Onam in India

Onam, a vibrant and colorful festival, is celebrated with great enthusiasm and passion in India, particularly in the southern state of Kerala. Known as "ഓണം" in Malayalam, the local language of Kerala, Onam is a harvest festival that marks the beginning of the Malayalam New Year and the arrival of the mythical King Mahabali.

The date of Onam varies each year, as it is determined by the Malayalam calendar. It usually falls in the month of Chingam, which corresponds to August-September in the Gregorian calendar. The festival lasts for ten days, with the most important day being Thiru Onam or the tenth day.


The origins of Onam date back to ancient times in Kerala. The festival is rooted in Hindu mythology and revolves around the story of King Mahabali, a generous and beloved ruler. It is believed that during his reign, there was prosperity, happiness, and equality among the people of Kerala. However, the gods became jealous of King Mahabali's popularity and sent the dwarf Vamana, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, to banish him to the underworld. As a reward for his good deeds, Mahabali was granted the wish to visit his people once a year, and this annual visit is celebrated as Onam.


National customs for Onam in India

Onam is primarily celebrated in Kerala, but Indian communities across the country and abroad also observe the festival. Some of the national customs associated with Onam include:

  1. Pookalam: A floral carpet, known as Pookalam, is created using colorful flower petals and leaves in front of homes to welcome King Mahabali.

  2. Onam Sadya: A traditional feast called Onam Sadya, consisting of over 20 vegetarian dishes, is prepared and served on a banana leaf. The meal is a gastronomic delight and showcases the rich culinary heritage of Kerala.

  3. Traditional attire: Men and women dress in traditional attire during the festival. Men wear a white dhoti with a golden border, while women wear a white saree with a golden border, known as a Kasavu saree.

  4. Cultural programs: Music, dance, and other cultural performances are organized during the ten days of Onam. Some popular forms of dance include Kathakali, Thiruvathira, and Pulikali (tiger dance).

Local customs for Onam in Kerala

In addition to the national customs, there are several local customs specific to Kerala:

  1. Boat races: Vallam Kali or snake boat races are a major attraction during Onam. Teams of rowers compete in traditional wooden boats known as Chundan Vallams.

  2. Kaikotti Kali: This is a traditional dance performed by women in a circle around a traditional brass lamp. They dance to the rhythm of clapping hands and singing folk songs.

  3. Onathappan: A pyramid-like structure made of clay or mud, representing King Mahabali and Lord Vamana, is placed in the center of the Pookalam and worshipped during Onam.


Onam is a significant and cherished festival in India, especially in Kerala. It is a time for families to come together, indulge in delicious food, and participate in various cultural events. The festival represents the rich cultural heritage of Kerala and serves as a reminder of the importance of unity, equality, and prosperity.