Onam is the biggest and the most important festival of the state of Kerala. It is a harvest festival and is celebrated with joy and enthusiasm all over the state by people of all communities. According to a popular legend, the festival is celebrated to welcome King Mahabali, whose spirit is said to visit Kerala at the time of Onam.
Carnival of Onam lasts from four to ten days. First day, Atham and tenth day, Thiruonam are most important of all. Popularity and presentation of rich culture of the state during the carnival made Onam the National Festival of Kerala in 1961. Elaborate feasts, folk songs, elegant dances, energetic games, elephants, boats and flowers all are a part of the dynamic festival called Onam.
Government of India has taken due notice of this vibrant and colorful festival. It promotes Onam internationally in a big way and celebrates ‘Tourist Week’ for Kerala during Onam celebrations. Thousands of domestic and foreign tourists visit Kerala to be a part of Onam.
The most impressive part of Onam celebration is the grand feast called Onasadya or Sadya, prepared on Thiruonam. It is a nine course meal consisting of 11 to 13 essential dishes. Onasadya is served on banana leaves and people sit on a mat laid on the floor to have the meal
Another enchanting feature of Onam is Vallamkali, the Snake Boat Race, held on the river Pampa. It is a colourful sight to watch the decorated boat oared by hundreds of boatmen amidst chanting of songs and cheering by spectators.
There is also a tradition to play games, collectively called Onakalikal, on Onam. Men go in for rigorous sports like Talappanthukali (played with ball), Ambeyyal (Archery), Kutukutu and combats called Kayyankali and Attakalam.
Women indulge in cultural activities. They make intricately designed flower mats called, Pookalam in the front courtyard of house to welcome King Mahabali.
Kaikotti kali and Thumbi Thullal are two graceful dances performed by women on Onam. Folk performances like Kummatti kali and Pulikali add to the zest of celebrations. They wear traditional Set Saree to celebrate Onam
When I was in Mumbai I visited my Mallu friends on the occasion of Onam. We had the awesome Sadhya together. This year I went to Sangeetha Restaurant in Sunnyvale to quench my craving of Sadya.