THE CELEBRATIONS OF ONAM
After three months of heavy rains, the sky becomes a clear blue and the forests a deep green. The brooks and streams come alive, spitting forth-gentle white foam, the lakes and rivers overflow and lotuses and lilies are in full bloom. It is time to reap the harvest, to celebrate and to rejoice. The harvest festival of Onam corresponds with the Malayalam New Year, Chingam.
Onam is the largest festival in Kerala. It falls during the first month of the Malayalam calendar which is Chingam (August–September) and marks the homecoming of the legendary King Maveli. The festival lasts for ten days and is linked to many elements of Kerala's culture and tradition. Intricate flower carpets, elaborate banquet lunch, snake boat races, Puli Kali, and the Kaikottikkali dance all play a part in the festival. And it can be undoubtedly said that these elements constitute the diversity, richness and colorfulness that no other festival can claim in the world.
The rich cultural heritage of Kerala comes out in its best form and spirit during the ten day long festival . Onam is celebrated with a focus on different cultural aspects at different places. Athachamayam- a cultural procession takes place in the royal town of Tripunithura near Ernakulam-Kochi, on the Atham day of Chingam, which also marks the beginning of Onam celebrations. At the Vamanamoorthy temple in Thrikkakara, the annual temple festival coincides with Onam. The temple is dedicated to Vamana and is directly linked to the mythological background of Onam.At Valluvanad(mainly Ottapalam, Shornur regions), Kathakali dancers in gorgeous costumes enact the legends. A strikingly impressive procession of caparisoned elephants is taken out at Thrissur, where masked dancers also go from house to house performing the colorful Kummattikali dance. At Cheruthuruthy, people gather to watch Kathakali performers enact scenes from epics and folk tales. At Aranmula, during Onam days the famous Aranmula Vallam Kali is conducted.
There is also a tradition to play games, collectively called Onakalikal, on Onam. Men go in for rigorous sports like Talappanthukali (played with a ball), Ambeyyal (Archery), Kutukutu and combats called Kayyankali and Attakalam. Women indulge in cultural activities. They make intricately designed flower mats called, Pookalam in the front courtyard of the house to welcome King Mahabali. Kaikotti kali and Thumbi Thullal are two graceful dances performed by women on Onam. Folk performances like Kummatti kali and Pulikali add to the zest of celebrations.