INDIA FESTIVAL ONAM
Rituals Of Onam
Onam is the most important festival of Kerala. The Celebration lasts for ten days. Of all the days, Atham and the tenth day, Thiru Onam are of great importance.
Religious and traditional people of Kerala sincerely follow all the customs and traditions set by their ancestors. A number of cultural programmes, dances, songs and feasts are organised to commemorate the festival.
Day begins with cleaning of the house. In front of the yard of the house, a portion is cleaned and smeared with cow-dung. After this, Conical figures made of sticky clay painted red are placed there. These are decorated with a paste made of rice-flour and water and are placed in the front court yard and other important places in the house. These images are of various forms. Some represent figures of divinities, others are mere cones. The latter are known as 'Trikkakara Appan'. The tradition is that the festival had its origin at Trikkakara, a place 10km from Cochin which according to mythology was the legendary capital of King Mahabali. A senior member of the house act as a priest and performs the rituals. He wakes up early and prepares ata; Ata is prepared from rice flour and molasses for Nivedyam (offerings to God). Lamps are lit up in front of the dieties and all members of the house join in for the celebration. A peculiar custom is followed after this, wherein male members make loud and rhythmic shouts of joys. The tradition is called, 'Aarppu Vilikkukal'. This represents the beginning of Onam.
Everyone dress up in their best attire and offer prayers in the local temple. There is also a tradition of distributing new clothes on Onam. In Tharawads (traditional large family consisting of more than hundred people), Karanavar, the eldest member of the family, gives new clothes as gifts, called Onapudava, to all family members and servants. Other members of the family exchange gifts amongst each other.
THE BIG FEAST - ONASADYA
After completing the morning rituals, it is time for the family to get ready for the grand meal called Onasadya. The biggest and most prominent place in the house is selected to lay the meal which is traditionally served in a row on a mat laid on the floor.
The eldest member of the family sit in the centre. In front of him is placed a lighted brass lamp at a distance. Towards the west of the lamp is placed a small plantain leaf on which the food is served. This is an offering made in the name of Lord Ganpati. Thereafter, the meal is served to other members. The elaborate meal consists of 11 to 13 strictly vegetarian dishes and is served on banana leaves. There is a fixed order of serving the meal and a set place to serve the various dishes on the leaf.
The spectrum of Onam gets its shade of royalty with the regal elephant ride that takes place at Thrissur, the cultural capital of Kerala. Decked in gold, the favourite animal of royals of India looks even more magnificent. And, we have not just one but a whole lot of them.
SNAKE BOAT RACE
The most spectacular event is the Vallamkali or the Snake Boat Race. The event takes place a few days before Thiru Onam. Though the event takes place at Alappuzha. A large number of big and decorated boats called chundan vallams participate with hundreds of boatmen. Rowing of boats on the rhythm provided by the songs and music of the drum makes it a captivating event.
DANCE AND GAMES
People participate in recreational activities and enjoy the festival. Men of strength and vigour go in for rigorous sports. There is a set of traditional games to be played on Onam which are collectively called, Onakalikal. It includes ball games, combats, archery and Kutukutu (Kabaddi). Women perform dances like Kaikottikali and Thumbi Thullal. Women performing the graceful clap dance called Kaikotti kali in their traditional gold bordered mundu and neriyathu presents a splendid sight. Besides, there is also a tradition of playing on a decorated swing hung from a high branch. Onappaattu - Onam Songs, are also sung on the occasion.
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