Onam 2020 Festival Rituals

Onam is the most popular Hindu festivals of Kerala celebrated annually in the Malayalam month of Chingam (August – September). Onam Festival is celebrated for 10 days and to promote Onam internationally, the Government of Kerala celebrates the festival time as ‘Tourist Week’ in Kerala. The 2020 Kerala Onam festival begins with Athachamayam Festival in Tripunithura on 22 August and Thiruvonam festival is on 31 August 2020.

Rituals on Onam Utradam

Onam Uthradam is celebrated one day prior to Thiruonam (Thiru Onam). It is the custom of the tenants and depends of Tarawads (or Taravad, which literally means ancient family houses) to give gifts such as vegetables, coconut oil and plantains to Karanavar, the eldest member of the family. The gifts from villagers to Karanavar on Onam are called Onakazhcha. The Karanavar in turn offers a treat to the villagers. Handicrafts are also offered to the Karanavar of Nayar Tarawads by the village artisans.

Onam Festival Rituals

The Thiruonam Day (Main Onam Day)

Thiruonam or Thiru Onam is the most important day of the ten-day Onam festival. On this auspicious day, people make conical figures in various shapes from sticky clay and apply red paint to the figures. A paste of rice flour and water is used to decorate these and the conical figures are placed in the front court yard and important places in the house. These conical figures are called 'Trikkakara Appan' and this tradition originated at Trikkakara.

Ada (prepared from rice flour) is made during the day and Nivedyam is offered to God. A distinctive custom called Aarppu Vilikkukal is performed. It involves the loud and rhythmic shouts of joys by the male members. People wear new dresses and visit local temples. New clothes are distributed on the day. In Tarawads, the Karanavar offers new clothes as gifts called Onapudava (new clothings as gift on Onam) to all family members.

Another important feature on Thiruonam is the Onasadya or Onam Sadhya. The eldest member in the family occupies the central place and a lighted brass lamp is placed in front of him. A small plantain leaf is placed towards the west of the lamp. Food is served on this leaf. This is made as an offering to Lord Ganesh. Then the meal is served to other members. This sumptuous meal consists of 11 to 13 vegetarian dishes and there is a fixed order of serving the meal.

Dances and Onam Games

Traditional games, collectively called as Onakalikal, are played on Onam. It includes Talappanthukali (ball game), Kayyankali and Attakalam (combats), Ambeyyal (archery) and Kutukutu (Kerala version of Kabaddi). Kummattikali (the Mask Dance) is performed during the occasion. Pulikali or Kaduvakali is a colorful recreational folk art of Kerala, performed by trained artists to entertain people on the day. Kaikottikali and Thumbi Thullal are performed by the women for the festival of Onam.


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