Unity in diversity defines India. The culture of India is known for its plurality and richness. Many Indian festivals are celebrated with great pomp & show not just in the country but across different parts of the world. Besides, there are some regional festivals, which hold more importance in a particular region. One such festival is Onam. This festival is celebrated with a lot of gaiety in Kerala, the Malayalam-speaking province of India. This festival is celebrated to commemorate the Vamana avatar of Lord Vishnu and the return of Emperor Mahabali to earth. It is said that on this day the demon king Mahabali comes to the earth from Heaven and meets his Malayali subjects.
According to the Malayali calendar, the festival of Onam is celebrated in the month of Chingam depending on the position of planets and constellations. It starts from Atham in the month of Chingam and continues till Thiruvonam. This festival is celebrated for ten full days. The day of Thirovonam is the most important day of the Onam festival. In the Hindu calendar, Atham Nakshatra is known as Hasta Nakshatra. According to the English calendar, this festival falls in August or September according to the date.
This festival will be celebrated on Saturday, August 21. Although it starts ten days earlier, it will mainly be celebrated on Saturday, August 21, traditionally throughout the Malayalam-speaking region. Celebrated on Shukla Trayodashi of Shravan month, this festival is also known as Thiruonam. It is also said that at this time in Kerala, the harvest of tea, ginger, cardamom, black pepper, and paddy is ready and people celebrate this festival and share happiness among themselves in the joy of a good harvest.
Onam Date and Muhurta - When Onam Festival?
In the year 2021, this festival will be celebrated on Saturday, August 21.
The last day of the festival of Onam begins in the constellation of Thiruvonam. This is the main day of this festival.
|Nakshatra||Date / Timings|
|Thiruvonam Nakshatra Begins||20th August 2021 at 9:25 PM|
|Thiruvonam Nakshatra Ends||21st August 2021 at 8:22 PM|
The Significance of Onam
The festival of Onam is mainly celebrated in Kerala in the Malayali linguistic region of South India. It is believed that Ditya Raj Mahabali comes from Heaven to meet his Malayali linguistic subject and bestows them with happiness and prosperity. Preparations begin ten days in advance to welcome them. Houses are decorated, and good dishes are prepared.
People decorate their houses with beautiful flowers. Besides, people prepare Rangoli at the entrance of the house. This pleases their adored King Mahabali. Onam is one of the most colourful festivals in India. Such is the popularity of this festival that the Kerala government celebrates it as a tourist event. During the Onam festival, events like boat races, dance, music, and banquets are also organised.
The Story Behind Onam Festival
There is a very popular story about the Onam festival. This story is considered by the Malayali-speaking people as the basis of this festival. According to mythology, there used to be a king in ancient times, King Mahabali, who was the grandson of Prahlad, a beloved devotee of Lord Vishnu. The fame of King Bali was increasing among the people of the earth, due to his good deeds and good behaviour towards his subjects, his fame was on the rise. King Mahabali, despite being a demon king, used to take great care of his subjects, due to which his subjects respected him a lot. One of the characteristics of the king was that he actively participated in charity.
Various gods were jealous of the fame of the demon king Mahabali. Around then, Mahabali had established his dominion over heaven as well. The gods were really upset after heaven went away from their hands. Then, Lord Vishnu asked the other gods to stop the rise of King Mahabali. So, the gods together with Lord Vishnu prepared a plan. As per the plan, Lord Vishnu took birth in the form of Vamana (Brahman) in the house of sage Kashyap. The child gradually grew up and became a young man. One day when the king was planning a big Yagya, Lord Vishnu in the form of a Brahmin reached the kingdom of Mahabali and met the king. On seeing Lord Vishnu, Shukracharya recognised him and understood his plan.
As per the tradition, Shukracharya warned King Mahabali, he said to the king, “Rajan, this is Vishnu, surely he has come to ask something from you. Don’t commit to charity without asking me”
However, King Mahabali ignored this talk of Shukracharya. The king then said to Lord Vishnu, who came in the guise of a Brahmin, you can ask for whatever you want. On this, Lord Vishnu asked the king three steps of land. The king smiled and said that you can take three steps of land wherever you want. As the king said this, Lord Vishnu assumed his cosmic form and covered the entire earth in one step, the heaven in the second step. Then he asked King Bali where he should put his third leg. On this, the demon king Mahabali smiled and said – “This world is so small for you, what should I do, Lord? Now only my head is left.”
As King Mahabali said this, Lord Vishnu at once placed his feet on Mahabali’s head and ordered him to rule in Heaven till the end of Kali Yuga. Lord Vishnu was greatly influenced by the devotion and charity of King Mahabali. So he asked Mahabali to ask for a boon before going to Heaven. Then Mahabali requested Lord Vishnu to allow him to come to earth once a year to meet his subjects. Lord Vishnu accepted his wish. It is said that Onam is the day when King Mahabali visits the earth to meet his subjects. This festival is celebrated only to welcome him. So, this is the story behind Onam celebration.
The Food and Drink on Onam
Onam is like the state festival of Kerala. Food and drink hold special importance during this festival. On this day, people organise feasts. Various types of dishes are prepared for these feasts. Pachadi kallam, ollam, dao, ghee, sambar, banana and papad chips are usually made. These dishes are served on banana leaves. One of the main features of this festival is that people do not go to the temple, but welcome King Mahabali at their homes. Besides, at this festival, people undertake boat racing and Thappatikali dance.
The Ten Days of Onam Festival
- The first day is Athan when King Mahabali prepares to go from Heaven to his kingdom on Earth. On this day the people of the state get ready to welcome their king.
- The second day is Chithira. On this day a carpet of flowers is made, which is called Onam Pookalam.
- The third day is called Chodhi Pookkalam when another layer is added to the carpet of flowers using four to five types of flowers.
- Visakam is the fourth day of this festival, and various types of competitions begin on this day.
- The fifth day is called Anizham. On this day preparations for the boat, the race takes place.
- The sixth day is known as Thriketa, from which the festival holidays begin.
- On the seventh day, special pujas are organised in Moolam temples.
- The eighth day is called Pooradam. On this day, the idols of King Mahabali and Vamana are installed at home.
- The ninth day is called Uthradom. On this day Mahabali enters Kerala.
- Thiruvonam is the tenth day. This is the most important day when King Mahabali is welcomed by the people of Kerala with full gaiety and reverence.
This ten-day-long festival also has a deep connection with farmers and farming. During this time in Kerala, many types of crops are ripe and ready. People of Kerala also worship the Shravan deity and Pushpadevi for good yield and protection of their crops. The joy of ripening of the harvest instills a new hope and confidence in the minds of the people.
Festivals in India are about celebrating happiness. During the year, various festivals are celebrated with varying rituals and methods. The festival of Onam is largely about the love of a people towards their hero and reaffirming their commitment towards the moral example set up by their hero King Mahabali.
Happy Onam Wishes To One And All!