ThiruOnam or Onam makes for the most significant annual festivals in Kerala, when people indulges in a range of fun filled activities and joyous reminiscence of the golden reign of mythical ruler King Mahabali. It falls in the first month of the Malayalam calendar, Chingham. The yearly event is celebrated with much reverence across the state with ten days of feasting, dancing, singing, boat racing and unadulterated revelry, with noticeably rising number of participants every year. Besides honoring the memories of King Mahabali, Onam also celebrates the bounty of Nature after a year of toil and perseverance. Hence, it is also known as the harvest festival.
The much revered festival is celebrated across the length and breadth of Kerala. The favorite fiesta of the Malayalis are conspicuously marked by a few rituals and sporting activities. Here is a lowdown on some of the crucial areas in the state that should be particularly visited during the fiesta.
This place should be visited during Atham, 10 days before ThiruOnam. It hosts the Athachamayam festival that marks the beginning of Onam. A befitting prelude to one of the most colourful celebrations in India, Athachamayam features a vibrant street parade that includes floats, decked-up elephants, musicians and several art forms of Kerala. The parade immediately takes viewers back to the march of the Maharaja of Kochi from Tripunithura to the Vamanamoorthy Temple in Thrikkakara.
Much in the line of Tripunithura, Trichur also hosts one of the biggest and most colorful processions during the carnival. The procession makes for a rare spectacle as the audience get to behold a splendidly caparisoned group of elephants navigating a considerable distance amidst grand fireworks.
in Thrissur is well known for hosting the Pulikalli Tiger Play, one of the major attractions of the carnival. Alternately known as Kaduvakali, Pulikali is an important way of rejoicing. The throbbing vitality of Onam is perhaps best manifested by this event whereby the performers cover their bodies in black, yellow and red paints to enact tigers and sway to the beats of the percussion instruments like thakil and udukku. Though viewed as “quirky” and outlandish by many, the tiger play actually means serious business in the state as the best dressed among them is duly rewarded as well.
It hosts of the most well-known Keralite events acknowledged worldwide- the Kathakali dance. The artists are adept at enacting mythological stories and scores of people gather every year here in order to witness their dancers conjure up a magical world of mythology in front of their eyes. Other attractions include a village fair and the local arts festival.
Nowhere, can the adrenalin rush of witnessing a splendid boat race can be felt except here. However, you can also catch glimpses of the Vallamkali or the boat race in Thayathangadi near Kottayam and Papiyad near Quilon.
Around 20 venues in the state capital host a number of events including stage shows, handicrafts fairs, and folk arts- spanning a week or so.
Please don’t forget to visit the nearby restaurants in the state to grab a chance of gorging on Onasadya containing around 20 specialties served in banana leaves.