Onam, which essentially is a 10-day harvest festival is one of the biggest celebrations every malayali takes part in. Falling in the month of ‘Chingam’, the festival marks the commemoration of lord Vishnu’s Vamana avatar. Let’s take a look at the cultural and mythical  roots this festival has.

1.The Legend



According to folklore, Mahabali was a very kind and generous king who looked after his people well. Lord Vishnu, disguised himself as Vamana and asked him for 3 steps of land, to which the good king obliged. Vamana grew into cosmic proportions and in two steps covered the earth and the skies. The brahmin then placed the 3rd step on the king’s head, pusjing him into the nether world (patala). Legend has it that king Mahabali visited his subject every year since, on Onam.

2. Festival of rain flowers


The beginning of the festival is called Attam.  A special floral decoration called pookkalam is seen in front of every house.

3. Thiruvonam, the feast.


Onam is a festival famous for its food. Banana leaves are filled with hot piping dishes amounting to a sumptuous meal of 22-26 dishes. Followed by Payasam, make sure there’s place for desert.

4. Kaikotti kali, the dance.


The festival is also famous for  its traditional dance called kaikotti kali or also known as thiruvathira kali.

5. Onakkodi


Onakkodi, is the tradition of buying and wearing new clothes on onam.

6. Vallamkali, the snake boat race.


VallamKali is a traditional boat race in Kerala, celebrated during onam. It is a form of canoe racing, and uses paddled war canoes.

7. Maveli puja




A puja called Maveli Puja is performed during Onam. Three small sized figurines, made of red sand are erected, at the veranda of the households

8. Onathallu, the fight.


Onathallu is a barehanded mock fight which marks the advent of the onam season.

9. Onakazhcha



On the 9th day of the celebrations, the children  of each family present the fruits of their labour to which, they are rewarded with a sumptuous feast in return.

10. Ada Pradhaman, the desert.


Ada Pradhaman, (payasam made of rice ada, jaggery and coconut milk) is one of the best desserts ever made. It is an integral dish in every meal during the onam festival.



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