In India, harvest festivals are celebrated to please the god and goddess of agriculture, seek divine blessings for agricultural prosperity, and pray for household opulence. The festival is called different names in different states of India – Pongal in Tamil Nadu, Nabanna in Bengal, Bihu in Assam, Lohri & Baisakhi in Punjab and Onam in Kerala. The harvest festival is a religious cum cultural cum culinary celebration in the agrarian society of India.
Onam festival of Kerala is scheduled to be celebrated from August 20 till August 31 this year. The ‘Malay’ people of Kerala are busy preparing for the celebration. Fly to Kerala and you will surely feel the aura of this upcoming festival in the air all over. The state, as popularly known as God’s Own Country, showcases its cultural best on 10 days of the festivity. Some NRIs born and brought up in the US and Canada are not familiar with the ways of Onam festival celebration in Kerala.
Some legends – historical and mythological – are associated with the origin of Onam harvest festival. So, the festivity is a celebration of the Malay community’s faith in the legends, and their unique cultural identity too. Indian Eagle shares some interesting details and visuals of Onam Festival in Kerala.
Pookalam or flower mat is a gripping visual of Onam Festival celebration in the households across the state. It is a beautiful collage made with flowers of different colors in courtyards or on the floor of large rooms. Pookalam is the very first emblem of festivity to greet your eyes once you step into a household. It is no less than an artwork for its flowery beauty. Fresh flowers are arranged to make Pookalam in the morning, on each day of the celebration. Pookalam is a subject of competition among households in some parts of the state. As per the legends of Kerala, the flower mat is believed to welcome King Mahabali on the festive days of Onam.
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Onam Sadya, the culinary flavor of Kerala, is the blend of the state’s culinary culture and festive celebrations. This festival menu of Onam is a delectable spread of rice and various vegetable delicacies, cooked in the same traditional way as in the regular kitchens of Kerala. Guests are served Onam Sadya on plantain or banana leaves. The festival menu includes 11 – 13 dishes, of which Payasam (a sweet dish) marks the end of the feast. The locals relish Pasyasam with special fondness.
Also Read – Legends and Cultural Facets of Onam Sadya
With Thiruvathira Kali, a kind of folk dance in Kerala, Onam festival is a cultural celebration too. Women, clad in the traditional attire that is mainly kasavu saree with golden red or green border, perform the Onam dance around a lamp or Pookalam on the floor. Women make a circle around the lamp or flower decoration and move at a slow pace to the tune of some folk music. Kumattikali, Pullikali, Kaikotikali and Thumbi Thullal are the folk dance forms that the women of Kerala perform gracefully.
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Kathakali & Pullikali
Among the performing arts of Kerala, Kathakali & Pullikali are part of the Indian cultural heritage. Professional dancers perform these dance forms in different parts of the state on the days of Onam celebration. The popularity of Kathakali is at its zenith not only in Kerala but also all over the country. With international level performers, it has gone global too. Pullikali is a masked dance performance in which dancers dress like tigers. The end of the celebration is marked with Pullikali.
It is a boat race, locally known as Vallamkali, which makes Onam festival celebration a cultural extravaganza. Driven by hundreds of oarsmen, the boats compete with each other and run at a break-neck speed on the backwaters. The snake boat race on the Pampa River makes a marvelous spectacle with gripping visuals hanging all over the river. The people of other religions and cultures fly to Kerala in order to witness the grandness of snake boat races during Onam festival celebrations.
Kerala’s Onam celebration is a homecoming occasion for the overseas Malayali community. They can book cheap flight tickets to Kochi from USA on IndianEagle.com, a most trusted travel-booking partner of Indians in America for more than 15 years.