Onam is one of the harvest festivals celebrated in the southern part of India. The festival is associated with the epic of the great demon king, Mahabali, who ruled the state of Kerala a long time back. The wise and generous ruler was dearly loved and admired by his people. Soon, his popularity began to spread all across the Earth and he further extended his rule to the heavens. However, his growing power was not appreciated by the Gods and they began to fear that he might over power them. So, they approached Lord Vishnu seeking his help to curb the powers of the king. Subsequently, Lord Vishnu disguised as a poor Brahmin boy named Vamana and approached king Mahabali for alms. Being a generous king, Mahabali granted him a wish. The boy asked for a piece of land that could be covered by his three steps. The king unaware of Vamana’s capability, agreed to his wish.
Instantly, disguised as Vamana, Lord Vishnu grew in size and increased until he became as big as the universe. Taking his first step, he covered whole of the Earth and with the next step he covered the whole sky. Soon, Mahabali realized that Vamana’s third step would destroy the Earth, so he bowed before Vamana & offered his head before him to place his third step. This third & final step pushed king Mahabali to the nether world called ‘Patala’. However, since the king was beloved of his people & was attached to his kingdom, before placing the final step, Lord Vishnu bestowed him with a blessing of returning to his country once a year from the exile. So, Onam is the festival celebrated to honour the homecoming of king Mahabali.
Onam is celebrated to acknowledge the sacrifice of the Asura (demon) King Mahabali. Onam is a 10-day long carnival which is celebrated with great pomp & splendor Kerela. Ten days of feasting, songs, traditional clap dance (Kaikottikkali), boat races etc. are an integral part of this festival. The celebrations begin from the first day, ‘Atham’ wherein people make floral decorations called Pookalam at the entrance of their homes. More and more flowers are added to the Pookalam with each passing day. Two clay made square pyramids representing Vishnu and Mahabali, are also erected in the courtyards and worshipped by offering fruits and flowers. People recite special prayers and hymns in the local temples. Besides this, a grand cultural procession exhibiting folk dances, art presentations, music, decorated elephants etc. is carried out at Thripunnithura in Kochi. Pulikali performers paint themselves as tigers and perform street plays to entertain people and story of the legendary king is enacted by Kathakali dancers. A snake boat race called ‘Vallamkali’ and a number of sports events like Kutukutu, Kayyankali etc. are also organized in different parts of the state.
Thiruvonam is the most happening and the most important day of Onam. On Thiruvonam, the celebrations commence early in the morning. People take early bath, wear new clothes and perform prayers to seek blessings from the divine lord. A sumptuous and an enormous meal called Thiruvona-Sadhya which includes around 11 to 13 traditional dishes, is also prepared.
How to celebrate Onam in school?
Celebrating Onam in school is a great way to spread a message of peace and harmony among children. Here are some tips that will help you to celebrate the festival of Onam in your school.
- Arrange a fancy dress competition and ask the students to dress up in traditional attires as king Mahabali, Lord Vishnu etc.
- Arrange a Pookalam competition wherein students will make flower rangoli.
- Help the students to prepare a small skit enacting the story of the legendary king Mahabali.
- Ask the students to perform a special puja for the deity.
- Organize games like Talappanthukali (played with ball) and Ambeyyal (Archery).
How to celebrate Onam at home?
The festival of Onam is a great time to unite with all your near and dear ones. Here are some tips on how you can celebrate Onam at home.
- Organize a get together and invite close friends & relatives over to your place.
- Involve your family members in decorating the house entrance by creating beautiful floral arrangement (Pookalam) on the floor.
- Prepare the traditional feast ‘Onasadhya’ consisting of 11 to 13 dishes and serve it to your guests on banana leaves to give it a more traditional touch.
- Prepare your children to give dance performances on popular Onam songs.
- Exchange gifts with your loved ones.
Thiruvona-sadhya, a grand feast, is the most important part of Onam celebrations. The people of the state prepare the most sumptuous dishes which are served on banana leaves. Some of the popular onam recipes are Avial, Banana erucherry, tomato pachadi, Chana dal payasam etc.
How to make Avail
½ cup Coconut (Grated)
4 Green chilies
½ teaspoon Cumin seeds
1 cup raw Yam (Thinly sliced into pieces)
1 cup Bitter gourd (Sliced into lengthy pieces)
¼ cup Carrot (Sliced into lengthy pieces)
½ cup Long runner-beans (Sliced into lengthy pieces)
2 Drumstick (Cut into pieces)
Curry leaves (For garnish)
3 tablespoon Coconut oil
1 Raw banana (Sliced into pieces)
Pieces of Raw mango
½ teaspoon Turmeric powder
Salt (To taste)
Prepare a paste of coconut along with green chilies and cumin seeds. Alongside heat coconut oil in a thick bottom vessel and add vegetables. Cook it on a low flame. When it is done, mix it well with turmeric powder and salt. Now, add slices of banana and mango in the cooked vegetables and cover it with the lid. When steam starts to come out, add the coconut paste and stir well. Finally, remove it from the flame and garnish with curry leaves.
How to make Tomato Pachadi
6 – 7 Tomatoes (Cut into small pieces)
½ cup Tamarind pulp
¾ teaspoon Mustard seeds
3 Green chilies
Salt to taste
½ teaspoon Turmeric powder
Grind coconut with green chilies and mustard seeds into a thick paste and keep it aside. Boil the tomato pieces in tamarind pulp with water, salt and turmeric powder. When the tomatoes are cooked add the coconut paste and mix well. Allow it boil for some time. Take it off the flame and garnish with mustards seeds and serve hot.
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- May the festival of ONAM bring u all the happiness and love you have ever wished for! Happy Onam!
- May God fill your heart with joy & happiness spreading the colour and lights of Onam in your life. Have a joyous & fun-filled Onam.
- May god bless you with all the happiness, health & prosperity on this festive occasion of Onam.
- May Lord Vishnu and king Mahabali bestow their blessings on you on the harvest festival of Onam.
- May the festival of Onam and sparkle of brilliance and colour to your life. Happy Onam.