ONAM - The Main Festival OF Kerala

Legend is Mahabali, a celebrated emperor of the “Asuras” ruled over Kerala. His period was believed to be the golden age in the history of the state. There was no dishonesty or any crime and everyone lived in harmony with each other. In short it was an ideal and prosperous state. This made all the gods jealous as Mahabali was more loved and popular than them. They complained to Lord Vishnu who reincarnated as Vamana, the dwarf. He approached Mahabali and begged for three feet of land. Mahabali immediately granted Vamanaas wish. Suddenly Vamana grew in size till he reached the sky. He kept one step and covered the earth,with another step the heavens. With no place to keep the third step, Mahabali offered his head, Vamana pushed mahabali into the under world or” Pathalam”. But before sending Mahabali to the under world, Lord Vishnu gave Mahabali a boon that he can come to earth once a year and visit the people of his land. This day is celebrated as Onam. Every year Onam which is the state festival is celebrated in the first Malayalam month “Chingom” (August-September) and is celebrated throughout the land, in memory of the great king and prosperity during his reign. The festival is supposed to begin from the lunar asterism” Atham” which falls ten days before “ Thiruvonam”. The preparations for the celebration begin on the Atham day. The Thiruvonam is the most important day of the festival. In the front yard of the house Athapoovu (floral decorations) are made for ten days from Atham to a Thiruvonam. Presents are distributed to the younger members of the family.Agrand the Onam feast of delicious food is served on banana leaves. Members of families get together in their ancestral homes to celebrate the festival. Community feasts and cultural programmes, are organised throughout the state.Various cultural forms, old and new, are presented in all important towns in the state during the Festival.During Onam you can see various art forms and dances performed like Kathakali, Thiruvathira, Pulikali etc. Boat races are also a main attraction during this time.

Attractions during Onam:

BOAT RACES
A snake boat (or chundan vallam) is actually a long traditional canoe style boat used by the people of the Kuttanadu region, in Kerala. They were traditionally war boats. A typical snake boat is around 100 to 120 feet long and hold around 100 rowers. Most people in this region used to own a snake boat. Here are some of the popular boat races.

ARANMULA SNAKE BOAT RACE
The Aranmula Boat Race is amongst the oldest snake boat races in Kerala.It is held along the Pampa River at Aranmula, near Chengannur, around 50 kilometers (31 miles) south of Alleppey. Unlike the other races the focus is more on tradition than competition. The event has religious significance as it commemorates the installation of the idol of Lord Krishna at the nearby Aranmula Parthasarathy Temple. Almost 50 boats take part in the race, which starts in the afternoon after religious rituals are completed.

NEHRU TROPHY BOAT RACE
The Nehru Trophy Boat Race, is conducted at PUNNAMADA LAKE in Alappuzha on the second Saturday of August every year .The 'NEHRU TROPHY' a replica of a snake-boat in silver, placed on wooden abacus is awarded to the winner of the boat race.

CHAMPAKULAM MOOLAM BOAT RACE
The Champakulam Moolam Boat Race is one of the oldest and most popular “Vallamkali" (snake boat race) after Aranmula Boat Race .The race is held along the river at Champakkulam (Changanassery), around 25 kilometers (15 miles) from Alleppey. the season of boat races starts with the Champakkulam Moolam Vallam Kali ( The festival takes place at Champakkulam around June or July.

PAYIPPAD JALOLSAVAM BOAT RACE
Payippad jalolsavam is held on the Payippad Lake, which is 35 Km from Alappuzha, to commemorate the installation of deity at the Subrahmanya Swamy Temple in Harippad.. Legend is that that the villagers decided to build a temple with Sree Ayyappa as the deity at the the temple .They had a vision directing them to a whirlpool in Kayamkulam Lake where they would find the idol of Sree Subramanya which was to be installed at the temple. divers and swimmers rowed to the spot and found the idol which was taken back ceremoniously by devotees accompanied by several country boats of the locality in great fanfare .To celebrate this every year a 3 day boat race event is held.

THRIPUNITHURA ATHACHAMAYAM
Athachamayam marks the beginning of the ten-day Onam festival in Kerala. Conducted every year on the Atham asterism of the Malayalam month Chingam (Leo).The event is held in Thripunithura. It is a celebration of the legendary victory of the King of Kochi. In the olden days it was customary for the king to travel with his entire entourage to the Thripunithura temple. This was also the occasion for his subjects to greet the king . The procession still retains its majestic charm and is conducted in a spectacular manner. With decorated elephants, varieties of folk art forms, floats, musical ensembles etc in the procession.

Vishu

Vishu is the astronomical New Year day of Malayali hindus . Among the various Hindu festivals in Kerala, Vishu occupies a unique position .Vishu is free from the usual pomp and show and merry-making associated with other festivities. It is celebrated on the first day of the month of Medam every year unlike other festivals which are determined according to the lunar asterisms on which they fall. Seeing a picture or statue of Lord Vishu first in the morning is believed to bring good fortunes throughout the year.Elders in the family give money or gifts (Kaineetom). The older members give silver coins to younger family members along with raw rice and Konna flower.

Maha Shivratri

Maha Shivaratri is a Hindu festival celebrated every year in reverence of the God Shiva. There are many stories and legends describing the origin of this festival. One legend is that this is the day Shiva was married to the goddess Parvati. Another one from the puranas is that lord Shiva drank poison from a pot which was capable of destroying the world, but he kept it in his throat and did not swallow it. Shivaratri is the celebration of this event by which Shiva saved the world. Shivarathri means " the great night of Shiva ". Shivaratri falls on the moonless 14th night of the new moon in the Hindu month of Phalgun, which corresponds to the month of February - March in English Calendar. In Kerala the month of Kumbham is noted for the Sivarathri festival which falls in February - March. Sivarathiri is celebrated on such a grand scale in Aluva on the sand banks of River Periyar.

CHRISTMAS

Christmas is celebrated to honour birth of Jesus Christ on 25th December and is is the most significant Christian festival.Just like Christians around the world Malayalee Christians too celebrate Christmas by having family get to gethers,singing carols,going to church,putting up a tree and making delicacies. Most christians make a miniature version of the crib where Jesus was born. Mid night masses and christmas day mass is held in all churches.

Easter

Easter is celebrated to rejoice the resurrection of Jesus Christ on the third day after his crucification and death. Good friday mass and Easter Sunday mass is held in all churches.

Ramadan

Idul-Fitr, also known as Ramadan is one of the two festivals of Islam. Ramadan is the ninth month of the lunar year.It is to commemorate the first Revelation of the Quran to Prophet Muhammad according to Islamic belief. During this holy month the Muslims observe fast, giving up all kinds of food and drinks during day time, and spend the major part of the night in devotion and prayer. Purification of the body and soul is the main aim of this observance. When the crescent appears on the western horizon heralding the end of the month of fasting, it marks the beginning of the Idul-Fitr festival. The Idul-Fitr festival starts with the commencement of the first day of the next lunar month of `Shawwl'. Muslims all over the world celebrate this festival with great celebrations.

Bakrid

Bakrid, to be rightly called Idul-Azha or the festival of sacrifice, is the second of the two festivals of Islam. It falls on the 10th of Dhul-Hagg, the last month of the lunar year. It is celebrated in commemoration of Abraham's willingness to offer his only son as a sacrifice at God's command. In Kerala as in other parts of the world, this day dawns with the resounding of Thakhbir (Allahu Akbar), the declaration that God is great. Every Muslim house wakes up with the spirit of sacrifice and festivity. Men, women and children dress up in their best attire and recite the Thakbir and then proceed to Id-Gah which is the wide open space set apart for public prayers. The festivity at home start after the ceremonial prayer with hearty feasts like biriyani, pathiri(rice pancakes), mutton curry, sukhiyan(snack)etc.