The Onam festival is celebrated on August 21, 2021.
Onam is the national festival of Kerala. It spreads the message of peace and unity among all communities of Kerala. Onam falls during the month of Chingam – the first month of the Malayalam Calendar. Onam is a 10 day long Harvest festival that stands out among other festivals for its togetherness, colorfulness, enthusiasm, and variety of activities. This ancient festival has been written by Sangam era Tamil poets, numerous texts from the 6th to the 16th centuries, and visiting foreign travelers.
The celebrations of the Onam festival are spread over ten days – with each day having a name, which is – Atham, Chithira, Chodhi, Vishakam, Anizham, Thriketa, Moolam, Pooradam, Uthradam, and Thiruvonam. The first and the last day are particularly important.
The legendary king related to the festival of Onam is King Mahabali. Mahabali was the grandson of the famed Vishnu devotee – Prahlada who was saved by Lord Vishnu in his Narasimha Avatar. Mahabali was a powerful king who even defeated the Devtas and conquered the three worlds. Helpless and desolate, the Devtas approached Lord Vishnu for help. Lord Vishnu refused to use violence against Mahabali who was a good king and a devotee of Lord Vishnu. But a way out had to be found to restore the Devtas Kingdom.
Victory of Mahabali
Mahabali held a grand Yagya after his victory over the three worlds and declared he would grant any wish to anyone during the ritual. Lord Vishnu appeared in His fifth Avatar – that of a dwarf named Vaman. After the Yagya was over, Vaman reminded Mahabali of the promise made. Mahabali offered gold- silver – land – elephants or anything else Vaman wanted. Vaman asked for as much land as could be covered by three steps (Paces). Mahabali agreed. Vaman then grew to an enormous size and covered all of Mahabali’s kingdom in two steps. Mahabali realized Vaman was none other than Lord Vishnu and offered his head to step on. Pleased with this act of devotion, Lord Vishnu granted Mahabali the boon of being able to visit his former kingdom once a year.
Mahabali visits the land that he ruled over once a year at the time now known as Onam. He stays for ten days during which festivities are non-stop. Onam celebrates the righteousness of Mahabali.
Atthachayaman and Pookallam
The day starts with a grand procession known as Athachamayan. The parade has elephants marching to the music of drums, followed by floats with various themes. Scores of colorfully dressed people with masks accompany the parade.
Traditional dance forms are very much a part of Onam. Onam Dance include Thiruvathira, Kummattikali, Pulkali, Thumbi Thullal and Kathakali. Onam Kali is a dance form with themes based on the Ramayana and other religious texts. Making of flower arrangements known as Pookalam. These are made at house entrances, temples, etc. A lighted lamp (Diya) is placed in the center. Murtis of Mahabali and Vaman are kept near entrances. Pulkali or Kaduvakali (Tiger Dance) in which performers are dressed or painted like tigers and dance accompanied by the music of Chenda and Thakil. This is done mainly in Thrissur.
Onam Snake Boat Race – Vallamkali
The snake boat race is very popular. These are organized mainly on the sacred Pampa river and viewed and cheered on by thousands.
Besides these ways of celebrating, Onam Sadya is also an important part of Onam celebrations. These feats consist of 30 or more dishes served on plantain leaves. The dishes include Pappadam, Upperi, Sharkara Varatti, Inji Curry, Mango Curry, Naranga Curry, Rasam, and more delicious items.
Return of King Mahabali to Heaven
The two days following Thiruvonam are also celebrated as Third and Fourth Onam. The third Onam is called Avittom, marks the preparations for King Mahabali’s return to heaven.
Onam is not only celebrated in India but in other parts of the world by the Malayali diaspora. Celebrations are held in the USA, UAE, Malaysia, Singapore, UK, and other countries.
Timings and Nakshatra on Onam
First Onam: August 20, Friday, Thiruvonam 2021 will be celebrated on August 21, Saturday.
Third Onam: August 22, Sunday
Fourth Onam: August 23, Monday
Sunrise 21.08.21 – 6:19 AM
Sunset 21.08.21 – 6:36 PM
Nakshatra on Onam – Thiruvonam 2021
Thiruvonam Nakshathram Begins August 20, 2021, at 9:25 PM
Thiruvonam Nakshathram Ends August 21, 2021, at 8:21 PM
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