Hi, Wish You All a happy and prosperous Onam........... When Maveli, our King, rules the land, All the people form one casteless race. And people live joyful and merry; They are free from all harm. There is neither theft nor deceit, And no one is false in speech either. Measures and weights are right; No one cheats or wrongs the neighbor. When Maveli, our King, rules the land, All the people form one casteless race. Thiru Onam is celebrated in the second half of August (the Chingam month of Kollam Era) when the August monsoon rains come to an end and the summer heat gives way to the pleasant warmth of the Kerala autumn. Anthropologists see in Onam a great fertility rite, the ceremony of Thanksgiving for a plentiful harvest. For Keralites Onam is the celebration of the return of Mahabali, their once beloved king. The Origin of Onam Onam or Thiruonam originated as a joyous annual reminiscence of the golden rule of King Mahabali, a mythical king, who ruled Kerala a very long time ago. It recalls the sacrifice of the great king, his true devotion to God, his human pride and his ultimate redemption. This king once ruled over the Keralites during the Golden Age before caste existed, "when all men were equal, when no one was poor, when there was neither theft nor dread of thieves" (Maveli natu vanitum kalam... Manusharellam onnu pole ... ). The complete folk-song is given above in its English version. The Legend Facts and fables blend as Kerala celebrates this royal return, year after year with the festivities of Onam. Legend has it that the gods plotted against Mahabali to end his reign. For this they sent Lord Vishnu to earth in the form of a dwarf Brahmin. But before being trampled down to the netherworld, Vishnu granted the king's sole wish: To visit his land and people once every year. The complete story is available in the message The Custom Pookalam A flower carpet called 'Pookalam' is laid in front of every house to welcome the advent of the vanquished king, and earthen mounds representing Mahabali and Vishnu are placed in the dung-plastered courtyards. Traditional rituals are performed followed by a lavish feast called 'Sadhya'. Onam also means new clothes for the whole family, sumptuous home-cooked delicacies on plantain leaf and the lingering aroma of the sweet Payasam. The complete onam special deliacies is available in the message Kaikottikali Onam is in the air.Its time to revive our rich folk arts when women come out with their dances, especially kaikottikalli.This is the period from "atham" to Onam when the Malayali celebrates a bumper harvest and is in a festive mood. The women-folk neatly decked up in mundu-veshti and ornamental flowers in their hair decorate their frontyard and "nadumittam" with flowers and light a lamp near an idol of Ganapathy in a gesture to overcome all hurdles in their pah to prosperity. The simple rythmic group dance which involves clapping each other's palms while encircling the pookalam is what's known as kaikottikali, the essence of Onam. Women, young and old, take part in the folk dance which signifies joy, happines and festivity. Though kaikottikali is neither a ritual form of dance or stage art, it derives its "ragachaya" from kathakali and the songs are based on episodes and legends like Krishnaleela, Shakunthalam, Kuchelavritham and Dhruvacharithram. Emphasis is given on rythmic movements than on mudra.The uniqueness of kaikottikali lies in the fact that the songs are sung by the participants themselves and the dance involves just simple steps in unison. The most common ragams found in the kaikottikali songs include the Hussaini, Bhairavi and Kamboji and on several occasions the song deviate from puranic tales to folk stories. Songs are also sung in praise of Saraswati, Ganapathy and Krishna which is considered to be very auspicious. Sadya over, on Onam day, women dance away to glory till the euphoria wanes. The Spectacle Spectacular parades of caparisoned elephants, fireworks and the famous Kathakali dance are traditionally associated with Onam. It's also the season of many cultural and sport events and carnivals. All this makes Onam-time a perfect period to visit this coastal state, touted as "Gods Own Country". No wonder the Government of Kerala has declared this time every year as Tourism Week. The Grand Boat Race One of the main attractions of Onam, is the 'Vallamkali' or boat races of Karuvatta, Payippad, Aranmula and Kottayam. Hundreds of oarsmen row traditional boats to the rhythm of drums and cymbals. These long graceful Snake Boats called 'Chundans' are named after their exceedingly long hulls and high sterns that resemble the raised hood of a cobra. Then there are 'Odis', the small and swift raiding crafts adorned with gold tasseled silk umbrellas, the 'Churulans' with their elaborately curled prows and sterns, and the 'Veppus', a kind of cook-boat. This traditional village rivalry on watercrafts reminds one of ancient naval warfare. Thousands throng the banks to cheer and watch the breathtaking show of muscle power, rowing skills and rapid rhythm. These boats - all pitted against their own kind - rip through the backwaters of Kerala in a tussle of speed. Onam is for All Although this festival has its origin in Hindu mythology, Onam is for all people of all class and creed. Hindus, Muslims and Christians, the wealthy and the downtrodden, all celebrate Onam with equal fervor. The secular character of Onam is peculiar to this land where unity had always coexisted with diversity, especially during festivals, when people come together to celebrate life's unlimited joys. A long long time ago, an Asura (demon) king called Mahabali ruled Kerala. He was a wise, benevolent and judicious ruler and beloved of his subjects. Soon his fame 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 over-powerful, Aditi, the mother of Devas pleaded with Lord Vishnu to curtail Mahabali's powers. Vishnu transformed himself into a dwarf called Vamana and approached Mahabali while he was performing a yajna and asked for alms. Pleased with the dwarf brahmin's wisdom, Mahabali granted him a wish. The Emperor's preceptor, Sukracharya warned him against making the gift, for he realized that the seeker was no ordinary person. But the Emperor's kingly ego was boosted to think that God had asked him for a favor. So he firmly declared that there is no greater sin than going back on one's promise. He 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 him 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, he was allowed to return once a year from exile. Onam is the celebration that marks the homecoming of King Mahabali. It is the day when a grateful Kerala pays a glorious tribute to the memory of this benign king who gave his all for his subjects. Another Legend Another legend has it that King Mahabali was a devout worshipper of Lord Vishnu. He was sincere, honest, just and a good ruler. But he had one weakness ego. And to eradicate his pride and redeem his beloved devotee of this one sin, Vishnu came to earth in the form of a dwarf Brahmin named Vamana. The king in his pride asked the Brahmin what he wanted for he could give anything. Vamana asked for three paces of land and the king agreed. To humble him Vishnu, as Vamana showed Mahabali that he is just a puny creature in front of God's universal stature. Mahabali, who was a man of principles, realized God's purpose and offered his head for Vamana's footstep, as he was sent to another world. This fatal step proved a blessing in disguise for the good king the foot salvaged and released him from the recurrent cycle of birth and death. That is why Onam is celebrated by wearing new clothes and resolving to lead a new life of truth, piety, love, and humility.'Onasadhya' is the grand feast served during the celebration of Onam in Kerala. It is served in Banana leafs. There is a way of placing the leaf and an order of serving the dishes. <img> Rice is the main course. With rice, various kinds of dishes are served... curries, 'upperies' (things fried in oil), 'pappadams' (round crisp flour paste cakes of peculiar make), 'achchars' (pickles of various kinds), 'payasams' and 'prathamans' (Desserts). Fruits are also served, mainly plantain.