Onam is a Hindu festival observed by the people of Kerala. The festival is celebrated for 10 long days and marks the appearance of the Vamana avatar of Lord Vishnu and the return of the Legendary King Mahabali. It is believed that Emperor Mahabali comes from the Patal Lok once a year and visits the homes of all the Malayalis to meet his people. As per the Malayali calendar, Onam is celebrated in the Chingam month on the day of Thiruvonam nakshatra. This year, Onam falls on 21 August 2021.
History and Significance Of Onam
King Mahabali is very popular and is considered to be very kind and generous, despite being a demon. His ruling period is considered as the golden age in Kerala which is why his ‘return’ is celebrated with so much pomp and vigour. The legends of Vaishnava mythology state that King Mahabali defeated the gods and came into power by taking over the three worlds. Gods were worried about his popularity and sought Lord Vishnu’s help to win against the demon king. Since Mahabali was Vishnu’s avid devotee,
Lord Vishnu provided his support but didn’t take part in the battle. Therefore, he helped the gods by taking a Vamana avatar (dwarf Brahmin). He visited Mahabali and asked him to grant his 3 wishes. The Brahmin requested the property right over a piece of land that measures “three paces”, to which Mahabali agreed. The dwarf suddenly grew in size and covered everything Mahabali ruled over in just two steps. For the third step, Mahabali offered his head. Lord Vishnu was impressed by Mahabali’s devotion and good deeds and allowed him to return to earth once a year. That is this annual visit that is celebrated auspiciously as Onam.
Onam 2021 Date and Time
Onam 2021 Date – Saturday, August 21, 2021
Onam Nakshatra Begins – 09:25 PM on Aug 20, 2021
Onam Nakshatra Ends – 08:22 PM on Aug 21, 2021
Rituals and Celebration
Onam is the rice harvest festival of Kerala. The preparations for the celebration begin 10 days before the 3-day event. The women make Pookalam ie. different patterns of rangolis with flowers and lamps in their courtyards. They also prepare for a grand feast called ‘onasadya’. The feast consists of 13 delicious dishes. The preparations start 10 days ahead of the three prominent days. People make ‘flower mats’ known as Pookalam (a flower rangoli) in their courtyards. The dishes are served on banana leaves and contain rice and other dishes, papads and pickles. The famous sweet dish made during Onam is called ‘payasam’ which is greatly enjoyed by the people. Payasam is prepared using milk, rice, coconut and sugar.
Boat race or Vallamkali is also a common ritual during Onam celebrations. Hundreds of oarsmen compete with each other by rowing snake-shaped boats and huge cash rewards are offered to the winners. The celebrations also include unique games, music, a folk dance which is collectively named ‘Onakalikal’. The typical dance form during Onam is called Pulikali dance in which dancers specially painted in yellow and black resembling tigers are seen performing. The festival is celebrated with a lot of pomp and show with a variety of activities to show King Mahabali that his subjects are living a happy and prosperous life. Onam is a unique festival that unites people of all religions residing in the state. It spreads the message of unity and peace in society.
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