World ? Asia ? India

Onam Festival


Part of Onam, the picture shows people from Thrissur doing a tiger dance.
Kerala Tourism
2 Sep 2009 (annual)
Address: B-30, Kendriya Vihar, Sector: 51 Noida, UP-201301, India
Email: festivalsindex@yahoo.com
Link: Onam Festival Website
The annual Onam Festival transforms Kerala with colourful processions, feasting, boat races, singing and dancing. The state takes a ten-day holiday surrounding the event so, wherever you are, there is sure to be noise and colour!
According to legend, Onam celebrates the golden age of King Mahabali, a mythical ruler of Kerala. Over time, the gods became worried about his ways, thinking that he might become too powerful. So, they sought the help of Vishnu to curb his power. Vishnu, in the form of a dwarf (Vamana), approached him and asked for three paces of land. As soon as he had done so, the dwarf began to grow, and grow, and grow.

With the first step, Vishnu covered the sky, blotting out the stars, and with the second, he straddled the nether world. Realising Vishnu's third step would destroy the earth, Mahabali offered his head as the last step and thus saved his kingdom. The gods were glad, but since Mahabali was so attached to people, he was allowed to return once a year - at Onam.

Festivities kick off when children create huge floral decorations in, and outside, their homes. Although every village and town celebrates in its own colourful way, some go for it in bigger and better ways. For example, in Trichur the local elephants are elaborately decorated before parading through the streets. At Cheruthuruthy, traditional Kathakali dancers show off their brilliant costumes during evening shows.

The Vallamkali (boat race) is one of the main attractions, and is best seen at Aranmulai and Kottayam. About 100 oarsmen row huge and graceful boats under scarlet umbrellas to the rhythm of drums and cymbals. In the evening girls perform the Kaikottikkali dance around traditional brass lamps. There is also a fantastic celebration called Pulikali which takes place in Thrissur at the Swaraj Ground, where groups of locals dress like tigers to perform the pulikali (tiger dance).
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