God's Own Country's 'Onam'


Keralites, round the globe, celebrated the festival of Onam on 7th September 2014, in thier own ways. Do you all know, what is Onam, and how is it celebrated? If, your answer is "NO", read this article, which is all about, the national festival of Kerala - Onam. This short article, covers the epic story behind this festival and other various accepts of Onam like games, flower carpets, Onam meals, Onam clothes and Onam dances are further discussed, here.

According to the Malayalam calendar, first month of the year is Chingam. This month, usually falls in August and September, according to Gregorian calendar. As the month of Chingam comes towards the end of Southwest Monsoon, this month has a great significance to the farmers. This is the month on which the harvest season, begins in Kerala. Hence, harvest festival of Kerala, known as Onam is celebrated during this month. In 1961, Onam was named as the national festival of Kerala.

This harvest festival, goes on for ten days. Celebrations of Onam start on the Atham star of the Chingam month. Joy of Onam, reaches its peak on the tenth day from Atham, the Thiruvonam day. Obviously, this day falls on the Thirvonam star of the first month in Malayalam calendar. Each and every malayalies across the globes celebrate this festival with great enthusiasm, keeping its traditions in the best possible manner.


The Story Behind this festival


Once upon a time, there was a king, named Mahabali, in Kerala. By Birth, Mahabali belonged to a demon family. But, he never had any bad characters, which are usually associated with demons. He was highly popular among his subjects, and was very much loved by all. All these brilliant qualities of King Mahabali, lead him towards winning all the three worlds. This made Indra, and his team jealous of Mahabali. So, they went to Lord Vishnu and brought before him, that growing stature of the king Mahabali is threatening even the rule of Indra. Lord Vishnu, very well knew that Mahabali was using his power, only for the well being of his people. Still, Lord Vishnu just wanted to test the greatness of this king.

As, a result, Lord Vishnu took the avatar, or the role of Vamana (a little Brahmin boy), and approached Mahabali. Mahabali was busy with some Yagas, when Vamana reached Mahabali's place. The king being in his usual self, asked how should he help little Brahmin. In reply, Vamana asked for a boon from the king. The kindness and generosity of the king, made him to grant the boon right way, in spite of the warning from Demon Guru. Boon was for, three steps of land. The king asked Vamana to measure three steps of land and gets it.

Vamana, who is actually Lord Vishnu, measured the entire universe with his first step, and the whole of heaven with his second step. Now, there was no room, for the third. When Vamana asked Mahabali as to where he should place that third step, King told Vamana to place the third step, on his head. With this step of Vamana, Mahabali was pushed down to Nether.

However, the king requested Vamana, to allow him to visit his people once a year, and it was allowed. It is believed Mahabali visits Kerala, once a year as per his wish, on the Thiruvonam day. So, in short all the Onam celebrations are done, with the aim of welcoming King Mahabali, who visits his people on the Onam day, every year.

Onam Celebrations


1. Flower Carpets or Pookalam
During the ten days of the Onam festival, all keralites prepare flower carpet, or Pookalam, in front of their houses. Flower carpets mean, beautiful designs, made of different flowers. Different colored flowers are used, on different days of Onam. Particular flowers are dedicated to each day of Onam. Commonly used, flowers, for making Pookalam, are Thumba(Lucas Aspera), Kakka Poovu, Thechipoovu, Mukkutti (little tree plant), Chemparathy (shoe flower), Aripoo or Konginipoo (Lantana), Hanuman Kireedom (Red pagoda plant) and Chethi (Ixora). It is believed that, these flower carpets are

2. The delicious Onam Meals
The most appealing thing among Onam celebrations is the delicious 'Onasadya'. Onasadya means, the grand meal prepared for Onam days, especially on the Thiruvonam day. This vegetarian meal is served on a banana leaf, and it is supposed to have ten items in total, other than the rice. Common items in Onasadya are Sambar, Olan, Avial, Kalan, Kutookari, Thoran, Kichadi, Pachadi, Rasam, and Palada Pradhaman.

3. Onakodi - A custom
Buying new clothes for Onam, is unavoidable to all malayalees, wherever they are. As a custom, elders gift Onakodi (new clothes) to younger members of the family.

4. Onam Games
Onam games (Onakalikal in Malayalam language), are part and parcel of the Onam celebrations. Major games played during Onam are, Kayyankali (a fighting game), Vadamvali (Touge of war), Talappanthukali (a local ball game), Kutukutu (a game similar to Kabadi), and so on. Usually games are organized on Thirvonam day, after the mouth watering lunch. Another, exciting part of Onam is Vallamkali or the snake boat race, which is organized, all over Kerala as a part of the celebration.

5. Onam Dance forms
Many dance forms, are also associated with this harvest festival of Kerala. Pulikali, a dance form, performed by men, in which dancer's dresses like tigers. They entertain audience with some exciting steps. This tiger play, which takes place in Trichur on the second day after Thirvonam is very popular, and has great historical importance. Kaikottikali is another dance form, which is performed during Onam days. It is a group dance performed by all women, irrespective of their ages. Kummati Kali, the mask dance of Kerala is also popular during Onam days.

Conclusion


Onam is the festival of oneness, and it is extremely nostalgic, even for a modern keralite. In the context of the timeless current world, it's really appreciable that, the keralites are celebrating their traditional festival, maintaining the customs and culture alive. This is clearly, one of the main reasons, why Kerala is called as "Gods Own Country".


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