Onam, the occasion when the whole state of Kerala gets into a festive mood and the God’s own country gets ready to celebrate and rejoice the 10-day harvest festival. Starting from Atham, the first day, Onam is celebrated in grand style till the 10th day which is Thiruvonam. It often falls on August- September months every year. The legend behind the Onam festival is pretty fascinating and if you are excited and would like to know more about it, just read one of our previous blog post on the same. Here is the link- The legend behind the Onam festival
Without lengthening the post, let me get to the point. Below are the 5 things you must try or witness when you make a visit to Kerala, and it happens to be during the Onam festival.
People in Kerala wear their traditional clothes during Onam. Women wear a white saree like attire known as the Set-Mundu with golden borders of varying widths. It adds more charm to a lady and is the favourite attire of Kerala Women. Men wear Mundu, a white Dhothi like cloth which men wear around their waist. You may mix it up with shirts, Kurtas or Jubbas. Try it out yourselves if you visit Kerala during the Onam Festival and be a part of it.
The Athapookkalam refers to a flower carpet which the people in Kerala make in front of their house welcoming Lord Mahabali to their home. It makes the Onam festival colourful and joyous. The designs are pretty much similar to “Rangoli” or “Kolams” in the Northern and Southern states of India. People try out various intricate, beautiful designs with flowers, on the floor. They mix it up with various flowers and leaves, thereby adding more colours. Tulsi leaves, Chembaruthy or Hibiscus, Jamanthi or Marigold, Kongini Flower or Lantana are some of the flowers used in making a delightful Athappookkalam. People start making Athapookalams in front of their houses starting from Atham, the 1st day of Onam to the 10thday, Thiruvonam. On the first day of Onam, a single ring of flowers is made. Each day they add 1 more variety of flower into the Athappookalam and by the 10th day, 10 varieties of flowers are used. Try out designing and indulge yourself in this fun and colourful festive activity during your visit to Kerala.
Every festival has its trademark food of some kind. Let it be sweets, wine, crunchy meat balls, or a whole delicious meal. During Onam, it is the Onam Sadya. A whole meal which consists of more than 20 dishes and rice along with Payasam [a desert] is served in the traditional Kerala style, on a freshly cut Banana leaf. The Onam Sadya is purely vegetarian and there are certain rules to eat it as well. Yes! You heard me right, Rules. First, you start with fried Banana chips and then Inji puli [a sweet mixture of ginger and tamarin] which aids in digestion, and then you move to the main course which is rice and dal [pulse grain curry]. Other dishes include Avial [mixture of vegies boiled with coconut]. Next up is rice and Sambhar followed by rice and Pulisherry [a curry made of curd and pineapple]. Last you finish off the main course with Rasam. Conclude the Onam Sadya with a banana and a desert, Payasam, which is a dish made of milk and mostly rice or vermicelli. Do not forget to enjoy the Onam Sadya during your visit to Kerala. Do remember to fold your sleeves and savour the food with your bare hands. I am sure it would leave you to lick your fingers and crave for more.
Yet another fascinating art form born in Kerala, Puli kali is a street dance performed on the 4th day of Onam. Puli kali in Malayalam means Tiger dance. Performers paint their whole body in yellow, black and red and wear a tiger mask before dancing to the rhythm of Thakil Melam. Thakil is a kind of percussion instrument in Kerala. The dance moves accompanied by the pompous beats of Thakil take you to a state of trance. Never miss a chance to witness the Puli Kali if you happen to be in Kerala during Onam.
The snake boat race in Kerala is famous all over the world. Visitors fly from all over the world every year to visit to witness the annual snake boat race in Kerala. Snake boat is a customized long country boats on which 100’s of rowers hop in and participate in the race with other clubs. They sing the Vanchi Pattu [local music genre] while rowing their way to the touch line. It is a sight to behold at least once in a lifetime. The Nehru trophy boat race and the Aranmula Uthrittathy Vallom Kali are the 2 most famous occasions to experience this grand spectacle.
Make a visit to the God’s own country Kerala and feast on the Onam delights to experience the true energy of this blessed land and its people.