Onam is an annual festival celebrated by the people of Kerala and Malyalees living across the globe. It is arguably the biggest festival of Kerala and falls in the Malayalam month of Chingam, which overlaps with August–September in the Gregorian calendar, and culminates with Thiruvonam. 

Traditionally, Onam marks the summer harvest and is celebrated with numerous festivities. Though primarily a Hindu festival, most non-Hindu communities in Kerala participate in Onam celebrations as it is considered a cultural festival, than a religious one.

Mythology and significance

Onam commemorates Mahabali and Vamana mythologies in Hinduism. According to mythology, king Mahabali - an asura - ruled over Kerala and was loved by the masses of his just and prosperous reign. Mahabali's popularity among humans made the gods envious and they asked Lord Vishnu for his help in eliminating the kind. Vishnu took the avatar dwarf brahmin Vaman, widely considered his fifth avatar, and visited Mahabali. 

While hosting Vamana, Mahabali asked him for a wish, to which he replied saying he needed just three paces of land, and the king agreed. Vamana then started growing in stature, and with covered the skies and the netherworld with his first two steps. For the third pace, Mahabali offered himself. Acknowledging Mahabali's devotion, Vishnu granted the king a boon, by which Mahabali could visit again the land and his people once every year. This revisit marks the festival of Onam as a reminder of the virtuous rule.

Rituals and celebrations

To mark the auspicious day, people offer special prayers and draw flower rangolis called Pookkalam near their doors to welcome Mahabali. The festivities on the day also include Onasadya (feast), Pulikali (tiger dances), tug of war, Thumbi Thullal (women's dance), Kummatikali (mask dance), Onathallu (martial arts), Onavillu (music), Onaputhan (wearing new clothes), Atthachamayam (folk songs and dance), Vallamkali (boat races) and other celebrations.

Onasadya (traditional feast)

The renowned Onasadya reflects the spirit of the season and every Keralite attempts to either make or attend one. Served as lunch on Thiruvonam, Onasadya contains dishes made from seasonal vegetables such as yam, cucumber and ash gourd. The feast is traditionally served on a plantain leaf and consists of several courses, including  banana chips, Sharkaraveratti (fried pieces of banana coated with jaggery), various vegetable dishes such as Thoran, Mezhukkupuratti, Kaalan, Olan, Avial, Sambhar, Dal and Payasam. 

MyNation wishes all its readers a happy and prosperous Onam.