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Onam festival in Kerala
12 - 23 Agosto 2021
The festival of Onam is the most important festival in Kerala, the beautiful coastal state of South India that lives mainly on agriculture and with it the harvest is celebrated. Although it is a Hindu festival, it is enthusiastically celebrated by all Keralites regardless of caste and religion. Onam falls at the beginning of the month of Chingam, the first month of the Malayalam calendar which corresponds to the months of August-September and lasts ten days. The most important days are Atham, the first day of Onam, in which preparations for the party take place and Thiruonam, on the tenth day and later we will explain why.
Vallamkali (the snake regatta) is a very famous tournament with muscular oarsmen who compete on particular and decorated "snake" boats which people participate with fervor. There are also other famous regattas such as the Nehru Boat Race which take place before and after the canonical 10 days of the festival (see dates below). There are also many cultural events and traditional dances presented in this period, such as Thiruvathirakali, also known as Kaikottikkali, which women perform in a circle around a lamp, or Thumbi Thullal and Kummattikali; in Thrissur, in particular, there is the spectacular parade made up of beautifully adorned elephants surrounded by Kummatikali dancers who, masked, go from house to house to perform the colorful dance. The traditional Kathakali dance is also commonly performed throughout Oman with dancers who stage mythological legends; in the Pulikali dance, also known as the “tiger dance” or Kaduvakali, the artists paint their bodies like tigers with the colors of yellow, red and black and dance to the rhythms of instruments such as the Chenda and the Thakil. To the Thrikkakara temple, one of the most significant places of the festival, 20 km. from Cochin, these and other performances are held every day of the Onam with talented dancers and percussionists.
Onam is as important as Christmas in the West. On the day of Thiruonam, people clean their homes, apply rice flour dough to the entrance doors as a welcome sign, exchange gifts and give charity to the poor. The eldest woman in the family distributes new clothes (Vastra) to all members, according to a tradition called Onakodi, in order to renew their hearts by eliminating all bad feelings. The family gathers for the Onasadya, the traditional lunch served on banana leaves and consisting of 11 to 13 courses that everyone consumes, as is customary, with their hands and seated on the ground and which ends with payasam, a excellent dessert made with rice, boiled milk, and brown sugar. There is a saying in this regard, "Kanam vittum onam unnanam" which means that the Onam festival must be prepared, at the cost of selling all the plants that will give the next harvest. During the Onam the streets are festively decorated and scented with incense. Most of the cities in Kerala, such as Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi (Cochin) and Thrissur, are illuminated with lights and fireworks and, on the streets of Trivandrum, mimosa trees are loaded with loads of lights. In temples, churches and mosques special prayers are made and this demonstrates the secularity of the festival. Traditional games and dances take place in the afternoon in the Thrikkakara temple, which is frequented by more than twenty thousand people.
Thiruonam day is a special day because a king is expected to arrive. For him, children and women have prepared, in front of their homes, with an accurate work of days and days, the carpet of flower petals called Ona-Pookkalam to welcome King Maveli (or Mahabali) a demon (Asura) who, from the underworld, he comes to see his subjects live happily. In fact, the story goes that during the reign of this powerful king, Kerala experienced its golden age. Everyone was happy and prosperous and therefore the king was highly regarded by his subjects. But they resented his popularity and put an end to his reign. However, considering all the good that King Mahabali had done for his people, God granted him the opportunity to visit his people annually and he does so on this very day. Next to the Pookkalam (which resembles the "rangoli" made of colored powder that is the custom of North India) in the courtyards of the houses, pyramidal earth mounds represent Mahabali and Vamana, also called Thrikkakarappan avatar of Vishnu, also celebrated during the Onam .
The most important celebrations of Onam end with Thiruvonam. However, the next two days are devoted to preparations for King Mahabali's ascension to heaven. The Onathappan statue that has been placed in the center of each pookkalam over the past 10 days is immersed in the river or sea. Then the Pookkalam is removed. Also important is the famous Pulikali event (tiger dance) which takes place in the city of Thrissur. In this, men dressed as lions, tigers and leopards, parade through the city in large numbers. Pulikali also marks the end of traditional Onam celebrations.
Nehru Trophy Boat Race in Punnamada - Alappuzha District
Payippad Boat Race in Payippad - Alappuzha District
Kumarakom Boat Race in Kumarakom - Kottayam District
Aranmula Boat Race in Aranmula - Pathanamthitta District
Athachamayam in Thrippunithura - Ernakulam Dist
Thiruvonam - Celebration in whole Kerala
Pulikali in Swaraj Round - Thrissur District