Onam 2019: How Kerala Celebrates 10 Days Of Onam

Onam is Kerala’s harvest festival and is celebrated in the month of Chingam (August-September). But all of us Malayalis know that there’s more to Onam than just a harvest festival.

Onam celebrates the homecoming of an exiled king – Mahabali. Mythology talks about an Asura king who ruled Kerala in a time before time; a golden age [Now I find it interesting that the divine beings of Zoroastrianism are called Ahuras. Makes you wonder about religion and culture in South India before the Aryan migration]. Seems the Devas grew envious of his reign and asked Vishnu to end it. Vishnu takes the form of a Brahmin boy, Vamana, who pushed Mahabali into the underworld. But Mahabali is allowed to visit his subjects once a year on Thiruvonam day.

But Onam festivities commence 10 days before Thiruvonam, on Atham. Here are the dates for celebrations in 2019.

Atham (September 2, 2019)

It is said that Mahabali starts his journey to Kerala from the underworld on this day. Pookalams are laid on the entrances of houses. Only yellow flowers are used on the Atham day, and the pookalam is traditionally made up of just one ring. As the days progress, the number of rings increases with the pookalam having 10 rings on the Thiruvonam day.

Each ring of the pookalam is said to symbolise a deity from the Hindu pantheon. The first ring is Ganesha, the second is Shiva and Shakti, the third is Shiva, the fourth is Brahma, the fifth is Pancha Boothangal, the sixth is Shanmughan or Muruga, the seventh is Guru, the eighth is Ashta Digpalakar, the ninth is Indra, and the tenth is Vishnu. The colours are chosen to please each God.

Atham is also the day of the grand procession called Athachamyam that marks the start of Onam celebrations near Kochi.

Chithira (September 3, 2019)

This is usually the day when shopping for Onam starts. The second ring is added around the pookalam which is composed of orange and creamy yellow flowers.

Vishakham (September 4, 2019)

Traditionally, markets hold their harvest sales on Vishakham, making it the day when people buy things required for the onasadhya. It is also the day when most pookalam competitions are held around the state.

Anizham (September 5, 2019)

A mock boat race is held at Aranmula in rehearsal for the main race held after Thiruvonam.

Thriketa (September 6, 2019)

The festive season is in full swing now. People go around visiting relatives and exchanging greetings and gifts.

Moolam (September 7-8, 2019)

As Kerala gets closer to Thiruvonam, the whole state seems to be decorated. And versions of onasadhya start appearing on the menu.

Pooradam (September 9, 2019)

On the Pooradam day, the pyramid-like clay statues of Onathappan are installed. The statues are said to represent Mahabali and Vishnu.

By now, the pookalams have multiple rings and have grown in complexity.

Uthradom/First Onam (September 10, 2019)

Uthradom is the Onam-eve per se. It is the day when Mahabali is said to reach Kerala. It is also considered an auspicious day for buying fruits and vegetables.

Thiruvonam/Second Onam (September 11, 2019)

This is the day when the mythical King finally returns to visit his subjects. People wear new clothes, and the entire family get together around the onasadhya to celebrate the occasion.

Avvittom/Third Onam (September 12, 2019)

Preparations are made for Mahabali’s departure. The Onathappan is immersed in the river or the sea, and pookalams are cleared away.

Fourth Onam/Chatayam (September 13, 2019)

Post-Onam celebrations continue – boat races and pulikkali, and Kerala Tourism’s Onam Week program. 

But the celebrations start winding down until the next year when the good times of harvest come back and we are reminded of the golden age of Mahabali.

Govindan Khttp://www.pinklungi.com
I believe in challenging the status quo; I believe in thinking differently. I think differently because I try to absorb knowledge from anyone - regardless of the industry they’re working in.


  1. […] Onam is around the corner and one of the biggest clothing hunts of the year has begun. What to wear, where to purchase your Onakodi from, how to style it and so many interconnected questions are already driving you crazy, aren’t they? This Onam, let us help you out with our fashion recommendations. This time around, we have prepared a list of designer outfits to choose from. These designers from Kerala have put their heart, soul and creative imagination to curate their Onam collection. So, c’mon, let’s make your Onam a Ponnonam! […]

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