Onam is one of the greatest festivals of Kerala. It is the festival, which the keralites celebrates unitedly without the differecnce of caste and religion.
Onam is related with King Mahabali who was ruling kerala in a time. He was an Asura king but was very nice and trueful. During his ruling time it is said that people don't even lock their house in the night because , there was no thieves,no corruption,no betrayal. And all people lived unitedly, without the difference of rich and poor. All where facing a good time. Like wise the king was so good that he will give anything to anyone. At that time the Hindu lord Mahavishnu decided to test King Mahabali. He came to earth as vamana a poor dwarf, and went straight to King Mahabali. He told the King that he has nothing and he want three feet of land to live. The king hearing this laughed and told Vamana to take three feet of land from where ever he wishes.
Suddenly Vamana began to grow and he covered the whole earth by one foot and covered the sky with other foot. And asked Mahabali where is the space for the third foot. By seeing all these, the king understood that Vamana is not an ordinary person, and Vamana has come to test him so the king without hesitating showed his head to keep the third foot. Vamana kept his third foot on the King's head and the King was pushed down under the earth (pathala). The king after going to Pathala asked Vamana his true identity, Suddenly Vamana vanished and Lord Mahavishnu stood before Mahabali. Mahabali was overjoyed by seeing this. The lord told Mahabali that he wanted to test Mahabali and he has won in that. The lord also asked Mahabali to ask any boon for himself. Mahabali told the lord that, he loved his people very much so he wanted permission to visit Kerala once in a year. And the lord gave permission for that.the day Mahabali visits kerala is celebrated as Onam.
Onam is a celebration of Ten days. It comes in the month of "Chingam" according to Malayalam calender. People put flower mats in front of their houses, to welcome the King. There will be competition for the laying of flower mats; Keralites all over the world will be celebrating this ten days will pomp and gaiety. They will wear new dresses, will be visiting almost all temples which they can, they will be performing lot of dances like Thiruvathira kali Thumbi, Tullal, Onasadya they will be having on the Thiuruvonam day. Which is also called the Fourth Onam. Whatever may happen they will not miss the Grant lunch. There is a saying in Malayalam that "Kanam Vittu Onam Unnanam" which means "We should have the Thiruonam lunch even if we have to sell all our properties". They give that much importance to the lunch on the Thiruvonam Day.
Literally 'nine nights', this nine-day period from the new moon day to the ninth day of Ashvin is considered the most auspicious time of the Hindu calendar and is hence the most celebrated time of the year. Although it has different names in different parts of India, Hindus from all regions celebrate it. From Kashmir in the north to Tamil Nadu in the south, and from Gujarat in the west to Sikkim in the east, it is celebrated with great enthusiasm as the conquest of good over evil. Every region has its own myths and reasons to explain this.
The nine different aspects of Devi are worshipped over the nine days. These are the most popular forms under which she is worshipped: Durga: goddess beyond reach; Bhadrakali the auspicious power of time; Amba or Jagdamba: mother of the world; Annapurna: giver of food and plenty; Sarvamangala: auspicious goddess; Bhairavi: terrible, fearful, power of death; Chandika or Chandi: violent, wrathful, furious; Lalita: playful; and Bhavani: giver of existence.
The festivities culminate on the tenth day, called variously Vijayadashmi, Dussehra or Dassain when people in most parts of the country burn effigies of Ravana, Meghanatha and Kumbhakarna. The nine-day period from the first to the ninth day in the bright fortnight of the month of Chaitra is also known as Navaratri and is dedicated to the worship of nine different aspects of Devi. These nine days are however, popular in north India only. The ninth day in this month is also celebrated as Ramanavami.
During Navaratri some people fast on all days taking only fruit and milk dishes and some fast only on the eighth or ninth day. As the festival is dear to the mother goddess, on the eighth or ninth day many people invite over nine young girls from the neighborhood. These girls are treated as the goddess herself. People ceremonially wash their feet, worship them and then offer food to the "girl goddesses".
On the first day of the Navaratri, grains of barley are planted in the puja room of the house. A small bed of mud is prepared in which barley seeds are sown after a small puja has been performed. Every day some water is sprinkled on it. On the tenth day, the shoots are about 3 - 5 inches in length. After the puja, these seedlings are pulled out and given to devotees as a blessing from god. The seedlings are placed on their caps, behind their ears, and inside books to bring good luck. This custom suggests a link to harvesting. The sowing and reaping of barley is symbolic of the "first fruit”. Soon after this festival, the sugarcane crop is harvested and the winter crops are sown.
According to one hypothesis, in ancient times, this was a festival intended for the Kshatriyas. After the four-month long monsoon when military activity was not possible, this was considered a good time to start afresh on one's conquests.
For nine days before starting on the war journey, kings prayed to the nine different aspects of Devi or Adishakti. They also prayed for their arms and ammunition. The tenth day was when the journey for the conquest began. The origin of this custom can also be traced to the Ramayana. According to it, Rama had to pray to the nine different aspects of Devi to be able to kill Ravana. He then accumulated enough power to kill Ravana on the tenth day, which was called Vijayadashmi or Victory Day. Since then, the tradition of praying to Devi for nine days has continued and was especially pronounced amongst the Kshatriyas who believed that by doing so, they too would be able to defeat the most powerful enemy.
Venue: Palli Bhagavathy Temple, Neelamperoor, Kottayam.
Neelemperoor Pooram Padayani is held at the precincts of the beautiful temple of Goddess Bhagavathy at Neelemperoor near Kottayam. Padayani is a symbolic victory march of Goddess Kaali after vanquishing Darika.
During the pooram festival, decorated motifs of Swans;both large and small, form part of the Kettukazcha the symbolic offering made to the Goddess. These are then carried in a procession, on the main day of the festival in which bigger ones are moved on platforms with wooden wheels and smaller ones carried on the shoulders of devotees. A unique aspect of the motif decoration here at Neelemperoor is the sourcing of different colours. The required colours are taken from the surroundings, in the form of leaves, flower petals, parts of the coconut tree and other local plant varieties.
The procession is conducted at night and in its course towards the temple;it is accompanied by the reverberating beats emanating from several traditional drums (Chenda) along with clanging of Cymbals that fills the air with a captivating rhythm.
Nearest railway station: Kottayam, about 16 kms.
Nearest Airport: Cochin International Airport, about 76 kms from Kottayam.
Venue : Punnamada Lake - Alappuzha District - Kerala State India
At one time, boat were the only mode of transport in the backwaters. The advent of roads changed that. Much later, tourism heralded another change – rice boats metamorphosed into houseboats, and the slender snake boats, or chundan vallom, used by local kings to ferry soldiers during waterfront wars, spawned a new sport, the boat race. Over 100 ft long, the raised prow of this boat stands 10 ft above water and resembles a snake’s hood.
Boat races are occasions of great excitement and entertainment that allow the oarsmen to prove their awesome physical prowess to the thousands gathered to watch. Most of these races are held in the water-logged Kuttanad region of Alappuzha.
As one story goes, when Jawaharlal Nehru visited Kerala in 1952, four traditional chundan Valloms went to receive him. A mock snake boatrace was also organized. Nehru was so fascinated that once he returned to Delhi, he sent a gleaming silver trophy for a boat race, dully named after him. Since then, the race has become a most prestigious one. Even today, boats race a one and a half kilometer stretch in four columns. The annual Nehru Trophy boat race begins during the harvest festival on Onam in August.
Powered by over 100 muscular oarsmen, the slender crafts streak across the Punnamada Lake in Alappuzha, accompanied by feverish drumbeats and the cheers of thousands of spectators.
Pulikali is a popular folk art performed during the Onam season. In Pulikali a group of performers paint their whole body in the likeness of tigers and wear tiger mask. They prance about, dance and move like tigers. The tigers are accompanied by a hunter and a drummer. The theme of the play is tiger hunting.
The Swaraj Round in Thrissur district is the venue of a grand Pulikali on the fourth Onam day. On this day Pulikali troups from different parts of the district come here to perform.
Nearest railway station: Thrissur, a few minutes drive from the Thekkinkadu Maidanam.
Nearest airport: Cochin International Airport, about 58 km from Thrissur town.
Thirunelli Festival is a two-day festival celebrated on Vishu day and its eve, in the Malayalam month of Medam (April) is the annual festival of Sree Thirunelli Devaswom at Thirunelli in Wayanad.
Papanasini, the holy mountain spring here believed to have the divine power to absolve the soul of all its sins, flows near the shrine.
A sacred rock nearby is the place where ritual offerings are made for the ancestors on the new moon days of Malayalam months of 'Karkkidakam' (July/ August), 'Thulam' (October/ November) and 'Kumbham' (February/ March).
Celebrated In : Wayanad, Kerala
Centre of Activity : Shri Thirunelli Devaswom, Thirunelli
Duration : 2 days
In the month of : April.
The most colourful temple festival of Kerala, Thrissur Pooram, attracts large masses of devotees and spectators form all parts of the State and even outside.
Celebrated in Medom (April-May) it consists of processions of richly caparisoned elephants from various neigbouring temples to the Vadakunnatha temple, Thrissur. The most impressions are those from the Krishna temple at Thiruvambadi and the Devi temple at Paramekkavu, both situated in the town itself. This festival was introduced by Sakthan Thampuran, the Maharaja of erstwhile Kochi state. The Pooram festival is also well-known for the magnificent display of fireworks. It is celebrated by two rival groups representing the two divisions of Thrissur Paramekkavu and Thiruvambadi vying with each other in making the display of fireworks grander and more colourful. Each group is allowed to display a maximum of fifteen elephants and all efforts are made by each party to secure the best elephants in South India and the most artistic parasols, several kind which are raised on the elephants during the display. The commissioning of elephants and parasols is done in the utmost secrecy by each party to excel the other. Commencing in the early hours of the morning, the celebrations last till the break of dawn, the next day.
Of the rival groups participating in the Pooram, the most important ones are those from Pramekkavu and Thiruvambadi. At the close of the Pooram both these groups enter the temple through the western gate and come out through the southern gate to array themselves, face to face, one from the round and other form the Municipal Office road. This spectacle is highly enchanting. Although this grand festival is known as Thrissur Pooram, it is in fact the conclusion of the eight -day Utsavam of nine temples.
The procession of the Thiruvambadi Pooram to the grounds of Vadakkunnatha Temple and back is not only important, but also quite enlivening. The marvelous as well as magical effect of the Panchavadyam, a combination of five percussion and wind instruments, is to be felt and enjoyed.
Vishu is more important among Hindu festivals of Kerala, which occurs in April. Vishu marks the sowing season and is celebrated with great devotion all over Kerala. Every Hindu wakes-up to see as the fight sight, the "Vishukkani", a decorated plate, full of fruits, 'konna flowers', gold ornaments, portraitsof different deities, all placed in the full glow of lighted bell metal lamps.
The belief among the people is that by seeing 'vishukkani', they will have ensured a prosperous year for agriculture. Children as well as adults explode crackers to ward off evil spirits during Vishu.
A colorful festival that is celebrated by all Hindus worldwide is Deepavali, which is also known as the festival of lights. This festival usually falls around late October and November. One important practice that the Hindus follow during the festival is to light oil lamps in their homes on Deepavali morning. By lighting the oil lamps, the Hindus are thanking the gods for the happiness, knowledge, peace and wealth that they have received. The Hindus consider Deepavali as one of the most important festivals to celebrate.
Story behind Deepavali Festival
There is even an interesting legend behind this festival. The story goes that Narakasura, a demon, ruled the kingdom of Pradyoshapuram. Under his rule, the villagers suffered a lot of hardship as the demon tortured the people and kidnapped the women to be imprisoned in his palace. Seeing his wickedness, Lord Khrishna set out to destroy the demon and the day Narakasura died was celebrated as Deepavali, the triumph of good over evil!
Preparation for Deepavali starts usually at least two to three weeks before the festival. It is known that the Hindus will be busy cleaning their houses to prepare for the festival. Some would even renovate their houses to prepare it for Deepavali. Usually the family will shop for new clothes and for accessories to decorate their homes. Prior to the festival, Indian shops will be selling festive items like Deepavali greeting cards, carpets, Punjabi suits and flowers. The Hindus will frequent these shops when they are shopping for Deepavali.
The Hindus usually awake early in the morning of deepavali around 3am and the first ritual will be having an oil bath, which is an important feature of Deepavali. Hindus will be dressed in their new clothes on Deepavali. Most of the ladies would be clad in silk saris or Punjabi suits of various bright shades. Hindus particularly dislike dressing in black on that day, as they consider black an inauspicious color for the festival. Hindus would also pay their respects to the elderly and most families would go to the temple after having breakfast. This is also an important practice for them. The reason why they would be going to the temples is to pray to get happiness and prosperity on Deepavali. The houses would be decorated with oil lamps and children will play with firecrackers to celebrate the festival. On the first day, they would not go visiting but would stay at home to welcome the guests who visit them.
Food prepared during Deepavali
Visiting Hindus during Deepavali will be an interesting activity, as you will get to taste a wide variety of delicious food. In every home that you visit you are bound to be served with a tempting spread of sweets. Some of the popular sweets are halwa, burfi and laddu. Hindus love eating spicy food and for non-vegetarians they indulge in favorites like chicken tandoori, prawn sambal and fish head curry. In homes of Hindus who are vegetarians popular dishes like thosais, idlis and naans are prepared.