Sadhya feast, floral carpets, boat races: Kerala celebrates Onam with fervour
The nine-course vegetarian Onam sadhya (feast) is an indispensable part of this major Kerala festival

Sadhya feast, floral carpets, boat races: Kerala celebrates Onam with fervour

Onam is a 10-day long festival, but on 'Thiru Onam,' Keralites celebrate by visiting temples in large numbers, dress up in traditional attire, eat the elaborate Onam sadhya, create colourful floral carpets, participate in boat races and much more

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Wearing traditional clothes, preparing sumptuous feasts, and laying colourful floral carpets in the courtyards, Keralites celebrated Onam, the state's harvest festival, on Tuesday (August 29) with pomp and gaiety.

On the occasion of 'Thiru Onam', the most auspicious day of the 10-day-long festival, people visited temples in large numbers in the morning, cutting across villages and towns.

Children and youngsters decorated their houses with colourful 'pookkalam' (floral carpets) in various designs and colours. In villages, people put up high swings, called 'oonjal' in local parlance, in the courtyards of their homes as part of the festivities.

While elders gifted 'onakkodi' (new clothes) to other members of the family, women prepared 'sadya', the delicious feast comprising various traditional vegetarian dishes, pickles, and the delicious dessert, the jaggery 'payasam'.

Various organisations and local clubs organised traditional games including 'Vadamvali' (tug of war) and 'Uriyadi' (break the pot) and art forms like 'Pulikkali', 'Thiruvathira', 'Theyyam', and so on across the state, reviving the memories of the glorious past.

Significance of Onam

According to folklore, Onam is a festival connected with the return of the mythical demon king Mahabali under whose reign everyone lived in happiness and equality.

Legend has it that envious of his popularity, the Devas (Gods) sought the help of Lord Vishnu to get him banished into the netherworld. However, before he was sent to the nether regions, Mahabali secured a boon from Lord Vishnu to visit his subjects every year on Thiruvonam Day.

Ten days of celebrations

The celebrations also mark the beginning of the Malayalam New Year, which are spread over ten days, and conclude with Thiruvonam. The first and the last day are particularly important in Kerala and to Malayalee communities everywhere.

The ten days have a range of celebrations and activities ranging from boat races, dance events, martial arts, cultural programmes, sports competitions, floral rangoli (pookalam), prayers, shopping, donating time or food for charity.

Many lamps are lit in Hindu temples of Kerala during this celebration, and the faithful visit temples in large numbers wearing new clothes for the occasion.

Snake boat race

The snake boat race is an event that is synonymous with Onam, with oarsmen rowing huge snake-shaped boats. People throng the races, and it’s a great tourist attraction as well. The race is especially conducted on the Pampa river, considered sacred in Kerala.


Men and women wear the traditional dress, with the women donning the Kerala sari or Kasavu sari especially on this day, and men wearing the white “mundu”.

Onam sadya

The Onam sadya (feast) is an indispensable part of Onam, when families get together for the traditional sumptuous vegetarian meal. Every Keralite family either prepares or attends an Onam sadya. It is made with seasonal vegetables such as yam, cucumber, ash gourd, and many more and is served on plantain leaves.

It consists of nine courses, but may include over two dozen dishes, including banana chips, sharkaraveratti (fried pieces of banana coated with jaggery), pappadam, various vegetable dishes called avial, soups, sambhar and dal served with a small quantity of ghee, rasam, buttermilk, pickles, and coconut chutney. The feast ends with a series of desserts called payasam (a sweet dish made of milk, sugar, jaggery, and other traditional Indian savories). The curries are served with rice, usually the special parboiled rice preferred in Kerala.

Shopping season

Onam is also one of the biggest shopping seasons in the southern state, as people throng markets till the previous night to buy their favourite items for the festival.

On Monday (August 28), markets and malls were flooded with last-minute shoppers and long queues of people were seen at the fair-price shops opened by the State Civil Supplies Corporation, Horticorp, and Consumerfed as well.

Outpouring of wishes to Malayalis on Onam

Kerala governor Arif Mohammed Khan and Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan extended their Onam greetings to Malayalis across the world.

President Droupadi Murmu, vice-president Jagdeep Dhankhar, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi were among those who greeted people on Thiru Onam Day.

"Greetings to all fellow citizens and our brothers and sisters in Kerala on Onam! On this auspicious occasion we express our gratitude to Mother nature for the countless bounties. May this harvest festival usher in prosperity and the spirit of harmony among all," the President said in her social media handle.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday (August 29) greeted people on Onam, a festival associated with harvest and the homecoming of King Mahabali in Kerala.

In a post on X, he said, "Onam greetings to everyone! May your lives be showered with good health, unparalleled joy and immense prosperity. Over the last many years, Onam has become a global festival and it beautifully showcases the vibrant culture of Kerala."

Tamil Nadu governor RN Ravi and Chief Minister MK Stalin on Monday (August 28) greeted the Malayalam-speaking people on the occasion of Onam.

Extending his greetings on the eve of the grand official festival of Kerala, Ravi said "on the auspicious occasion of #Onam, my warmest greetings and best wishes to all our countrymen and women. May the Mahabali bless us with peace, prosperity, and good health, and we live like a happy Kutumbam."

Welcoming Dravidian king during Onam

Noting that the people of Kerala celebrated this harvest festival with enthusiasm and unity, Stalin, meanwhile said the people of Kerala also celebrate the occasion in warmly welcoming "the Dravidian king Maveli, dethroned by deception." The ancient Tamil literary piece Maduraikkanchi of the Sangam literature has a reference to the festival, he said.

"The Dravidian culture cannot be separated. A section of people is attempting to snatch this identity by depicting the Onam festival as Vamana Jayanti. The people of Kerala will ignore such attempts," Stalin said in a statement. People are aware that Onam will be the festival that will bring the downfall of the "selfish who want to divide the people", he said.

"May this Onam festival be a day to take an oath to restore equality, development, and unity in India. Let the coming year be the one when the entire India treads the progressive political path shown by the South. Once again, my Onam greetings to all the people of Kerala who are siblings of the Dravidian family," he said.

Stalin recalled that late chief minister M Karunanidhi announced a local holiday for the Malayalam-speaking people in Kanyakumari, Coimbatore, and Nilgiris districts in 2006 and for those in Chennai in 2007.

(With agency inputs)

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