Onam is one of the important festivals for the people of Kerala. Onam is celebrated annually in the month of Chingam according to the Malayalam calendar. The festival celebrates the appearance of the Vamana avatar of Lord Vishnu and the subsequent homecoming of the mythical Asura king Mahabali from Patala (underworld). It is believed that on this day, the demon king Mahabali visits the home of every Malayali and meets his people. In Kerala, Onam is celebrated in the month of Chingam, as it is the day when the Nakshatra Thiruvonam predominates. Onam starts from Atham day and continues for 10 days till Thiruvonam day. Thiruvonam consists of two words: 'Thiru' and second 'Onam', where Thiru refers to the holy and is equivalent to 'Sri' in Sanskrit.
Onam is celebrated when the Thiruvonam Nakshathram (Shravan Nakshatra) prevails in the month of Chingam (late August or early September) as per the Malayalam calendar. Onam is a popular festival in the state of Kerala. The celebration of Onam begins on the day of Atham (when Atham Nakshatra prevails) and lasts for 10 days till the day of Thiruvonam. Thiruvonam Nakshathram will start from 02:43 PM to 11:50 PM on Tuesday, 29 August 2023. In addition, the time of sunrise on this day will be at 6:19 AM, and the sunset will be at 6:32 PM.
On this auspicious day, women decorate their houses with beautiful floral designs known as 'Pookkalam' on the grounds with flowers and light lamps to invite the demon king Mahabali. People gift each other new clothes on this day and also wear new clothes, known as 'Onkkodi'. A grand feast known as 'Onam Sadya' is also held, where 13 lip-smacking dishes are prepared and served on banana leaves. A sweet dish called 'payasam' prepared of rice, milk, sugar and coconut is an important dish served among all the other dishes. On the tenth day of Onam, people wake up early, take a holy bath and start the rituals by donning new clothes. A grand event is also organised called Vallamkali, or boat race, a common tradition of Kerala in Onam. In this, a giant snake-shaped boat manned by hundreds of rowers who competes with each other and at the end, the winner is rewarded with cash and prizes. Elephants are decorated with many ornaments and taken out as part of the Onam procession. On the other hand, devotees also place Thrikkara Appan (Onathappan) or Vamana Vishnu idols in their homes. Traditional cultural programs like dance, music and art are also organised on this day. A special dance is also performed where the dancers are painted in yellow and black, symbolising the tiger, known as the Pulikali dance.
Onam is an auspicious festival for the people of Kerala and is celebrated in the month of Chingam. Onam begins in Atham (when Atham Nakshatra prevails) and ends with Thiruvonam. The festival marks the appearance of the Vamana avatar of Vishnu, the return of the demon king Mahabali from Patala, and also marks the harvest festival for the people of Kerala. Onam holds an important place for the people of Kerala, where it unites people of all religions living in the state, and the festival is also a symbol of unity and peace among all.
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