The festival of Onam is celebrated every year at the beginning of Chingam, the first month of Solar Malayalam calendar (Kollavarsham). Onam signifies the annual harvest festival of Kerala. The festival is celebrated to commemorate the King Mahabali, whose spirit is said to visit Kerala at the time of Onam. There are four prominent days of Onam in which second day is the most important & is known as Thiru Onam or Thiruvonam “Sacred Onam Day”. The festivity commences for 10 days before Thiru Onam, on Atham.
The celebration of rituals includes Athachamayam, Pookkalam, Music and Dance, Pulikali (tiger dance), Vallamkali (Boat race), Onam Sadya, Post Onam celebration, and other customs. These rituals are celebrated according to the different days as per the Solar Malayalam calendar.
First Day: Attham
This day Mythical King Mahabali is believed to have started preparing to visit his kingdom in Kerala. Floral arrangements takes place this day, known as Pookkalam. It is a flower carpet of 10 rings each representing a Hindu God. A grand procession of Athachamayam marks the start of Onam celebrations near Kochi. On this occasion only yellow color flower is used.
Second Day: Chithra
This day brings in new clothes, jewelry and gifts. More layers are added to the Pookkalam with orange and creamy yellow flowers.
The special Onam meal is prepared with variants of ingredients. Also, Pookkalam design competitio¬n commences across Kerala.
Fourth Day: Anizham
Snake boat races kick off across the state. A mock race is held at Aranmula as a rehearsal to perform it on the main day of Onam.
Fifth Day: Thriketa
People start visiting their families and fresh flowers continue to be added to Pookkalam.
Sixth Day: Moolam
The festival of Onam is at the peak, the whole state is beautifully decorated. People also decorate swings with flowers to celebrate the king’s homecoming. At many places, smaller versions of traditions serve as Onam Sadya Onam meal.
Seventh Day: Pooradam
In the center of Pookkalam, a pyramid style clay statue is prepared known as Onathappan. It represents King Mahabali and Lord Vamana (fifth incarnation of Lord Vishnu who sent Mahabali once in a year to visit his kingdom). By, now Pookkalam is greatly grown in size and complexity of the design.
Eighth Day: First Onam or Uthradom
This day represents as Onam Eve. The day is celebrated on the occasion of the arrival of Lord Mahabali in Kerala. Also, the day is considered as the auspicious day for the buying of fresh fruits and vegetables.
Ninth Day: Second Onam or Thiruvonam
It is the main day of the Onam celebration. As on this day, it is said that King Mahabali visits people’s home. Pookkalam is finally constructed, all wear new dresses and families gather to enjoy the vegetarian feast known as Onam Sadya.
Tenth Day: Third Onam or Avvittom
Preparation undertakes for king Mahabali’s departure. Onathappan statues are immersed in the sea or rivers and Pookkalam are cleared and removed.
Eleventh Day: Fourth Onam or Chatayam
It is a post-Onam celebration that is been held for a few more couple of days after third Onam. Activities like Snake Boat Races, Pulikali Tiger Play and Kerala Tourism’s Onam week program are been held.
Onam is an auspicious festival of Keralites. For these ten days, the state appears to be dressed up like a bride. It is one of the most awaited festivals which is celebrated with cheerfulness and happiness.