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The Spirit of Onam

Updated on August 18, 2010

August 23rd is Onam, the grandest festival celebrated in Kerala, India. It is a festival of flowers, colours, feasts, dances, games and moreover of togetherness and all-around merriment. It is mostly during this time that the Malayalis (People who speak the language Malayalam; Natives of Kerala) fly to their family home, wherever they are (ideally speaking). Indeed, it is a family event and without it the festival has no meaning whatsoever...(So if anybody reading this hub are thinking whether to make the trip to Kerala this year, don’t think twice, come home to your dear and near ones and make this opportunity to spend quality time with your family!)

Check out this video from a Malayalam movie “Raapakal”

Maybe people in cities and towns do not celebrate Onam that elaborately as seen in the video but surely there are many inevitable things related to Onam, such as Pookalam (carpet of flowers arranged on the floor). Even now, where people live in harmony with nature, flowers are plucked from the premises of the house itself, mostly by children. But in concrete jungles where many people live in flats and apartments it is not at all practical. Simple solution- buy flowers from market. Yes people, don’t let go of the spirit of Onam just because of some minor reason.

Oh, and there are even competitions for Pookalam...

Pookalam Competition
Pookalam Competition
Onam Sadya
Onam Sadya

Next is the sadya (feast). Yummmm! That almost sums it up! Rice with about umpteen curries (such as Parippu, Sambhar, Pulisseri, Rasam, Moru), side dishes (Avial, Thoran, Olan, pickles, Pappad) and desserts (Ada pradhaman, Semiya Payasam, Pazham Payasam) Onasadya is...well...a magnificent feast which is served on a banana leaf. No spoons or forks please!

All the dishes are (or were?) made at home and the women in the family found it the best way to spend some good time talking of this and that and working as a harmonious and industrious unit. Nowadays there is another option available which is to make reservations at a hotel and have a grand Sadya. Not as interesting as the first option, but people who do not cook or do not have the time should have a share of Onam too, don’t they?

There are several games (Thalapanthukali) and dances (Thiruvathira, Thumbithullal) associated with Onam, and to see them you need to go right to the heart of Kerala. I performed Thiruvathira once at school and it was so much fun! Ah, those good old days...


And this weekend (14th August 2010) my hubby is planning to see the famous Nehru Trophy Boat Race at Alappuzha, Kerala which is an exciting competition involving snake boats (Chundan valloms)! Hmm if he wishes to see it, he should be there early in the morning since it is sure going to be realllly crowded as always!

More info:

Another important thing associated with Onam is of course shopping!! You can’t even guess how many advertisements flood the newspapers, television and radio as soon as the Onam wind starts to blow... It is a superb time for businesses dealing in clothes, grocery, electrical and electronic appliances, gold (Oh Malayalis love gold!) and what-not’s!

Am I forgetting something? Ah, yes, why is Onam celebrated anyway? You see, once there was a great Asura (demon) king named Mahabali who was, unlike his kinsmen, very generous and kind. People liked him very much and respected him. However the Gods grew jealous of him and soon pleaded with Lord Vishnu, one among the Trinity, to help them get rid of him. Lord Vishnu then went to Mahabali disguised as Vaman, a Brahmin boy, and requested to grant him three feet of land. Since the king was very generous and three feet of land was next to nothing to him, he agreed wholeheartedly. At once, the boy grew in size and with two feet covered the whole universe. Seeing that there was no place left for the boy’s third feet, Mahabali asked him to place it on his head. Lord Vishnu presuming his true form pushed him down to the underworld. Pleased with his generosity, He also gave Mahabali a boon that he could visit his people once a year. And from then on, that day came to be celebrated as Onam.

Hope I have given you a taste of the beautiful festival of Onam. If you are a Keralite, don’t miss it for the world to celebrate it with your family and friends, no matter where you are. And if you are from any other part of the world, this is to let you know that there are some people in a little place called Kerala in India, who celebrate it, maybe not exactly in the traditional way, but with great enthusiasm.

Wish you a very happy and prosperous Onam!


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    • ezhuthukari profile image

      ezhuthukari 6 years ago from Kerala

      Thats cool akulkarni! Thank you

      Hope you had a great Onam kirandas

      I love this festival too triosol. Thank you for voting up! :-)

    • triosol profile image

      triosol 7 years ago

      love the Onam Feastival. Great Article. Voted up :)

    • profile image

      kirandas 7 years ago

      happy onam to all malayalis

    • ezhuthukari profile image

      ezhuthukari 7 years ago from Kerala

      Hi Prasetio. Visited your hub and found it very interesting! Thank you for voting this up.

    • prasetio30 profile image

      prasetio30 7 years ago from malang-indonesia

      Beautiful hub. You give us good information about this festival. I have wrote about" Weird Rain Phenomenon in The World" there's a blood rain in Kerala. Would you check my hub and give a comment. I am glad to wait you. Thanks. Vote this Up.


    • ezhuthukari profile image

      ezhuthukari 7 years ago from Kerala

      Happy Onam to you too Anamika!

    • Anamika S profile image

      Anamika S 7 years ago from Mumbai - Maharashtra, India

      I love the Onam Feast and Pookkalam. Wish you a Happy Onam!

    • ezhuthukari profile image

      ezhuthukari 7 years ago from Kerala

      i am eagerly awaiting Onam too! :-) Happy Onam to you too! Have a great time. Thank you for reading my hub

    • dinkan53 profile image

      dinkan53 7 years ago from India

      eagerly waiting for the onam sadya with all those variety dishes and the the sweety payasm....can't wait, still 2 weeks to go. nice photographs and well written hub. Happy Onam in advance Ezhuthukari.