If you have been on the lookout for reasons to visit South India, especially the state of Kerala, it would be wise to book your tickets for the end of August and plan a stay for ten days in this state. Kerala, often known as the most fertile state in the country, celebrates an ancient harvest festival at this time. As the rains withdraw and the beginnings of autumn come around, it is a time of celebrations in Kerala. At this time, the festival of Onam is celebrated here. The festival has a rich legend behind it. Held in the month of Chingam as per the Malayalam calendar, it marks the homecoming of the mythical king called Mahabali. Interestingly, this mythical king was considered to rule this region in mythical times and every year this period is celebrated as his homecoming to bless the region with fertility and prosperity.
Onam is a festival of colors and there are different kinds of traditional celebrations that mark the entire Onam festival. The main day of Onam falls on 7th September this year but the festivities will start from the 29th of August. On this day, the Athachamayam festival is held when there are street parades with decorated elephants, musicians and floats with traditional Kerala costumes and art forms. The Maharaja of Kochi used to begin the festivities by marching from Tripunithura till the Vamanamoorthy Temple located in Thrikkakara. The whole town is decorated with floral arrangements in every home, street stalls and lighting’s across town.
There are week-long celebrations that are organized across Kerala by the state government. If you put up in the state capital, Trivandrum, you will get to see various shows of classical dance, folk art, drama, handicraft fairs and food stalls. The week long celebrations begin with street parades complete with decorated elephants and floats. If you are planning your Kerala trip, be sure to visit Trivandrum between September 5th to 11th and attend the events held at the Vellar Tourist Village.
No festival is complete without grand feasts and that is a special feature of Onam as well. The festival feast referred to as Onasadya, consists of more than twenty different curries which are served on banana leaf. There are several restaurants that offer the festive meals as special packages in the different towns in Kerala at this time.
Do not miss the snake boat races that are a highlight of the Onam festival. Held at the Pampa river in Aranmula near the Parthasarthy temple, the boat race is held to commemorate Lord Vishnu’s incarnation whose idol is installed at the temple. Another unique and fun element of Onam festival is the Pulikkali tiger play which is held at the Swaraj Round in Thrissur. In this street festival, hundreds of grown men paint themselves as tigers and dance around. Their dance as well as their costumes are judged as a part of the competition.
Thus, from religious to cultural aspects, Onam brings out the best and the most unique elements of the Kerala state. It is a festival to experience and many people visit Kerala to be a part of the celebrations every year.