Onam Festival

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Onam is a most famous and cultural Hindu festival and celebrated every year as a state festival of Kerala by the people of southern state (Kerala, India). It is a festival when people enjoy 4 days State holidays (starts on Onam Eve called as Uthradom and ends on 3rd Onam Day). It is celebrated with big enthusiasm and major celebrations in the cities like Kottayam, Kochi, Thrissur, Trivandrum, etc. This festival is the indication of Malayalam culture and celebrated as a tourism week by the state government of Kerala.

It is celebrated to commemorate the Vamana avatara of Lord Vishnu and falls every year in the month of Malayalam (called Chingam, August or September). Another reason behind celebrating it is the homecoming of mythical King Mahabali (king of Malayalees). It is the harvest festival considered as the reminiscent of agrarian past of Kerala.

It is a ten days long National Festival of Kerala starts on Atham (first day) and ends on Thiruonam (tenth day). People of Kerala show the rich culture of their state while celebrating the carnival with the activities like arranging feasts, elegant dances, folk songs, energetic games, elephants, boats and flowers, etc. A big crowd of domestic and foreign tourists visit the state of Kerala and celebrate Onam.

The word Onam was originated from a Sanskrit word (Shravanam, one of the 27 Nakshatars). The celebration of Thiruvonam in the South India is believed as the Nakshatra of Lord Vishnu (who forced the King Mahabali to come under his foot).


Onam festival 2019 would be celebrated by the people of Kerala state from 1st September, Sunday to 13th September, Friday.


Onam festival is celebrated by the people of Kerala in the belief of homecoming of the greatest King Mahabali. He was the grandson of Prahlad (son of Hiranyakashyap who was killed by the Lord Vishnu in his Narasimha Avatara) and considered as the great king of Kerala. He ruled underworld by getting order of Lord Vishnu and visited his subjects one time in a year which is now celebrate as Onam. Mahabali was a great devotee of Lord Vishnu from his childhood because of his grandfather.

Once he decided to conquer all the three loka under the guidance of his guru Shukracharya and became a big threat to the Devas. In order to save the reign of devas, Lord Vishnu approached him to teach that almighty is still above him. He believed that he has become a most powerful demon king and a only ruler of all the three worlds. Once he was performing Aswamedha Yagam or Viswajith Yagam on the bank of Narmada River in Brugacham to be more powerful and get weapons to defeat Indra in order to win three worlds. He declared that he can give anything to anyone during this Yagam.

In order to take advantage of his declaration, Lord Vishnu reached to him in his Vamana avatar. He warm welcomed the little Brahman boy and said to ask anything however, Vamana smiled and said that: “I do not ask for anything great. All I need is land equivalent to three paces of my feet”. He was warned by his guru, Shukracharya that this Brahmin boy is not an ordinary Brahmin however he simply laughed and allowed Vamana to measure three paces of land. By measuring three paces of land Lord Vishnu measured whole earth in one step, heaven in the second step and there was no land left for third step. Then Mahabali requested to put final step on his head to get third step of land. In this way Lord Vishnu became successful in saving the reign of devas and sending demon back to the underworld. The place where Vamana placed his foot became famous as the village of Thrikkakara and now as the centre of Onam festival celebration.

King Mahabali was booned by the Lord Vishnu for his devotion and granted to rule over the underworld as well as hold position of Indra for one Manvantara. He was also granted permission by the Lord to visit his subjects once a year. So, people of Kerala celebrate this festival to commemorate King Mahabali.

Another belief of celebrating this festival is, Parasurama (incarnation of Lord Vishnu) who have founded the Kerala. It is believed that he saved Kerala from sea-bed by throwing his battle-axe which was travelled from Gokarnam to Kanyakumari (North to South).


According to the Malayalam Calendar, Onam festival falls in the first month of Chingam. Onam celebration starts on the first day of Malayalam new year and run for next ten days. Lots of ritual, traditional and cultural activities takes place by the people of all over the state of Kerala. Ten days long harvest festival is celebrated with Royal Parade (showing Kerala culture with more than 50 floats and 100 tableaus) on Atham Day in Thripunithara. Vamanamoorthy Thrikkakara temple in the Kochi City becomes the centre of celebration (considered as ancient capital of Mahabali and currently dedicated to Lord Vamana).

People wear new clothes while celebrating the Onam festival to make a festive mood and consider the prosperous and truthful life of the people during the time of Mahabali reign. The importance of having new clothes is making heart clean new by removing all the bad thoughts and feelings. A ten days long festival starts on the first day called Atham and ends on tenth day called Thiru-Onam (or Thiruvonam). Some of the great rituals which people perform while celebrating the festival are:

  • They decorate a floral carpet (called as Onapookkalam) made up several varieties of flowers. People in other regions make Rangoli of colourful powders. They make a small pandal and decorate with garlands.
  • Pookalam made on the first day (Atham day) is called as Atthapookalams. Earlier it was prepared using 10-flowers (called as Dashapushpam) however nowadays varieties of colourful flowers are used.
  • They make square pyramids using clay which represents Mahabali and Vamana in the dung-plastered courtyard along with the Pookalam. Such beautiful floral designs represent the earlier cultural and social aspects of the life in Kerala. There is huge Pookalam competitions start all over the Kerala from the first day till thiruvonam.
  • Onam sadya (also called feast) is another important ritual performed on Thiruvonam. It contains almost 26 dishes (including banana chips, Papadum, vegetable curries like Thoran, Avial, Mezhukkupuratti, Olan, Sambhar, Kaalan, Dal with ghee, Erisheri, buttermilk, Rasam, Pickles, chutney with grated coconut, Payasam, etc) and served on plantain leaves to the people. There is a great importance of feast and every people must eat Onam lunch even after being in any problem. A common saying is said about Onam feast that “Kaanam Vittum Onam Unnanam” means “One must have the Onam lunch even one is forced to sell his property”.