Onam is a famous festival celebrated in the state of Kerala. It is also the state holiday that lasts for 4 days starting from the eve of Onam, and ends on the 3rd day of the festivity.
The festival falls during the Malayalam month of Chingam, and marks the commemoration of Vamana avatara of Vishnu and the subsequent homecoming of the mythical King Mahabali, who happens to be the king of Malayalis.
In Kerala, it is the festival celebrated with most number of cultural elements such as Vallam Kali, Pulikali, Pookkalam, Onathappan, ThumbiThullal, Onavillu, Kazhchakkula, Onapottan, Atthachamayam etc., and is reminiscent of Kerala’s agrarian past as it is considered to be a harvest festival.

Legend has it
Long time ago, an Asura king called Mahabali ruled Kerala.He was a wise, benevolent and judicious ruler and the beloved of his subjects. Soon his reputation as an able king began to spread far and wide, but when he extended his rule to the heavens and the netherworld, the gods felt challenged and began to fear his growing powers.

Presuming that he might become too powerful, Aditi, the mother of Devas pleaded with Lord Vishnu to restrain Mahabali’s powers. So Lord Vishnu transformed himself into a dwarf called Vamana and approached Mahabali while he was performing a yajna,asking for alms. Pleased with the dwarf Brahmin’s wisdom, Mahabali granted him a desire.

The Emperor’s preceptor Shukracharya warned him against making the gift, for he could sense that the seeker was no ordinary person. But that the Gods themselves had asked him for a favour, or so Mahabali thought, appealed to the Emperor’s kingly ego. So he firmly declared that there is no greater sin than going back on one’s promise, and kept his word.

The Vamana asked for a simple gift — three paces of land — and the king agreed to it. Vishnu in the guise of Vamana then increased his stature, and with the first step covered the sky, blotting out the stars, and with the second, straddled the netherworld. Realising that Vamana’s third step will destroy the Earth, Mahabali offered his head as the last step.

Vishnu’s fatal third step pushed Mahabali to the netherworld, but before banishing him to the underworld, Vishnu granted him a boon. Since he was attached to his kingdom and his people, the emperor equested to be able to return once a year from exile.Onam is the celebration that marks the homecoming of King Mahabali every year. It is the day when grateful Kerala pays a glorious tribute to the memory of this benign king who gave his all for his subjects.

Common Rituals

The celebrations begin a fortnight before the Malayalam New Year, and go on for ten days. Festive rituals, traditional cuisine, dance and music mark this harvest festival.

The ten-day Onam festival is considered to be flagged off with Atthachamayam in Thrippunithara. The colourful parade depicts all the elements of the culture of Kerala with more than 50 floats and 100 tableaux. The main centre of the festival is at Vamanamoorthy Thrikkakara temple in Kochi city, believed to be the ancient capital of King Mahabali. The temple is dedicated to Lord Vamana and is directly linked to the mythological background of Onam.
The ten days of Onam are celebrated with great fervour by Malayalis. Of all the days, the first day, Atham, and the tenth and final day, Thiru-Onam are the most important.

Onam -Hindu Calendar

Kerala’s rich cultural heritage is manifested at its best during this festival.

Music and Dance
During the festival,traditional dance forms including Thiruvathirakali, Kummattikali, Pulikali, ThumbiThullal etc. are performed as part of celebrations all over Kerala. Thiruvathirakali is a women’s dance form performed in circular motion around a lamp. Kummattikali is a famous and colourful-mask dance.

In Thrissur, festivities include a procession consisting of caparisoned elephants surrounded by Kummatikali dancers. The masked dancers go from house to house performing the vibrant Kummattikali.

Kathakali dance is also commonly performed during this time, with dancers enacting famous mythological legends. A famous venue for this is at Valluvanad, which is associated with the growth of Kathakali, and Cheruthuruthy, where Kerala Kalamandalam is located.

Pulikali, also known as Kaduvakali, is a common sight during the Onam season. This dance showcases performers painted like tigers in bright yellow, red, and black, who dance to the beats of instruments like Chenda and Thakil.

Boat race
Vallamkali, the snake boat race is another event that is synonymous with Onam. Well-known races include the Aranmula Uthrattadhi Boat Race, and the Nehru Trophy Boat Race. About 100 oarsmen row huge and graceful snake boats, and men and women come from far and near to watch the snake boats race through the waters.

Puja Vidhi
There is no Puja associated with Onam.

Aarti/Katha in Hindi
There is no ritualistic aarti or katha associated with Onam.

Aarti/Katha in English
There is no ritualistic aarti or katha associated with Onam.


Moong Lentils – 1 Cup
Water – 3Cups
Turmeric powder – ½ tsp
Salt to taste
Lightly fry the Moong lentils in a pan. Boil 3 cups of water and add washed lentils and turmeric powder. When it boils, simmer the flame. When the lentil is cooked well, add salt to taste and ghee.
Mix well and remove from fire.
Serve hot.


Cabbage, long runner-beans /any other vegetable–500gm (cut into small pieces)
Coconut oil–2tsp
Mustard seeds – ½ tsp
Black gram-1tsp
Dried red chilli – 4(cut into 2-3 pieces)
Salt to taste
Turmeric powder – ¼ tsp
Red chilli powder – ¼ tsp
Coconut – 1 Cup
Cumin Seeds – ¼ tsp
Curry leaves – 2

Crush the coconut, cumin seeds, curry leaves and garlic.Put vegetables in a pan and boil with salt and chillies. Heat the oil in a pan and sauté ingredients. Add turmeric and chilli powder, boiled vegetables, and crushed ingredients. Mix well. Serve hot.

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