Onam 2019: How Kerala's Harvest Festival Welcomes Mahabali with Sadya and Pookalam

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The annual harvest festival of Onam falls in the month of Chingam of the Malayalam calendar, which in Gregorian calendar falls during August–September. Onam is the official state festival of Kerala with public holidays that start four days from Uthradom (Onam eve).

To know more about this festival, let’s take a look at some interesting facts:

1. The festival of Onam is known for its secularity and inclusiveness. Irrespective of the caste and community, Onam is celebrated with equal zest and fervor.

2. Like Ganesh Chaturthi, Onam is also a 10-day festival, with the first and the last days being most important. According to the legendary tales, the Asura King of Mahabali is believed to visit the state of Kerala and Malayalees welcome the King by celebrating Onam.

3. A lavish and elaborate lunch meal called Sadya is prepared in every household. There are over 26 different varieties of food items served on a banana leaf, which is traditionally used as a plate. Banana chips, Papadam, Thoran, Mezhukkupuratti, Kaalan, Olan, Avial, Sambar, Rice, Dal, Erisheri, Rasam, Pickle, Buttermilk, and Payasam are some important ones which are definitely included in the food platter.

4. Onam is the time when everyone in the state is dressed in their traditional clothes. Women are clad in the traditional Kerala saree which is white in colour and has a golden border. Men wear white coloured mundu and jubba.

5. There are different types of sports played during the festivities. The most popular one being the boat race, called Vallamkali. Kayyankali, Kutukutu, Attakalam Talappanthukali and Ambeyyal are some other traditional sports played during Onam.

6. Pookkalam or flower rangoli is a major attraction of this festival. Roads, house entrance ways etc. are decorated heavily with both simple and complex designs using a variety of flowers such as marigold, roses, lilies, jasmine etc. In fact, competition for Pookkalam is also organized to encourage more people to join in.

7. The festival is also about music and dance. Traditional dance forms include Thiruvathira, Kummattikali, Pulikali, Thumbi Thullal, Onam Kali and others. Thiruvathira Kali is a women's dance performed in a circle around a lamp. Kummattikali is a colourful-mask dance. In Thrissur, festivities include a procession consisting of caparisoned elephants surrounded by Kummatikali dancers. The masked dancers go from house to house performing the colorful Kummattikali.