Keralities the worldover on Tuesday celebrated Onam, the harvest festival of Kerala, with traditional gaiety marked by sumptuous feasts and cultural and folk art performances.
Cutting across class, caste and creed barriers, people joined together to celebrate Thiruvonam in the memory of the mythical ruler king Mahabali.
Major temples in the state witnessed a heavy rush of devotees since early morning, while elders presented onakkodi (new clothes) to the family members.
Onasadya (Onam feast), comprising traditional delicacies such as avial, sambar, thoran, kichadi, kalan, pulisseri, pappadam, pazham and payasam, were major attractions in all homes. This exclusive feast is served on green plantain (banana) leaves in a traditional manner.
After the sumptuous Onasadya, people engage in different recreational activities. Of these, the most important is Kaikottikkali, also known as the Tiruvatirakkali performed by womenfolk. The typical games of men are Talapandu, Kayyankali and Onathallu. Kummatti and Pulikkali are two important folk art forms performed during this time.
Country boat races would be held as part of the celebrations and one of the major attractions is the swing. Young men and women, beautifully dressed in colorful costumes sing Onappaattu (Onam songs) and rock one another on swings slung from high branches.
Onam, the national festival of Kerala is celebrated in the Malayalam month of Chingam corresponding to the English month of August/September. The festival marks the end of the continuous monsoon rainfall and the beginning of the harvest season.
Onam celebrations start on the asterism Attam, 10 days ahead of Onam day. In front of every house, Athapookalam (floral decorations with flowers) are seen, meant for welcoming the Demon King Mahabali.
The festival is connected with the legend of King Mahabali, under whose rule prosperity and equality prevailed. Keralities believe that the soul of their beloved king Mahabali, who was very much attached to his kingdom and his subjects, visits the land every year. Lord Vishnu in his Vamana avatar, granted king Mahabali a boon to return once in a year to his beloved kingdom from the nether world into which he was pushed down. The day of his return is celebrated as the Thiruvonam festival.
The Kerala Government had launched Onam week celebrations, a cultural fest to provide a cultural ambiance to the festivities.