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Onam: A festival that transcends religions

By Vishal S

Thiruvananthapuram, Sep 11: Onam is a festival that is celebrated with great fervour and enthusiasm not just in Kerala but at any place where there is Malayali population. Onam, the annual harvest festival, is celebrated with great zeal by all the Malayalis irrespective of their religion.

Onam fosters a spirit of oneness and narrows the communal chasm. More than offering prayers to a particular deity, a common feature of most Indian festivals, Onam is about celebrating the Malayali culture. Despite being a Hindu festival, people from all the communities of Kerala celebrate Onam with enthusiasm.

The Onam spirit - 'Pookalam'

The Onam spirit - 'Pookalam'

Onam marks the start of the Malayali calendar. Onam falls on the first month of the Malayalam calendar, which marks the beginning of the harvest season. Ten days are celebrated in full swing with many cultural competitions such as dance, music, especially chenda vadhyam, the traditional drums, theatre and pookalam.

On this day, people decorate their houses with pookalams - a decoration of flowers; wear new clothes, organise cultural programmes, take part in get-togethers. The ten-day festival keeps the people busy in cleaning their houses and decorating them.

Onam 2019: Important dates and their significance:

Onam 2019: Important dates and their significance:

Between the 10 days when Onam is celebrated by Malayalis, there are some specific dates that are deemed important. There are a total of four important days of Onam which are September 10, 11, 12 and 13.

September 10 is observed as First Onam or Uthraadam which translates into the return of King Mahabali to Kerala.

[Kerala cancels Onam celebrations after worst floods hits the state]

September 11 marks the second day of King Mahabali's return when he pays a visit to all the people and their homes. The second day is called Thiruvonam means ‘Sacred Onam Day'.

The third important day of Onam or Avittam will be observed on September 12 this year. This day basically centres around preparations for the departure of King Mahabali.

The fourth day or Chathayam is the final day of Onam which will be observed on September 13, this year.

Legend has it that the festival is celebrated to honour King Mahabali, whose spirit is said to visit Kerala at the time of Onam. Onam marks the annual homecoming of the legendary King Mahabali - the grandson of Prahlada. On Thiru Onam, the second day of Onam today, it is believed that King Mahabali pays a visit to people's homes. The other days are Uthraadam (September 10), Avittam (September 12) and Chathayam (September 13). Onam celebrations continue for the next couple of days with snake boat races, Pulikkali tiger play (shown in above photo), and Kerala Tourism's Onam Week program.

Onam Sadhya or Onam Sadya:

Onam Sadhya or Onam Sadya:

Sadhya means banquet in Malayalam. It is a multi-course vegetarian meal that features over 24 dishes. The traditional way of serving an Onam Sadhya is on a banana leaf. The usual items in an Onam Sadhya include - Kaaya varuthatha (banana chips), chena varuthatha (yam chips), sarkara upperi (Jaggery coated banana chips), mango pickle, lime pickle, puli inji (tamarind & ginger chutney), kichadi (Gourd in mildly spiced yoghurt), pachadi (Pineapple in yoghurt) , olan ( ash gourd with black beans in a coconut milk gravy), stir-fried vegetables with grated coconut, theeyal (mixed vegetable gravy), erissery (mashed beans and pumpkin with coconut gravy), avial, puliserry (yogurt based curry), kootu curry (black chickpeas curry), sambar, rasam, spicy buttermilk, bananas, papad and of course boiled rice.

 Onam Jargon:

Onam Jargon:

  • Vallam Kali (boat races)

Pulikali (tiger dances)

  • Pookkalam (flower arrangement)
  • Onathappan (worship)
  • Onam Kali (Tug of War)
  • Thumbi Thullal (women's dance)
  • Kummattikali (mask dance)
  • Onathallu (martial arts)
  • Onavillu (music)
  • Kazhchakkula (plantain offerings)
  • Onapottan (costumes)
  • Atthachamayam (folk songs and dance)

(Images - PTI)

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