Onam is a ten-day harvest festival celebrated in Kerala. It is celebrated at the beginning of the month of Chingam which the first month of the Malayalam Calendar. It starts from Atham, the first day, till Thiru Onam, the tenth and the most important day.
The Legend of Onam
The story behind the celebration of Onam is related to the mighty and prosperous demon king, Mahabali. The Gods felt threatened by Mahabali’s popularity. He was overpowered by the Gods but he granted a boon. He could visit his people only once a year and that day is celebrated as Onam every year.
The Maveli Puja
This puja is performed on the ninth day (Uthradam) and the tenth day of the celebration. For the puja floral carpets known as Pookalam are made in intricate designs using flowers of various colours. The Pookalam is made specially to welcome the King Maveli’s spirit. For the puja three figurines of red sand are erected for being worshipped. The rituals start from early morning after the family members take their baths and appear before the deities in their new clothing.
The other activities of the people of Kerala involve preparations for the grand feast, Onasadya. It is a nine course meal and for which near about 13 dishes are being prepared. Families and relatives get together to feast on the floor. The foods are eaten on banana leaves.
Then there are performers known as Pulikali who dress themselves as wild animals and tigers and enact actions of hunting to entertain the crowd of people. Women perform the clap dance Kaikotikalli. The famous snake boat race event known as Vallamkali is also part of the Onam celebrations. Other sports like a ball game named Talappanthukali, Kutukutu, Ambeyyal (archery) and the combats of Attakalam and Kayyankali are some of the rigorous sports that form part of the Onam celebrations.
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