Onam the festival of Kerala

Onam Festival is celebrated in the beginning of the first month of Malayalam Calendar (Kolla Varsham) called Chingam . This month corresponds to August-September in Gregorian Calendar and Bhadrapada or Bhadon in Indian (Hindu) Calendar.
The celebration of Onam as a national festival was taken up on Government initiative in Kerala in 1961.The celebrations start formally on the day of Atham asterism. Onam has certain social aspects. It provides an occasion for the family get-together for the Keralites. The head of the family presents clothes as gift (Onapudava) to the junior members, servants and tenants. DAYS OF ONAM
Atham-------Day One Chithir--------Day Two Chodhi--------Day Three Visakam------Day Four Anizham------Day Five Thriketa------Day Six Moolam-------Day Seven Pooradam --- Day Eight Uthradam ----Day Nine Thiruvonam - Day Ten
Onam carnival continues for ten days, starting from the day of Atham and culminating on Thiru Onam. Atham and Thiru Onam are the most important days for Onam festivities. The day of Atham is decided by the position of stars. Onam festival commences from lunar asterism (a cluster of stars smaller than a constellation) Atham (Hastha) that appears ten days before asterism Onam or Thiru Onam. Atham is regarded as auspicious and holy day by people of Kerala. Thiru Onam corresponds to the Shravan day in the month of August or September, hence it is also called Sravanotsavam.
Onam is the biggest and the most important festival of Kerala. Festivities of Onam continue for ten long days. From atham to thiruvonam.
Rituals for the Atham Day Main feature of this day is that making of Pookalam or the flower carpet starts from this day. Atha Poo is prepared in the front courtyard by girls of the house to welcome the spirit of King Mahabali in whose honour Onam is celebrated. Boys play a supporting role and help in gathering flowers. In the following days, more flowers are added to Pookalam. As a result Pookalam turns out to be of massive size on the final day.
Rituals for the ninth day-Utradam On the Utradamday tenants and depends of Tharawads give presents to Karanavar , the eldest member of the family. These presents are usually the produce of their farms consisting of vegetables, coconut oil, plantains etc. This gift from the villagers to Karanavar on Onam are called 'Onakazhcha' . A sumptuous treat is offered is offered by Karanavar in return for Onakazhcha.
Thiruvonam Kerala appears in its grandiose best on this day. Cultural extravaganza, music and feasts add colours of merriment and joy to the God's Own Country. There are celebrations all around the state and everybody takes active participation in them; Onam has assumed a secular character and is celebrated by people of all religions and communities. On the day of Thiruvonam conical figures in various forms are prepared from sticky clay and are painted red. These are decorated with a paste made of rice-flour and water and are placed in the front court yard and other important places in the house. Some of these clay figures are in the shape of cone and others represent figures of Gods. Those in the shape of a cone are called, 'Trikkakara Appan'. Trikkara is also said to be the capital in the reign of legendary King Maveli.
The Feast - Onasadya After completing the morning rituals, it is time for the family to get ready for the grand meal called Onasadya the meal is served to all present. The elaborate meal consists of 11 to 13 strictly vegetarian dishes and is served on banana leaves. There is a fixed order of serving the meal and a set place to serve the various dishes on the leaf.
Plantain Chips
PayasamUsually a banana leaf is used as the plate. All the curries (pickles through pachadi) are served on the leaf. Then the main dish, rice, is served. The first course is parippu, butter and pappadam. The next course is sambar over rice. Next comes the payasam, which is not mixed with the rice. Rasam and then pulissery over rice follows. The feast is completed with serving the yogurt over the rice. Optionally a banana may also be served with the feast.
Dances and Games After the grand meal, it's time for people to indulge in recreational activities and enjoy the festival. Men of strength and vigour go in for rigorous sports while senior and sober members pass time by playing indoor games like chess and cards. There is a set of traditional games to be played on Onam which are collectively called, Onakalikal . Onam is a festival of total celebration and geity with lots of games a few of them are
Pookalam is a colourful arrangement of flowers on the floor. Tradition of decorating Pookalam is extremely popular in Kerala and is followed as a ritual in every household during ten-day-long(Atham to Thiruvonam)Onam celebrations. Various flowers are used on each day as a specific flower is dedicated to each day of Onam. Commonly used flowers include Thumba , Kakka Poovu, Thechipoovu, Mukkutti , Chemparathy , Aripoo or Konginipoo , Hanuman Kireedom and Chethi . Of all these flowers, Thumba flowers are given more importance in Pookalam as they are small in size and glitter in the the soft rays of the sun.
Onam Games (Onakalikal)When the meals are over, members of the family used to participate in the games. There are both in-door and out door games and recreations. The older and more sedate members of the family have a game of chess, dice or cards. The younger and the more robust join in the noisy merry-making outside. The outdoor recreations consist of
Talappanthukali, Kayyankali, Archery or Ambeyyal, Kutukutu, others like Pulikali, Kummattikali, Thumbi Thullal, Kaikotti kali and the Vallam kali etc.
The foot-ball or 'Talappanthukali' is par-excellence the game for Onam. Pantukali is the most important out-door game. The ball is made by wrapping up layers of dried-up plantain leaves with some pebbles inside for giving the required weight and the whole thing is tied up with plantain fiber or coconut fiber to the size of a tennis ball.
Combats are of two kinds, those that are undertaken singly and those held in batches. The first is known as Kayyankali and the second as Attakalam. Kayyankali is a combat and an extremely violent one. Men of strength play it on the occasion of Onam. To play Kayyankali men fight one-to-one without using any weapon and the stronger man wins. Attakalam is the second combat game played on the occasion of Onam. The first being 'Kayyankali'. Attakalam is less dangerous and aggressive of the two. The other difference between the two combats is that while Attakalam is played in batches, Kayyankali is played singly.
Archery or Ambeyyal as it is popularly called in Kerala, is one of the many games played on the occasion of Onam. The game tests the skill and patience of a player and is played by men.
Kutukutu is a popular and entertaing game played during the festival of Onam. It is a fun game and very much like the popular game of Kabaddi played in several parts of India. Though simple in nature, the game is an extremely challenging one as it tests strength, speed, tact and the power of lungs of a player.
Kummattikali A mask dance popular in North Kerala. The dancers go dancing from house to house. The Major Kummati Character is Thalla or Witch while others represent the various deities of the Vedic pantheon. Songs are basically devotional and are normally accompanied by a bow like instrument called Ona-Villu. Spectators generally join in the performances as no training is required in this art. 'Kummattikali' is one of the famous folk dances associated with temples. This mask dance is associated with the Devi temples in Palghat district and is a secular art form. Kummatti dancers wear brightly painted wooden masks and don a costume made of leaves and grass. They go from house to house, singing and dancing, during the Onam festival. Kaikottikalli
Kaikottikali, also known as thiruvathirakali, is a very popular, graceful and symmetric group-dance of the women of Kerala often performed during festive seasons like Thiruvathira and Onam. It is a simple and gentle dance with the lasya element predominating, even though the thandava part is also brought in occasionally, when men also participate as seen in some parts of the Malabar area. Typically dressed in Kerala style with mandu and neriyathu and the hairbun bedecked with jasmine garlands the women dance in gay abandon, singing melodious Thiruvathira songs which are well-reputed for their literary flourish. One of the performers sing the first line of a song while the rest repeat it in chorus, clapping their hands in unison. Moving in a circle, clockwise and at time anticlockwise, at every step they gracefully bend sideways, the arms coming together in beautiful gestures, upwards and downwards and to either side, in order to clap.
Thumbi Thullal
Thumbi Thullal is a folk dance performed by a group of women who sit in the formation of a circle. The lead performer sits inside the circle and initiates the song. Some women also perform the clap dance dressed in their best clothes and ethnic jewelry. While men engage themselves in energetic sports, womenfolk perform Thumbi Thullal and have their share of fun. Wearing their best sarees, stunning jewelery and fragrant gajras, a group of women sit in the formation of circle to play Thumbi Thullal. In the centre of the circle sits the main performer. Lead singer initiates a song in her melodious voice by singing the first couplet which is taken up by other women. The sequence continues song after song with the lead singer initiating the couplet every time followed by a chorus from other women. Joyful clap dance also goes on in rhythm with the singing.
One of the main attractions of Onam, is the 'Vallamkali' or boat races of Karuvatta, Payippad, Aranmula and Kottayam. Hundreds of oarsmen row traditional boats to the rhythm of drums and cymbals. These long graceful Snake Boats called 'Chundans' are named after their exceedingly long hulls and high sterns that resemble the raised hood of a cobra. Then there are 'Odis', the small and swift raiding crafts adorned with gold tasseled silk umbrellas, the 'Churulans' with their elaborately curled prows and sterns, and the 'Veppus', a kind of cook-boat. This traditional village rivalry on watercrafts reminds one of ancient naval warfare. Thousands throng the banks to cheer and watch the breathtaking show of muscle power, rowing skills and rapid rhythm. These boats - all pitted against their own kind - rip through the backwaters of Kerala in a tussle of speed.
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