Onam the ten-day-long harvest festival of Kerala is celebrated with great pomp in the southern state. It officially begins on the astrological sector of Atham and ends on Thiruvonam in the month of Chingam (Leo). A spate of cultural events take place during these ten days, which includes the famous boat race, Pulikali or the tiger dance and Thiruvathira Kali. Sometimes, the festivities spill over to the 11th and 12th days. This year, however, in solidarity with the victims of the flood, the Kerala government has planned to keep the celebrations muted. But if you ever intend to visit the state the next year, plan your trip around the time of Onam to partake in its cultural attractions.
Celebrations known as Onakalikal include traditional dances, games and music. Food is an integral part of Onam festivities with a nine-course meal comprising of 13 dishes being served. As celebrations for Onam has already begun, we have listed down a list of cultural attractions of the festival in the state during the time.
Cultural celebrations begin at Tripunithura, near Ernakulam in greater Kochi on the first day of Onam. Known as Tripunithura Athachamayam, the streets of this region puts various traditional art forms of Kerala on display. The festival parade includes musicians, decorated elephants, artisans performing multiple folk dances.
The tradition began during the times of Maharaja of Kochi when he used to march from Tripunithura to Vamanamoorthy Temple in Thrikkakara where the festival of Onam is believed to have originated. The whole town gets into the festive spirit with pookalams (flower rangoli), street stalls and other decorations.
Pulikali or Tiger Dance
Pulikali, a popular art form is quite a familiar scene on the streets of Kerala during Onam. Men paint their body or wear costumes to look like tiger and dance to the beats of instruments. Pot-bellied men dancing as tigers draw the crowd in large numbers during Onam celebrations. Swaraj Round in Thrissur city will host Pulikali like always. Pulikali is also believed to have been introduced by Rama Varma Sakthan Thampuran (1751–1805) hence the dance form is quite popular in the region. In 2016, women also participated in the folk art entering the age-old art form dominated by men.
#Onam cant be complete without Tripunithura #Athachamayam. This cultural fiesta brings together almost all folk art forms of Kerala. A grand #celebration marking start of 10 day Onam Festival. Athachamayam'18 is on 15th Aug! #LetsCelebrate #LetsTravel #KeralaTradition #ttot pic.twitter.com/WUAoRi1p5l
— TreeMonks (@tree_monks) July 31, 2018
Thrikkakara Temple located in Kerala's Kochi district witnesses large-scale celebrations during Onam. The Onasadya which is held grandly is one of the many attractions during Onam there. The temple is dedicated to Lord Vamana, the fifth incarnation of Lord Vishnu and is believed that Onam festivities began there. According to the legend, the Vamanamoorthy Thrikkakara temple was the abode of good demon King Mahabali during whose reign Kerala witnessed a golden era.
However, the Gods grew jealous of King Mahabali and urged Lord Vishnu for a way out. Vamana then visited King Mahabali disguised as a Brahmin monk and asked him for 3foot of land. But Vishnu then grew in size, and after stepping on earth and heaven, there was no place for the third step. King Mahabli then offered his head and sent him to the netherworld with his foot, and the temple is believed to be located at the spot where this happened.
Atham, the first day of the festival begins at the temple with the raising of the festival flag at the temple. Over the course of ten days, various cultural events, dance and music performances are held there. On the day of Thiru Onam, Pakalpooram procession is held on the temple grounds in which the presiding deity is carried on an elephant. Onam 2018 Date: Story, Significance, Celebrations Related to Kerala's Harvest Festival
Coordination is the main element of Kaikottikali in which women dance around a lit lamp. Performers move in circles clockwise and anti-clockwise dancing gracefully clapping in unison matching steps to the beats of music. Onam celebrations among Malayalees living across the globe has Thiruvathira Kali as one of the performances.
Aranmula boat race is considered one of the major attractions of Onam celebrations in Kerala. Kerala witnesses a spike in its tourism around the time with foreigners also attending the festivities in large numbers. The Chundan vallam or snake boat race competition is a tradition for Malayalees which showcases the state's communal harmony. Almost 50 boats take part in the competition with highly trained oarsmen participating in it. This year the 66th Nehru Trophy Boat Race has been postponed owing to heavy rains in Kerala. The new dates will be announced soon. We wish all our reads a very Happy Onam!