Time is ripe to take an Onam holiday in Kerala. Yes, the 10-day harvest festival is round the corner. It is still not too late to book a flight to Thiruvananthapuram or any other destination in the state and experience the fervor of festivities in person.
Onam – Kerala’s state festival – is also promoted by the government. It is celebrated by Kerala natives the world over. The festivities last for 10 days with grand events organized by Kerala Tourism as well as by the locals. A trip to Kerala during Onam is the perfect way to experience the state’s traditions and customs and do something different other than visit the backwaters, beaches, and the Ayurvedic therapy centers.
Events and Festivities
One global online event is the Pookkalam (floral arrangement) competition. Anyone who is interested in this event can participate by checking the details on the official Kerala Tourism website.
Also expect Vallam Kali or Vallamkali (boat races) during the festival. The famous Nehru Trophy Boat Race will be held this year on 4th September. So, if you are taking an Onam holiday in Kerala, you can go to Alappuzha district to witness the excitement in action. If you are planning to land in the state for this boat race alone, you can take a flight to Kochi (the nearest airport). Usually, this race occurs in the middle of August. But this year it is held during Onam. The festival usually has other boat races too. For instance, the fifth day of Onam is usually reserved for this activity.
The Legend and the Traditions
Onam is a harvest festival. But it is also a homecoming and welcome for the mythical King Mahabali. It is believed that every year during Onam King Mahabali visits the land from the underworld.
Onam days are named differently. For instance, the first day is the Atham, the second day is Chithira. Atham is when the floral rangolis are first made. As the festival progresses, the arrangement grows in size as more flowers are added to it. The second day is dedicated to cleaning the houses. Chodi, the third day, is for giving and receiving of gifts. Vishakam, the fourth day, is the day when feast preparations begin. It is also the day for competitions. The famous Puli Kali (tiger dances) are also usually held on the fourth day. The fifth day, the Anizham is usually for the boat races. Thriketa or the sixth day is when the festival excitement begins to peak. The schools begin to close down and people start gearing up for the rest of the vibrant festivities. Dances begin on Moolam, the seventh day. Pooradam or the eighth day is usually when the cleaning of Mahabali’s statues takes place. Uthradom or the ninth day is when the myth states King Mahabali returns to Kerala.
The last day is the Thiruvonam when people partake in Onasadya or Onam Sadhya – the traditional feast eaten on banana leaves. It consists of 25 or more dishes and the feast is a symbol of prosperity. Some of the dishes in the traditional feast are olan, pachadi, thoran, avial, payasam, rasam, kaalan, parippu etc. The feast includes fragrant pickles, crisp banana chips, and the good old banana as well.
Every day is filled with cultural events and competitions. If you are in Kerala during Onam, you can be in the midst of all that is associated with the region and immerse yourself in the state’s traditions. This year, the government is planning initiatives where tourists can partake in feasts with the locals. Such plans are not only exciting for the locals but also offer something distinct to tourists.
The dates of Onam, just like any other Hindu festival, change every year. In 2022, the festival will commence on 30th August and end on 8th September. This year the festivities are more special as the grand celebrations will be held after a period of two years of muted festivities. COVID had intruded into Onam as well just as it did into everything across the world. You can take an Onam Holiday in Kerala in the latter half of the 10-day celebrations if taking off for 10 days at a time is a stretch.
Visit Kerala during Onam when the air is infused with the fragrance of vibrant marigold. Take flights to Kerala via Indian Eagle if you are a visitor from the US. You can reach all major destinations in the state via trains and flights from major cities in India.
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