» »Onam Festival in Kerala

Onam Festival in Kerala

By Akshatha Vinayak

Onam is the most popular festival in Kerala. It is celebrated for 10 days in the Malayam month of Chingam. Beginning from the traditional Athachamayam to Thiruvonam, the festival goes on in a grand way.


Pookalam ( a floral carpet)
Photo Courtesy: Challiyan

The legend says, the spirit of the king Mahabali comes to visit Kerala during Onam. Hence, the people make Pookkalam (the floral design) to welcome the King Mahabali.


Drums beats during Athachamayam
Photo Courtesy: Sivavkm

Various traditional dance and music art forms are performed in much grandeur. Women in traditional saris also perform Thiruvathira Kali dance during Onam festival. Onam Sadya ( traditional food) is the major part of the festival.

The mind blowing boat races, traditional dances, processions and music just add to the many attractions of Kerala.


Onam kick-starts in the historical city of Thripunithura, Kochi. Athachamayam marks the beginning of the 10-day Onam festival. Every year it is organized on the Malayalam month of Chingam.

art form

Kathakali art form
Photo Courtesy: Sivavkm

Athachamayam is a procession that showcases all the folk art forms of Kerala. In olden times, this event was celebrated to commemorate the legendary victory of the King of Kochi.

The grand Athachamayam is conducted even today during the famous Onam festival in Kerala.


Aravattu Procession
Photo Courtesy: Hari Vishnu

Thrikkakara Temple, Kochi

Thrikkakara Temple or Thrikkakara Vamanamoorthy Temple is the main centre for the celebrations of Onam. The temple is dedicated to the Lord Vamana, the fifth incarnation of Lord Vishnu.

The legend of the mythical King Mahabali and Lord Vamana is associated with Thrikkakara. The place is believed to have been the abode of the King Mahabali.

Another art form

Athachamayam procession
Photo Courtesy: Sivavkm 

Hence, Onam is celebrated to honour Onathappan ( Lord Vamana), who kept his 3rd step in this land by sending the king Mahabali to nether world ( Pathalam).

During these 10 days, many programmes take place in Thrikkakara Temple. Cultural art forms such as Kathakali, Chakyar Koothu, Panchavadyam are also performed during the festival.

Arattu procession with caparison clad elephants carrying the Vamanamoorthy idol is also a gala event which happens in the temple.

Boat race

Aranmula Boat Race
Photo Courtesy: Arun Sinha

Aranmula Boat Race

Aranmula Boat Race is one of the famous boat races in Kerala. In the town of Aranmula, the popular Vallam Kali takes place during Onam festival.

Parthasarathi Temple in Aranmula is the main centre for this boat race. In fact, many boat races in Kerala are organized during the Onam festival.


Pulikali - an art form
Photo Courtesy: Felix Francis

Pulikali procession in Thrissur

Thrissur is known as the Cultural capital of Kerala. Onam festival in Thrissur is celebrated by the procession of Pulikali.

Pulikali or Kaduvakali is an art form where performers painted like tigers dance to the beats of chenda or thakil ( wooden drums).

onam sadya

Onam Sadya
Photo Courtesy: Deepak~commonswiki


Thiruvonam is the 10th and the last day of the Onam festival. It marks the end of Onam when the spirit of King Mahabali prepares to leave.

Onam celebrations

Onam Celebrations
Photo Courtesy: Sivavkm 

The official government celebrations end in Thiruvanathapuram with a dance festival and Pulikali procession in Thrissur.

Onam is not just a grand one but also a secular festival. People of all castes and groups come together to celebrate this festival. And that in speciality of the Onam festival in Kerala.

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