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Onam Festival Kerala: All You Need to Know about Onam Celebration

Onam is one of those festivals where you can feel the excitement in the air of Kerala for 10 days. This official new year of Malayali Hindus marks the beginning of Chingam, the first month of the year according to Malayalam calendar and August and September according to Gregorian calendar.

During this one of the most important festivals in south India, the celebration in Kerala is at its peaks as it is believed that famed King Mahabali pays a visit to his kingdom. The grand celebration of Onam attracts the attention of various tourists because of which, Kerala tourism sees a significant boom during the festival.

I think the best way to know about Onam when you cannot witness it in person, is to read about it and I would love to have you join me on this reading venture.

Onam Festival Date 2021

Onam Festival 2021 that began on August 12 and will go till August 23.

Special Highlights of Kerala Onam Festival

  • Relish 26 traditional delicacies in Kerala.
  • Witness the exciting snake boat racing
  • Enjoy unique body paint competition/procession, Pulikali

So, come along and add another chapter to your book of knowledge:

  • Why is Onam Celebrated?
  • Must Visit Places in Kerala for Onam Celebration
  • Celebrations Schedule
  • Special Highlights of Onam

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Why is Onam Celebrated?

According to the Hindu mythology, Onam is celebrated to mark the visit of King Mahabali who was believed to be very kind towards his people, and thus, was loved by all. The time during his reign is considered as the best time for Kerala. It was during his reign only where the state prospered. The celebration takes place during the first month of the year according to Malayalam Calendar.

This year Onam festival will be celebrated from 12 August – 23 August 2021.

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Must Visit Places in Kerala for Onam Celebration

Onam being one of the major festivals of Kerala, is celebrated in a grand manner in the state. The ways to celebrate this festival ranges from basic to grand and one can witness it anywhere in Kerala during these 10 days. But, if you are planning to visit Kerala, why witness a simpler celebration when you can be a spectator of grand celebration.

Here is a list of places in Kerala where you should be going during Onam:

  • Kochi
  • Thrissur
  • Trivandrum
  • Kottayam
  • Vamanamoorthy temple, near Kochi
  • Athachamayam festival at Tripunithura

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Celebrations Schedule

Onam celebrations take place in a grand manner and goes on for 10 days. The first and the last days are the most important days of this biggest festival in Kerala. Given below is a list that offers details for each day of the festival season of Kerala:

  • Day 1: Atham: The first day of this celebration marks the preparation of King Mahabali’s visit to his kingdom in Kerala. The fascinating thing that happens on this day is that people decorate the entrance area of their houses with floral carpets called as Pookalams. These decorations are done to welcome him and traditionally, Pookalams are prepared with yellow flowers and 10 rings are made out of it. Since the start of the festival is marked in Cochin, it is the best time to plan your trip here.
  • Day 2: Chithira: This day marks the adding up of layers to the pookalam. The devotees offer their usual prayers.
  • Day 3: Chodhi: People find this day to be the auspicious one and they choose this day to be perfect to go out on shopping for Onam.
  • Day 4: Vishakham: The shopping continues on this day as well and the only thing different is that the ladies buy all the important ingredients required for preparing Kerala’s traditional dishes on the last day of the festival.
  • Day 5: Anizham: Various activities take place on this day. One of the must-see activity during Onam is Vallamkali – the exciting snake boat race. Before the competition, a mock race takes place which helps the participants in preparing themselves for the race.
  • Day 6: Triketta or Thriketta: This day is meant for families to be together and celebrate, hence, people arrange get together and catch up with their relatives. Also, people add flowers to Pookalam everyday.
  • Day 7: Moolam: With state already looking mesmerising, people start decorating the swings with the cream and yellow-coloured flowers. Apart from this, they shop a lot and few even serve the smaller version of the traditional Onam food- Onasadya.
  • Day 8: Pooradam: According to the festival’s ritual, on this day, the devotees prepare clay pyramids and place them in the centre of the Pookalam, which by now grow significantly in size and have different yet beautiful designs in each house. These pyramids are known as Onathappan and they represent King Mahabali and Vamana (the incarnation of Lord Vishnu who sent Mahabali to the world below but granted the wish of visiting his kingdom on Earth during these days).
  • Day 9: Uthradom or Uthradam: Considered as Onam Eve, this day indicates that the devotees are fully prepared to welcome their beloved King Mahabali.
  • Day 10: Uthradom/ First Onam: On this day, devotees believe that King Mahabali is arriving in Kerala. People finish up with their shopping and it is also believed to be an auspicious day to buy fresh fruits and vegetables needed for preparing traditional dishes.
  • Day 11: Thiruvonam/ Second Onam: This day is considered as the main day of this festival. People believe that King Mahabali is visiting their homes. To please him, they clean their homes and prepare the traditional vegetarian Onam dish- Onasadya or Onam Sadya. Apart from this feast, they make sure their pookalams are decorated.
  • Day 12: Avittom/ Third Onam: It is a sad day for the devotees because on this day, King Mahabali is set to depart. People immerse the clay pyramids in the rivers and wipe out the pookalams. Also in Thrissur, processions of decorated elephants with Mahabali on them takes place.
  • Day 13: Chathayam/ Fourth Onam: The celebration goes on for one more day. On this day, activities like snake boat race, Kerala Tourism Onam week and Tiger play or Pulikali take place. Tiger play is such an activity where people paint tiger faces on their belly and pose as a roaring tiger.

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Special Highlights of Onam Festival of Kerala

  • Hripunithura Athachamayam: In the streets of Tripunithura, you can witness a vivacious parade. Filled with vibrant colours, this procession is taken out with the belief that once King Mahabali walked from Tripunithura to Vamanamoorthy temple. People dressed in traditional attires, perform various folk-art forms of Kerala.
  • Onam Week: Onam Week is a programme under Kerala Tourism where the state government arranges a week-long celebration at various venues in Trivandrum. The celebration includes folk dances and songs, handicrafts fair, etc. Floats and beautifully decorated elephants are all included at the end of the week.
  • Thrikkakara Temple: Being the centre for Onam celebration in Kerala, Thrikkakara Temple marks the commencement of the festival in a subtle manner. The celebrations start with flag hoisting on Atham or the first day of celebration and goes on till 10 days. The major attraction here is the Pakalpooram- the main deity, Vamana, is carried around the temple grounds on decorated elephants. This is done before Thiru Onam.
  • Pulikali Tiger Play: Imagine men being dressed as tigers and dancing to the beats of drums. Yes! Pulikali tiger play is all about men being dressed as tigers and dancing their way out on streets of Kerala. And let me tell you that these performers get their body painted. Competitions are held for the best dressed tiger.
  • Snake Boat Race: Snake boat racing is one of the major tourist attractions in Kerala during Onam. On river Pampa, 50 boats take part in an exciting competition. Aranmula Snake Boat Race which concludes at the famous Aranmula Parthasarathy Temple also commemorates the installation of Lord Krishna in the shrine. This boat race is not just one of a kind but also the oldest kind.
  • Traditional Food in Onam: On the main day of Onam, every restaurant in Kerala will be thrilled to serve this traditional yet mouth-watering dish-Onasadya or Onam Sadya. Not just eat-inns but most of the houses also prepare this dish. Onam Sadya is the preparation of 26 food items served in a single sitting. Ranging from sweet to sour, mildly spicy to spicy, this is a traditional food which is served on a banana leaf. Therefore, having this food is a must-do during the Onam celebration.

The culturally rich country- India, has always been a hub for festivities. Every day there is a festival and people celebrate it with much enthusiasm but few festivals make you excited for their arrival. Onam is one must-see festival of Kerala and I am sure you would love to experience this grand celebration once or even twice or many times.

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Other Important Kerala Tourism Links

  • Popular Kerala Tour Packages
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  • Popular Fairs & Festivals in Kerala

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Frequently Asked Questions

Q.What are the dates for Onam festival in 2021?

Onam Festival Dates 2021: 12thAug to 23rd August

When is Onam Celebrated?

The popular festival of Kerala, Onam is celebrated on the day of Thiruvonam nakshatram (Shravana asterism) in the Malayalam calendar month of Chingam.

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