Onam: Date, History, Significance, and best places to visit

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Last Updated on September 8, 2022

The festival of Onam generally falls in the month of August or September every year and it is celebrated all over India, especially in the Southern parts. Onam is the most important festival of Kerala and it also marks the beginning of the Malayalam New Year. This year’s Onam is quite significant as people will get a chance to celebrate it without any kind of restriction as the pandemic norms have been eased. Each and every festival has its own history and significance due to which it is dear to the people who celebrate it. Let us see the historical importance of this festival and how it is celebrated across India.

History of Onam

Historically speaking, King Mahabali was one of the greatest rulers of Kerala and if ancient texts are to be believed, then during the reign of Mahabali, the people of Kerala enjoyed the best time. One day, Lord Vishnu went to the king and asked for a piece of land where he could keep just his three steps. The King agreed to the request of Lord Vishnu but then Vishnu grew in size and covered all his land in just two steps. 

When Lord Vishnu asked where should he keep his third step, Mahabali offered that the Lord can place his third foot on his head. Lord Vishnu was quite impressed with the devotion of king Mahabali and while placing his step on his head and sending him below the earth, he also gave him a blessing that Mahabali would be able to visit his kingdom once a year. Therefore, every year the people of Kerala celebrate the homecoming of King Mahabali on the day of Onam. 

Significance

onam

Onam festival is also the time of rice harvesting and it symbolizes the homecoming of king Mahabali. This festival marks the beginning of the Malayalam New Year, Kollavarsham and it is celebrated for 10 days.

Date

Starts- 30th August

Ends- 8th September

How is Onam celebrated?

There are various rituals associated with this festival and these rituals start 10 days before the actual day of Onam. Many people take bath in the holy river and offer prayers. Women in Kerala wear white saris and decorate themselves with various items. There is also a tradition of organizing dance performances, making rangolis, and preparing special dishes. The food is offered on banana leaves during this period of ten days. 

The most important event of this festival is the snake boat race which attracts thousands of people from across the country. In this event, hundreds of boats take part and compete against one another. Martial arts performances are also organized in various parts of Kerala.

Best places to visit in Kerala for Onam

Trivandrum

At the time of celebration, Trivandrum is beautifully decorated and it looks quite beautiful during the night. The streets, buildings, and other structures are decorated beautifully by the lights and the scene is completely mesmerizing. If you know someone at Trivandrum, then your stay is going to be amazing as the locals know the best way to celebrate this festival. Also, you get to taste the special delicacies prepared at home and enjoy various religious and cultural activities during this time. The nearest airport is the Thiruvananthapuram International airport and the nearest railway station is the Trivandrum Central railway station. 

Palakkad

At this particular place, a special kind of event is held which is known as Onathallu. This is a kind of wrestling sport that is very famous in the state of Kerala and people from all over the state come here to enjoy this event. Here, in this sport, two contestants participate and wrestle with one another to win the game. The winner of this competition gets appreciation from the crowd along with a reward. The nearest railway station to Palakkad is Palakkad Junction and the nearest airport is the Coimbatore International Airport.

Alleppey

Alipay which is also known as Alappuzha is one of the best destinations to visit in Kerala during the Onam festival. This place is famous for its houseboat experiences where you forget about the chaos of your daily life in the middle of the backwaters. Here, you also get an opportunity to quench your thirst for mouthwatering delicacies. The nearest airport to Allepey is the Cochin International Airport and the nearest railway station is the Alappuzha railway station.

Thrissur

This is a very popular tourist destination in Kerala and at the time of Onam, a large number of people gather from all over India to witness the celebration of this festival. Some of the important highlights of the Onam celebration at Thrissur include the tiger dance, Puli Kali dance, etc. The tiger dance takes place at Swaraj Round where hundreds of men dressed up as tigers, dance to the beats of traditional musical instruments. The nearest airport to Thrissur is the Cochin International Airport and the nearest railway station is Thrissur Railway Station.

Ernakulam

The unique thing about the celebration of the Onam festival at Ernakulam is that it includes a showcase of many kinds of traditional artworks, parades on the streets, many musicians and dancers performances, etc. People buy new clothes and thousands of lamps are lit during this festival, making it look like a Diwali celebration. The most important place at Ernakulam is Thripunithura which is known for its unique kind of celebration of this festival. People gather at Layam Ground for various cultural events which continue for 10 days. The nearest airport to Ernakulam is the Cochin International airport and the nearest railway station is the Ernakulam Junction.

Kannur

At Kannur, the festival of Onam is celebrated as a special kind of ritual known as Theyyam. Theyyam is also called Kaliyattam and in this traditional dance, music is combined as a part of the worship. The people who perform in Theyyam are generally from lower castes and other people seek the blessings of these performers as they are considered Gods during this time. The nearest airport to Kannur is the Mangalore airport and the nearest railway station is the Kannur Junction.

Aranmula

The reason why most people come to Aranmula during the Onam celebration is the famous snake boat racing event. Hundreds of boots compete against one another to win the competition and the sight is nail-biting and jaw-dropping, making you jump from your seat. Chengannur is the nearest railway station to Aranmula and the nearest airport is Trivandrum airport.

Thrikkakara Temple, Kochi

There is only one temple that has been dedicated to Vamana, the dwarf-like avatar of Lord Vishnu. The celebration of Onam at Thrikkakara Temple is quite special as it has various legends associated with it and more than 10,000 devotees reach this temple to be part of this festival. The temple is located in Ernakulam district and the festival begins on the day of the Atham by lighting a lamp in the front yard of the temple and concludes on the tenth day of Thiru Onam without special rituals, pooja along with a grand feast.

Also, read our article: Best places to visit in Kerala

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Frequently asked questions about Onam

What is the most important part of the Onam festival?

Onam Sadya, where a grand feast is organized is considered to be the best part of this festival where 25 different types of dishes are prepared and served on a banana leaf.

What does Onam symbolize?

The festival of Onam marks the beginning of harvest season in the state of Kerala and it also commemorates the return of King Mahabali back to his home.

Which dance is performed during the Onam festival?

Types of dance performances are organized across the state during the festival of Onam and some of them are Kathakali, Kaikottikali, Thumbi Thullal, Chavittukali, etc.

 For how many days Onam festival is celebrated?

 The festival of Onam is a 10-day ritual were the last day which is known as Thiruvonam is considered to be the most important day. On this day, a grand feast is organized where more than 25 dishes are prepared and then served on a banana leaf.

 Why is the festival of Onam celebrated only by the Kerala lights?

 It is similar to the reason of Chhath Puja is celebrated only by the people of Bihar. The rice growing season in Kerala is different from other parts of India as the state receives early monsoon and therefore, rice is harvested earlier than in the rest of India.


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