For Malayalis across the world, today is Onam and the festival activities started on a vibrant note right from early morning. What makes this a unique festival is that people of all religions celebrate it in their own way, making it a one-of-its-kind celebration in God’s own country.
The festival of Onam falls in the Malayalam month of Chingam, starting as a ten day festival from the day that is marked as “Atham” as per the Malayalam calendar and the tenth day is known as Thiruvonam, the day of grandest celebration .This year, the Onam festival began on August 25 and will continue for a few days more from the main day of Thiruvonam. Some of the customary celebrations include making beautiful floral carpets every day at home and of course, the best is reserved for Thiruvonam. The word “Thiruvonam” means “Sacred Day of Onam”.
The festival honours an Asura King called Mahabali. The popular legend is that King Mahabali visits every home in the state to find out for himself how happy his people are and the ten day festival of Onam is how Malayalis begin the preparations to welcome their much loved King. So, you may wonder why an Asura King is given so much love and respect in “God’s Own Country?”
This is what makes Onam a very different festival.
King Mahabali was a generous, compassionate and popular ruler. People loved him because his reign is believed to have established law and order, prosperity and happiness among all communities. Known as the golden era of Kerala, the return of King Mahabali every year fills the Malayali’s heart with considerable nostalgia and happiness. That is why ‘Thiruvonam’ is celebrated on such a grand scale in every nook and corner of the state and across the world, wherever Malayalis celebrate this day.
When the festival begins on the day of Atham, celebrations are held across the state. The annual tourism week celebrations, being organized as part of Onam festival, got underway in the capital Thiruvanthapuram on Sunday evening with Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan lighting the traditional lamp. Danseuse Manju Warrier, singer Vijay Yesudas and panchari melam by 40 artistes performed in the festival. The week long programme will conclude on Septemebr 9.
In the cultural capital of Thrissur, the most exuberant performance is the Pulikali which forms an integral part of the Onam and is held at the Swaraj Round on September 7 .The ‘pulis’ as the dancers are called (puli means tiger in local parlance), capers about and dances to the frenetic notes of the Kerala percussion music. The artists go through the laborious task of getting their bodies painted in myriad patterns and colours resembling a tiger. Sometimes the artists may even take liberties regarding the colours and might even paint the facial features of a lion on their bodies. The theme of the performance involves playing hide-and-seek with a hunter who is wielding a gun. Interestingly this time, 24 female members have formed a team to play pulikkali.
Boat races in different parts, including Thrissur, Kottayam and Alappuzha are another feast for the eyes during Onam festival.
The Onam celebrations are incomplete without the traditional lunch or the elaborate Onam sadhya. ... Served traditionally on a banana leaf, the sadhya is an elaborate preparation, eaten mostly during lunch on Onam.