Onam Celebrations 2014 - Ten Days of Onam Festival

Read this article about Onam celebrations 2014,ten days of onam festival. Onam is a very important festival for the people of Kerala. The festival spans for ten days with each and every day having significant importance. Read this article to know the celebrations and activities of all ten days of Onam festival. It also mentions the celebrations that take place after Onam.

Onam is a festival which is celebrated in the state of Kerala in India as a sign of the return of the legendary King Mahabali. The festival lasts for ten days, the first one starting on Atham nakshatram (star) of Chingam month in the Malayalam calendar and the last one falling on Thiruvonam nakshatram. In some parts of Kerala, the two days after Thiruvonam is also considered important. All the ten days are important for the people of Kerala. Many celebrations take place during this entire period such as dances, games, pookalam competitions, snake boat races, grand feast etc.

1. First day - Atham nakshatram
The Atham nakshatram of Chingam month in the Malayalam calendar marks the first day of Onam festival. It is a very important day for the people of Kerala as it is beginning of something very auspicious. People wake up early in the morning, take bath and offer prayers to the lords in the temples near their homes before starting the rest of the work for the day. Atham is the first day on which the pookalam (floral rangoli) design is made in front of the entrance of every home. The design made on Atham that is, the first day of Onam, is called Athapoo and should be small in size as the design should slowly be made bigger each day until the last day of Onam. Simple floral designs using only yellow-coloured flowers are made on Atham. Most of the homes put up a swing which is decorated with flowers in their courtyards. The pookalam is made in order to welcome King Mahabali as the people of Kerala believe that the legendary king makes a visit to every Keralite's house during Onam. There is a temple in Thrikkakara near the city of Kochi which is considered as the abode of Mahabali. The celebrations in this temple start from the first day, Atham itself. The start of Onam festival is marked across Kerala with a grand procession called Athachamyam from Thripunithara near Kochi. The procession comprises of elegantly decorated elephants, performances of folk art forms and traditional music. Atham is the beginning of a period of busy days for Malayalees as each one tries to make the festival memorable in their own ways. In many houses, the statues of Mahabali and Vamanan, made of earthern mounds, are also placed in front of the house. The statues are also decorated beautifully with traditional flowers.

2. Second day - Chithira
The second day of Onam festival falls on Chithira nakshatram of the Malayalam calendar. No special celebration is done on this day except that the maidens of the house make the pookalam design a little bigger this time using flowers of another colour other than yellow (usually orange-coloured flowers are used). Each flower that is used for pookalam is devoted to a particular Hindu deity. A lot of effort goes into making the design as people believe that King Mahabali visits those houses where the pookalam design is extremely creative and beautiful. The boys of the house help the girls to collect the flowers that are needed to make the design. In every house, people also start the preparations for the main day of Onam festival (Thiruvonam) which includes cleaning the house and making lists for buying new clothes and household items. As usual, people wake up early in the morning and offer their prayers to the lord before eating or starting the day's work. Infact, this ritual is followed on every day of the ten-day festival. Children also love this time as they get to fulfil their wishes of buying new clothes or other items. No one will object to their demands as it is a festive occasion and everyone is in a joyous mood.

3. Third day - Chodhi
The third day of Onam festival falls on Chodhi nakshatram of the Malayalam calendar. The pookalam design is again made bigger this time using many different colours of flowers. It is also on this day that everyone begins to do the shopping for new clothes that have to be gifted to close relatives, friends, loved ones and even for the servants of the house. The markets get really crowded with people as everyone does the shopping during these ten days itself. Needless to say, it is a really good time for a shopkeeper's business when more discounts and offers are kept to attract more customers to their shops. People are in such a good mood for shopping that it becomes very easy to trap them to buy more by tempting them with discounts and sales. Many people take the opportunity to buy new jewellery also as it is always considered auspicious to buy gold on happy occasions. Thus, every person in the house becomes really busy in these activities which usually takes a long time as none of the relatives must be left out while buying the gifts. The new clothes bought for Onam are called Onakkodi. Other than these activities, there are no special rituals meant to be done on the third day of Onam.

4. Fourth day - Vishakam
The fourth day of Onam festival falls on Vishakam nakshatram of the Malayalam calendar. It is another very important day for Malayalees during the festival. The crowds in the markets increases manifold on this day. The pookalam designs in front of each home is again made a little bigger and much more beautiful. Another important event of the fourth day is that all competitions that are associated with Onam such as Onapookalam competitions and sports games are held on this day. Such competitions are held even in offices and educational institutions nowadays which attracts a lot of participants and spectators. People also become more excited as the main day of Onam is approaching nearer. Not only in the markets but also at homes people become extremely busy as homemade recipes such as sweets and pickles are made from this day. People usually never buy food from outside for the Onasadya that is prepared for the final day. Everything is expected to be made homemade including the pickles and savouries.

5. Fifth day - Anizham
The fifth day of Onam festival falls on Anizham nakshatram of the Malayalam calendar. It is yet another important day for Malayalees as it marks the beginning of the famous snake boat races or vallamkali's in many parts of Kerala. The most famous boat race, Aranmula boat race which is held at Pamba river, takes place only after the main festival of Onam but a rehearsal for the final show takes place on the fifth day. The event attracts people from afar to witness the spectacular show. Yet again in every house, people make more attempts to make their pookalam designs more attractive by adding more flowers and making a bigger design.

6. Sixth day - Thrikketa
The sixth day of Onam festival falls on Thrikketa nakshatram of the Malayalam calendar. It is from this day that most of the schools and offices declare holidays for Onam. People who stay away from their loved ones immediately pack their bags and start off to their hometowns to spend the festival with their dear and near. More additions are made to the pookalam designs which would have already become really big in size by now. The festive mood becomes all the more intense as the main day comes closer and also because of the reunion of families. In many communities, programmes related to Onam and private competitions are also held. Many people come forward to take part in the programmes. Onam is a secular festival and so it does not prevent people from any caste or community from taking part in the activities and programmes of the festival. Other than these activities, there are no special rituals that take place on the fifth day.

7. Seventh day - Moolam
The seventh day of Onam festival falls on Moolam nakshatram of the Malayalam calendar. In many households, small versions of Onasadya (grand feast) is kept. Many of the temples of Kerala also offer feasts on this day. The highlights of the seventh day are the performances of traditional Onam dances such as Kaikottikali, Kummattikali and Puli kali. The streets are filled with people who love to witness the Puli kali troupes. Major cities of Kerala such as Kochi, Thiruvananthapuram, Thrissur and Kozhikode are illuminated brightly. The air also gets filled with spectacular fireworks. Meanwhile in the households, the pookalam designs are made more elaborate and much more beautiful with new and fresh flowers. The market places are still filled with crowds of people who have not yet been able to finish their shopping for the festival. Undoubtedly, the excitement in the air increases to great heights by now.

8. Eighth day - Pooradam
The eighth day of Onam festival falls on Pooradam nakshatram of the Malayalam calendar. It is a very significant day as far as the rituals of the festival are concerned. On this day, the statues of Mahabali and Vamanan which were placed in front of the house on the first day itself will be washed properly to clean it well. After that the statues will be taken around the house after which it will be placed in the centre of the pookalam (which would be really big and intricate by this time). The statues will also be covered with a batter of rice and flour mixture. It is small children, called as Pooradaunnikal, who do the job of applying the batter on the statues. When the application is completely over, the statue will hereafter be known as Onathappan. Even on this day, the streets and shops will be very crowded with people finishing off all the last minute shopping. In the households too, every member of the family helps to keep the house spick and span as they are expecting Mahabali to visit their house. As mentioned before, the pookalam design also gets much bigger with more fresh flowers and creative designs.

9. Ninth day - Uthradom
The ninth day of Onam festival falls on Uthradom nakshatram of the Malayalam calendar. As it is the day just before the main day of the festival, it holds extreme importance as the excitement in the eyes of the people and the rush to finish off all the pending works increases greatly. The last minute hurried shopping that is done on this day is even given a name exclusively called Uthradapachal. Fresh vegetables and fruits are bought from the market which are used for making the elaborate grand feast that will be served on the tenth day. For the Malayalees, Uthradom is considered as the first Onam day. It is called 'Onnaam (first) Onam'. This is because people believe that this is the day when King Mahabali actually reaches Kerala from heaven to roam around his kingdom and bless all his people. The pookalam design in front of every household is made all the more bigger with different flowers and a much more charming design. The lunch that is eaten on Uthradom is known as Uthrada lunch and holds special significance. There is a very old tradition which is followed even nowadays in the interior parts of Kerala where the farmers gift the produce of their hard work in the farms (known as Onakkazhacha) to the Karnavar (eldest member of the family) of Nair Tharawad (household). In return for their gift, the farmers also receive tokens of small gifts, meals or sweets from the Karnavar.

10. Tenth day - Thiruvonam
The tenth and the final day of Onam festival falls on Thiruvonam nakshatram of the Malayalam calendar. It is known as 'Randaam Onam' meaning Second Onam. The day is known as Thiru-onam. Every person in Kerala becomes hugely immersed in the activities of the celebrations. Happiness fills the air as children also play with joy. People wake up very early in the morning, take a bath and offer prayers to the nearby temples before starting any other activity. Everyone wears new clothes on this day known as Onakkodi. Women usually wear the traditional Kerala set saree whereas young girls also wear skirts of traditional attire with golden borders. The men usually wear dhoti on the day. Everywhere one can here people wishing each other 'Onaashamsakal' (Onam wishes). Even all the Malayalam TV channels are filled with special Onam programmes which lure people to the idiot box on this day too. The maidens of the house become busy early morning to make a special and more beautiful pookalam design to welcome King Mahabali into their house. The pookalam made on this day is the biggest of all the other days.

In some households, pooja's and private prayers are also conducted. Each and every family member receives gifts from their loved ones and from the elders of the house. Thiruonam is the day when the elaborate grand feast, known as Thiruona-sadya, is completely prepared and served during the lunch time. The feast is strictly vegetarian and consists of many traditional Kerala dish items such as sambar, avial, kalan, rasam, pickles, rice, pappadam etc which are served on a banana leaf. The sadya is also served in hotels and temples. The traditional Onam games such as Talappanthukali, Kutukutu, Ambeyyal, Kayyankali and Attakalam are conducted on this day. Many other cultural programmes and dances are also held at some organizations. Keralites love fire crackers which are called padakkam in Malayalam. So they take this opportunity to fill the air with beautiful display of fireworks and celebrate with joy and pomp. As Onam is a secular festival which does not discriminate against any religion, special prayers are held at almost all the local temples, mosques and churches on Thiruonam.

Celebrations after Thiruvonam
Though Thiruvonam marks the final day of Onam festival, the two days after Thiruvonam are also considered important and are labelled as 'Moonaam Onam' (third Onam) and 'Naalaam Onam' (fourth Onam). The third Onam falls on Avittom nakshatram and the fourth Onam falls on Chathayam nakshatram of the Malayalam calendar.

People believe that King Mahabali returns to heaven from Kerala on the third day. Thus, people take the statues of Mahabali and Vamanan which were placed in front of the pookalam design and immerse them in the nearby rivers. The pookalam design is also fully removed and the marks of the design are also cleaned off. The most important aspect of the third day is that the Puli kali (traditional dance of Kerala) is performed on the streets by the Puli kali troupes in their attractive costumes of tigers.

The fourth day is important only because it is the birthday of a great social philosopher and reformer of Kerala called Sree Narayana Guru. The day is celebrated as Narayana Jayanthi for this purpose.

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