Onam is a Hindu religious festival, mainly observed by the people of Kerala with great joy and gaiety. The festival is celebrated for 10-long days and marks the appearance of the Vamana Avatar of Lord Vishnu and the return of the Legendary King Mahabali. It is believed that the emperor Mahabali comes from the Patal Lok once a year and visits the homes of all the Malayalis, to meet his people. As per the Malayali calendar, Onam 2023 is celebrated in Chingam month (as per the Malayalam calendar). Onam is also known as the rice harvest festival of Kerala. This festival presents a remarkable display of the amazing beauty, culture and heritage of Kerala.
Mythological Legend Behind Onam 2023
King Mahabali is very popular and is considered to be very kind and generous, despite being a demon. His ruling period is considered to be the golden age in Kerala which is why his ‘return’ is celebrated with so much pomp and vigour. The legends of Vaishnava mythology state that King Mahabali defeated the gods and came into power by taking over the three worlds. Gods were worried about his popularity and sought Lord Vishnu’s help to win against the demon king. Since Mahabali was Vishnu’s avid devotee, Lord Vishnu provided his support but didn’t take part in the battle.
Therefore, he helped the gods by taking a Vamana avatar (dwarf Brahmin). He visited Mahabali when he held Ashwamegha Yagya and asked him to grant his three wishes. The Vamana Brahmin requested to donate land that measures ‘three steps’, to which Mahabali agreed. The dwarf form of Lord Vamana suddenly grew in size and covered everything Mahabali ruled over in just two steps. As there was no space for the third step, Mahabali offered his head. Lord Vamana pushed him to hell. However, Lord Vishnu was so impressed by Mahabali’s devotion and good deeds that he not only made him the king of Patal Lok but also allowed him to return to earth once a year. This annual visit of King Mahabali is celebrated auspiciously as Onam every year.
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When is Onam 2023?
In the year 2023, Onam falls on Tuesday, August 29, 2023, Thursday. The 10-day period of the festival begins on 29th August.
Onam 2023 Tithi
- Thiruvonam Nakshatra Starts: 02:43 a.m on August 29, 2023
- Thiruvonam Nakshatra Ends: 11:50 p.m on August 29, 2023
Rituals and Celebrations of Onam 2023
The festival of Onam is observed with a variety of activities and rituals, which are performed by the devotees with great enthusiasm. Onam brings life and colours to the state of Kerala with a wide range of events being conducted in each corner of the state such as dance forms, floral rangoli patterns, beautiful art, boat races, traditional clothing and food.
Here are some of the most important rituals and activities which are observed during Onam celebrations.
The festival begins with a procession that starts from Kochi named ‘Tripunithura’. This is a parade that showcases the cultural diversity of Kerala via drum beats, flag hoisting, elephant marches, folk art depictions, enactment of scenes of Mahabharata and Ramayana and decorated floats. The path of the procession leads to the very ancient and famous Temple of Tripunithura, which is dedicated to the Vamana incarnation of Lord Vishnu.
‘Pookalam’ during Onam 2023
The women of Kerala make ‘Pookalam’ i.e. a floral carpet of different patterns of rangolis filled with flowers in their courtyards and central entrances. The ‘Pookalam’ is decorated with lights and lamps in the middle and the edges. This is a religious art form that requires a lot of creativity and patience to think and create the right blend of colours of the flower petals. This activity is very similar to Rangoli, which is made in other parts of the country. However, the main difference is Rangoli is made up of colours and Pookalam with flower petals. Various parts of Kerala host Pookalam competitions too in which the citizens participate with great pomp and energy.
The Traditional Feast of Onasadya
Keralites also prepare a grand feast called ‘Onasadya’, which refers to a vegetarian meal in Malayalam. The feast consists of 13 delicious dishes. The dishes are served on banana leaves and contain rice, papads and pickles, sambar, dal, banana chips, coconut chutney, etc. The famous sweet dish made during Onam is called ‘payasam’, which is greatly enjoyed by the people at the end of the meal. Payasam is prepared using milk, rice, coconut and sugar.
Boat Race During Onam 2023
A boat race or ‘Vallamkali’ is also common activity during the Onam celebrations. Hundreds of boatmen compete with each other by rowing paddled, snake-shaped boats and huge cash rewards are offered to the winners. ‘Vanchipattu’ is the traditional boat song that is sung during the boat race to entertain the crowds and encourage the participants. This event is hosted in the Pampa River of Kerala. The celebrations also include unique games, music and folk dance, which is collectively named ‘Onakalikal’.
Do you the festival of Ganesh Chaturthi is on the next day of Onam
The most famous dance form in Kerala is Kathakali. Apart from that, various folk dance forms are performed during Onam such as Thiruvathirakali, Kummattikali, Onam Kali and Pulikali.
Thiruvathirakali is a famous form of dance performed especially by women during Onam. The songs on which the dance performances are performed are ‘Thiruvathira Paattu’ i.e. the traditional folk song of Lord Shiva and Parvati. In this dance, the women perform around a standing lamp called ‘Nilavilakku’ and showcase their feminine grace.
Kummattikali is another dance form that is performed by wearing beautifully painted colourful masks which depict Krishna, Narada, Darika and Kiratha. This dance form is mostly performed in the Thrissur district of Kerala.
Onam Kali is another dance firm in which the performers form circular patterns around a lamp and depict the tales of Ramayana.
Pulikali, also known as Leopard dance, is a dance form in which the dancers get painted in shades of yellow and black specifically, to resemble leopards or tigers. Then they perform to the traditional beats of the instruments like Thakil, Udukku and Chenda.
The festival is celebrated with a lot of pomp and showcases a variety of activities to show King Mahabali that his subjects are living happy and prosperous life. Onam is a unique festival that unites people of all religions residing in the state. It spreads the message of unity and peace in society.
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