Onam is the annual festival with origins in Kerala and is celebrated by Malayalis across the globe. It falls in the Malayalam calendar month of Chingam which is usually August-September in the Gregorian calendar. The festival marks mythologies related to the Mahabali, Vamana, Kashyapa and Parashurama. The festival is celebrated with numerous events that include Vallam Kali (boat race), Pookkalam (flower rangoli), Kummati Kali (mask dance), Pulikali (tiger dance), Onathallu (martial arts), and Atthachamayam (folk songs and dance), among others. The grand Onam feast is called Onam Sadhya. In 2017, Onam will be celebrated on September 4.
Why do we celebrate Onam?
According to the legend, Asura king Mahabali ruled over Kerala and was loved by the masses. He soon became the powerful king. His popularity made gods insecure and they approached Lord Vishnu to expel Mahabali from the kingdom. Vishnu agreed to help them and took a form of a Brahmin dwarf called Vamana and approached Mahabali who was performing Yagnya (fire sacrifice). Mahabali promised Vamana to ask for a wish and he will grant it. Vamana asked for three paces of land. Vamana grew in stature and his first step covered the sky, second covered netherworld. For the final and third step, Mahabali offered his own head. Lord Vishnu was impressed and he granted Vamana a boon which allowed him to visit Kerala once a year. This annual visit of Mahabali is marked as Onam.
On the auspicious day of Onam, people wear new clothes, offer prayers, make Pookkalam (flower rangoli), visit friends and families and enjoy the traditional feast. The festival is celebrated with much fervor in Kerala and one can truly understand why it is called God’s own country.
The traditional feast Onam Sadhya is served on banana leaves and comprises of 26-dish. There is a distinct way the food is served on the leaf. The meal comprises of seasonal vegetables, sambar, rice, chutney, payasam, papad, fried banana coated with jaggery, pickles, thoran, avial, rasam and other lip-smacking treats.
(To receive our E-paper on whatsapp daily, please click here. We permit sharing of the paper's PDF on WhatsApp and other social media platforms.)