Onam Festival: Significance and Celebrations

Onam Festival: Significance and Celebrations

Apart from several other festivals in the month of September, one prominent festival that this month will be witnessing is the Onam festival. This year it is going to be celebrated on 16th September 2013.

Background of Onam Festival

We will now tell you a little more about this popular festival of India. It is a festival that is mostly celebrated in the state of Kerala. As there are many people from Kerala who have settled in different parts of the world it has now become a festival that you can see across the countries. It is the one most important festival in Kerala. You can expect at least four days of holiday if you are from Kerala. It is a harvest festival celebrated between August and September. It is a ten day festival. It is also celebrated to remember the homecoming of the king Mahabali who was a mythical king.

Onam Festival Details

Onam is indeed an ancient festival. It has been able to stand the changes of time and is still very popular. The Onam is considered to be one of the most secular festivals you will ever see in India. It is celebrated by people of all sects, religions and cultures. This is one reason that Onam also brings in peace and harmony among the people.

Kerala that is also known as the god’s own country go all the way to make these days even more special for the tourists. You can see the best of Kerala’s culture and heritage in these days. The speciality of Onam festival is the nine course meal that consists of about eleven to thirteen traditional dishes. This feast is called onasadya. It is served on a banana leaf. The meal is traditionally served on the floor and people enjoy the delicacies. You can also enjoy the Onam is any restaurant across the country that serves Kerala food.

The 10 Days of Onam Festival

We will now discuss each and every day of the Onam festival. The ten day long festival starts with the royal parade. This usually happens in the city of Kochi. The parade is a must watch and it depicts all the colours of kerala. This city is selected for the parade because the centre of the city has the temple Thrikakkara which is considered to be the original temple of the king Mahabali. He was a great ruler and during his time Kerala was a very strong part of India.

You must have seen rangoli made with colours. However, the speciality of Onam is that the rangoli is made with flowers and it is called pookalam. It looks like a carpet of flowers. If you happen to visit a Kerala household during this festival you will definitely witness a rangoli made of flowers. They look beautiful. Some parts of Kerala competitions are also arranged for the best pookalam.

Pookalam Onam Festival


1st Day

The first and the tenth day are considered to be the most important days in Onam. The first day is called the atham and the last day is the thiru onam. Traditionally all the days are still celebrated in some households of Kerala. However, the nuclear that stay in the cities celebrate only these two days. In the first day the pookalam is made only with yellow flowers and the design is very simple.

2nd Day

The second day of onam is called the chithira. On this day the pookalam is made with two colours. This is day when the people start to clean the houses and pain it or decorate the same.

3rd Day

The third day is called the chodi. On this day the pookalam is made bigger and four to five colours are used to do so. From this day people start to buy new clothes and other new things for the house and for themselves. They also buy gifts for friends and family.

4th Day

The fourth day of the Onam is called the Vishakam. This is the day when most of the pookalam competitions are held.   In the olden days on this day people would arrange for the sale of the harvest.

5th Day

The fifth day is called the Anizham. You must have heard of the snake boat races that Kerala is famous for. This is the day when the snake boat races commence. This is like the day for the dress rehearsal of the final day.

Snake Boat Race

Snake Boat Race

6th Day

Now we move on to the sixth day of the Onam celebrations. It is called the Thriketa. This is day when most of the offices and schools start to close for the Onam holiday. This is when you will slowly feel the frenzy of Onam beginning to develop. This is the day when people start leaving for their villages to meet their families. The pookalam this day will be even larger.

7th Day

Moolam is the seventh day of the Onam celebrations. This is the day when the special Onam buffet is prepared. Temples have special pujas this day. You can also see the leopard dance on this day. The leopard dance is called puli kali. You can notice fireworks. Most of the houses and the building will be full of light on this day. You can feel the festivities in all walks of life this day.

8th Day

We move on to the eighth day of the Onam celebrations. It is called the Pooradam. On this day you can notice small processions with small statues of Mahabali and Vamana. These idols are taken around the city. These idols are later placed on the pookalam prepared. This is the day when the final preperations and shoppings of the Onam celebration begin.

9th Day

The ninth day is called the Uthradom. It is the Onam eve and is a grand celebration. It is the most auspicious day to purchase fruits and vegetables. The most important activity this day is shopping. The populat belief is that the king Mahabali visits the households this day. The women cut all the vegetables that they need to prepare the delicacies this day. Evening of this day the guests start visiting the households.

10th Day

The tenth and the final day of the Onam celebration it is called the thiruvonam. This means the sacred Onam day in Malyalam. It is the day when several temple deities of Kerala were born. The day begins early. People clean the house and apply flour batter on the main entrance as a sign to welcome guests. The women taken an early bath and wear new clothes. Women mostly wear the Kerala saree that is white in colour. They wear gold jewellery too.

However, with time the tradistions have changed and women today wear coloured saree too. Poor people are given money and other charity is done. The elders in the family give clothes and money to the younger people in the family. Special prayers are arranged in temples, churches and in the mosques. This proves the secular nature of the festival again.

The grandest pookalam is prepared on this day. It is prepared to welcome the king mahabali. This is the day when the nine course meal is prepared and served. Some hotels in Kerala even prepare thirty dishes to mark the occasion. Many people prefer to eat out also on this day and try the exotic cuisines. The families as per their financial position try to make this ona-sadya as grand as possible.



The people say that you must have this grand lunch even if that means you will have to sell all your properties. There are grand fireworks in the evenings. There are some Onam games that are played on this day. There are special dance programs that are arranged. A lot of cultural events are also organised. The state of Kerala turns into a fairy tale land on the evening of this day. Some who have visited Kerala during this time will tell you that they felt as if they were taken to some other world.

The thiruvonam is the end of Onam officially. The festival ends with a mega dance festival that is arranged in the capital city of Thiruvanathapuram. However, in some cases the celebrations are continued for some more days. With pomp and show the Onam festivities come to an end.

We hope that reading this article will help you to understand how exactly the Onam is celebrated in Kerala. If you want to feel the festivities do ensure that you visit the state during this time of the year. You will for sure have a time of your life there. A lot of tourists visit Kerala on these days to enjoy the grandeur of Onam. We hope that the festival of Onam is celebrated for years to come and we get to see more of these celebrations in the future.

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