Onam Festival| pookalam

Onam (August- September)- Chingam

Onam - (August - September) - Chingam



Onam is a Hindu festival which is celebrated in Kerala and where ever the Malayalam speaking population is living. Onam is celebrated in Chingam month which is the first month of Malayalam calendar. This normally falls between August and September. This year Thiruvonam will be celebrated on September 4. Normally Onam is celebrated for 12 days.


The following are the most important days of Onam

First Day – Aththam

Second Day – Chithira

Third Day – Chodhi

Fourth Day – Visakam

Fifth Day – Anizham

Sixth Day – Thriketa

Seventh Day – Moolam

Eighth Day – Pooradam

Ninth Day – Uthradam

Tenth Day – Thiruvonam – Major celebrations are taking place in this day.

Eleventh day - Avittam

Twelfth Day- Chatayam

Onam is biggest and an official state festival in Kerala.

BackGround of Onam

Onam is celebrated to welcome the ancient mythical Emperor Mahabali. According to the Hindu mythos Mahabali is the great grandson of Iranya Kashyaba and grandson of Prahalatha who is fame for Holika in Hinduism. Mahabali who defeat the Devas (God) and capture the three worlds such as land, space, and water. Devas approached Lord Vishnu to rescue them, but Vishnu refused to join with devas because Mahabali was a good ruler. It was a golden era for the land which is under his kingdom. Everybody under his kingdom was happy and prosperous. Even though he is a good ruler he had one shortcoming of egoism and head weight. After defeating devas Mahabali announced that he will perform homa sacrifices (Yajna) and fulfill any request anyone gets granted during yajna. So, Lord Vishnu took an avatar of a dwarf boy (Vamana) and he approached Mahabali during yajna. Mahabali was ready to offer gold, land, home, food, elephant, horses, whatever the boy wished. But that boy said that he need a land of three paces, and mahabali also agreed for that.

mahabali| Kerala | Tradition

The boy grew and covered all the kingdom which is ruled by mahabali in just two steps(paces), and for the third pace, mahabali offered himself to the Lord Vishnu. Vamana sent him to the nether world. Before that mahabali asked a last wish that a permission to visit the people who were under his kingdom. Lord Vishnu granted that wish to visit people once in a year, which is the same specific day of his last day. So, to welcome the Mahabali, that day is celebrated as a Thiruvonam. The day of his revisit is celebrated as the return of happiness and prosperous to the life.


Onam Celebrations

People do so many things to do welcome their King Mahabali. This includes flower arrangement (Pookalam), Grand meal (Ona Sadhya), boat races (Vallam Kali), Tiger dances (Puli Kali), Worship(Onathappan), Onam Dance (Thiruvathira kali, Kummatti kali) Tug of War (Vadam Vali), Martial Arts (Ona thallu), Onam Song (Ona paattu or Ona villu), Archery (Ambbeyal) and lots of Onam games so on.

Onam Celebrations | Major attractions of festival

Traditional Attire

Onakodi or ona pudava is the traditional attire on onam season. The youngsters and elders wear kasavu mundu and kasavu saree (hand woven attires) with the golden brocades. Children and infants wear the miniature version of mundus called chittada.

Onam Festival | Traditional Wear | India
Onam Festival | Kerala | Onakkodi

Flower Arrangements (Atha Pookalam)

The first attraction of Onam celebrations to welcome the Mahabali is Pookalam. Pookalam is different varieties of the flowers are arranged in decorate pattern on the floor, specifically at the entrance of the homes, temples, educational institution, offices and buildings like a flower mat. Traditionally 10 different varieties of flowers (known as dhasapushpam) are used in atha pookalam. All the house fronts are decorated with the pookalam. Pookalam competitions also the common sight in Kerala on Onam season. This ritual of making pookalam continuous on all the 12 days. They make Pookalam with most care, creativity, patience, and joy to welcome their loved king. They place a clay light or earthen mounts, to represent mahabali and Vamana are kept along with the Pookalam with the help of dung plaster.

Pookkalam | Onam Festivals | India
Pookalam | Festivals of India |

Onam Sadhya

Onam sadhya is a grand meal prepared with so many varieties of dishes and varieties of payasam. Onam Sadya is a vegetarian meal, which is traditionally served in banana leaf. They prepare most delightful dishes for their king Mahabali. The dishes includes Paruppu(Dhal) curry, Sambar, Rasam, Pulissery, Elissery, Sambharam, moru curry, Olan, kaalan, Aviyal, Thoran, pachchadi, Kootu curry, Pavakka Theeyal, Kichadi, Nenthrakaya Upperi or kaya varuththathu ( banana chips), Sarkaravaratti Upperi, Inghi puli (Tamarind-Ginger), Achchar (pickle), Papadam, Ada Pradhaman, Parippu Pradhaman, Nentharapazha Pradhaman, Mampazha Pradhaman, Nei Payasam (kheer), Semiya Payasam, Pazha prathaman, Parippu prathaman, Chakka prathaman, Gothambu prathaman,  Aval payasam, Thenka (coconut) payasam and there are lot more varieties.

Onam Festival Sadya | Sadhya | Kerala Festival
Tradition | Onam | Sadhya | Kerala

OnamKaligal (Onam Games)

The real celebrations and socializing happen during the onam games. There are lots of onam games where the people enthusiastically participate. People of all age groups participate in the onam festival games. Let me give some intro about some games.


Panthukali or Thalapanathukali is the outdoor games. In this game, the ball is made up of the layers of the pebble or stone which is covered by dried leaf and above that coconut fiber is used as top layer. The ball looks like a tennis ball, not too big. The game doesn’t have any specific court or room, they manually draw a court outlines in open space. The participants divided into two teams. The stick is placed at the one end of the court. The player of one team throw the ball from the other end of the court to hit the stick and the opposite team tries to catch and defend their action. The game requires stamina and hard work to win.

Nadan panthu kali | Celebrations | Onam games
Nadan panthu kali | Onam festival |


Kayyankali is a combat game, where the players use their martial arts skills. The players don’t use any kind weapons. This requires lots of stamina, strength, and techniques. The victory is achieved when the player managed other player and made the player to fell on the ground. It is a kind of violent game.

Onam games | Festival | Kerala
Onam games | Festival | Kerala

Ambeyyal (Archery)

Ambeyyal is an archery game. The bow is made by bamboos and they use blended arrows because it is not intended to hurt anyone literally. The participants are split into two teams. The victory is achieved by collecting more arrows. The players need to hit the target point which is called “Cheppu”. The team, which hits the cheppu can collect the arrows and kept that with them. This is also a most interesting onam game.

Vallam kali (Snake boat race)

Vallam kali is the enthusiastic and prestigious game for the teams, which are participating in the games. Hundreds of men with the oars in their hand on a splendidly crafted and decorated boat, participate in the race. The players chant the songs and cheers and motivate themselves to achieve the victory.

Onam games | Vallam Kali | Snake boat race

Vadam Vali (Tug of war)

Vadam vali is traditional onam game played by both men and women. It is a team based game where they show their unity and strength. The victory can be achieved by pulling the opponent team across the center line.

Onam celebrations| Indian Festival | Vadamvali

Pulikali (Tiger dance)

Pulikali is kind of dance, where the participants painted themselves like a tiger and they recreate the movements of the tiger in their dances to the rhythm in the open streets.

Onam dances | Pulikali | kerala dances

Thiruvathira kali or Kaikotti kali (Onam Dance)

Thiruvathira kali is a traditional and most elegant dance performed by a group of woman during Onam Season. While performing the dance all the women wear karala clothing called kasavu saree. The perform the dance movements in a circular formation in clockwise and anticlockwise direction, bending sideways with each step. The dancers gracefully coordinate their hand movements as they do clapping in upwards and downwards based on the rhythm and beat of the song which they are singing.

Onam festival | thiruvathira kali | kerala traditional dance

There are more numerous numbers Onam games are played by men, women, children and elders. Educational Institutes, Organizations, and People of the residing areas are gathered and play the several onam games. Here I have added the videos for some of the games. Enjoy it…

!...Happy Onam...!

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