Onam is the biggest festival of the people of Kerala. Also known as Thiru Onam , it is celebrated with great enthusiasm by Malayalis all over the world.
Onam is a harvest festival celebrated in the first Malayalam month Singam (August / September). The 10 day celebrations begin on Atham day. There are records of Onam being celebrated in the Sangam age. The earliest record of the festival is found during the reign of Kulashekara Perumal around AD800. Its is believed that during those days Onam was celebrated through the month of Singam.
Onam has two specific significances. First it is the memory of community at large and celebration of past history as enunciated in the Mahabali legend – a story of how paradise was lost. Second it is the celebration of harvest , tied with the memory of the golden age of prosperity. After the monsoons , Singam is a welcome month of change. Onam epitomizes the new found vigour & enthusiasm, and is celebrated with traditional fervour. Temple visits, family get-togethers, gifting of new clothes called Onakkodi and lots of merry making.
It is believed that King Mahabali , provided salvation by Maha Vishnu in the form of Vamana, was granted to wish that he could visit his kingdom and meet his people once a year. The people of Kerala celebrate this advent of Maha Vishnu to their land is Vamana and to welcome their favourite king Maha Bali as Onam.
Houses are cleaned and lit with lamps, new clothes are worn and pujas performed, rangoli designs made with colourful flower called Pookalam decorate the floors and a special meal Sadhya is prepared for the entire family to feast together.
Other than these there are celebrations in public places. Decorated elephants come parading in the streets, Kathakali and Mohiniattam dances are performed and the boat races called Vallamkali where the boats go tearing through the water amidst cheers from the gathered crowds.
Kerala Government declares this festival season is Tourism Week. Thousands throng the state to experience God’s Own Country and the awesome Onam celebration.