon called Onasadya.