Onam in India – Date, History, Importance & Celebration

Onam is a very famous festival India celebrated especially in Kerala with huge enthusiasm. It is the harvest festival that falls during the months of August/September annually. As the Malayali calendar suggests, festival falls in the month of Chingam on the 22nd Nakshatra Thiruvonam, and marks the beginning of Malayalam year, called Kolla Varsham.

Onam begins on the day known as Atham, and ends on the tenth day, known as Thiru Onam or Thiruvonam. It is celebrated to honour the loved and kind-hearted demon King Mahabli, who is believed to return to Kerala during this festival period.Onam in India – Date, History, Importance & Celebration

Onam in India – Date, History, Importance & Celebration

Digging deep into the Vaishnava mythology, it is believed that King Mahabali defeated the Gods and began to rule all the three worlds. King Mahabali is considered to be demon king who belonged to Asura tribe. But people loved this kind-hearted king and Gods got insecure of King Mahabali’s popularity. Due to these incidents Lord Vishnu stepped in. Lord Vishnu took his fifth-avatar, in the form of Brahmin dwarf Vamana, and paid visit to King Mahabali. King Mahabali enquired and asked Vamana what he wished for, in response to this, Vamana said, “three pieces of land”. When Vamana was granted his wish, he grew in size, first he covered the sky and then the netherland.

When Lord Vishnu was about to take his third place, King Mahabali recognised him and offered him his own head to the God. This impressed Lord Vishnu so much that he granted Mahabali a right to visit his kingdom and people every year during the months of August/September. That’s why we celebrated onam.

Festival Date in India

Onam date 2019: September 1 – September 13

Onam date 2020: August 22 – September 2

Onam date 2021: August 21

On the tenth-day which is also the main day, festivities include devotees bathing, offering prayers, wearing traditional clothes. However, women of the household wear Kasavu. Kasavu refers to a white and gold traditional saree worn by women during celebrations. They also participate in dance performances, draw flower rangolis called pookkallam and cook traditional feasts called sadya served on a banana leaf. People also celebrate Onam by taking part in boat races called Vallam, Tiger dances called Pulikali, worship the God or Onathappam, Tug of war, Mask dance or Kummattikali,Onathallu or martial arts, Onavillu/music, Onapottan (costumes).

Sadya which is the traditional Onam feast is a 9-course meal which consists of 26 dishes including Kalan (a sweet potato and yam coconut curry dish), Olan (white gourd dipped in coconut curry), Avial (seasonal vegetables in coconut curry), Kootu curry (dish made of chickpeas), rasam (dish like soup made with tomato and pepper) and favourite of all the dessert, Parippu payasam (rice kheer).

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Onam is celebrated worldwide by Malayali diaspora notables in United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, France.

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