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Travel to Kerala during Onam : Top 5 things to witness during Onam in Kerala

Updated: Nov 17, 2023

Travel to Kerala during Onam

One festival where all of Kerala celebrate irrespective to religion, caste, creed and sex is Onam. A harvest festival that turned into a state festival is like a New Year for Malayali. South Indian states have a lot of festivals that are very important for them, which might not be celebrated nation wide. Onam also marks the annual arrival of the mythical generous king Mahabali who was pushed down to the underworld by Vamana, an "Avathara" of Lord Vishnu. Vamana was in fact Jealous to Mahabali for his popularity among the people of his country. Its aftermath was that Vamana pushed the king into the underworld and as the King's last wish he allowed Mahabali to visit his people once in a year, and that marks the begining of Onam. When you travel through out Kerala during Onam, you could literally see the festive mood. Everybody comes home, people buy a lot of stuff, new clothes, and it would a moment of excitement when the family reunites. The blog post will give you an idea about top five things you could witness in Kerala during the season of Onam.

Athachamayam festival at Thripunithara near Cochin

Athachamayam at Thripunithura Temple

Onam is designed to be a 10 day festival and each day has its own prominence and role to play. During the reign of the Maharaja of Kochi, the Raja arrived the temple town of Tripunithara as procession from Kochi. Further they marched towards the Vamana temple at Trikakkara which is not very far. The procession marks the beginning of Onam, today instead of King, a representative of the Royal family will accompany the procession. The procession is so colourful that is deposit different art forms of Kerala and moves like a parade. It is this colourful procession that gains so popularity for Athachamayam. This cultural fiesta provides a rare opportunity to witness almost all of the folk art forms of Kerala.

Grand Flower carpet at the Sri Vadakkumnathan Shiva Temple

Flower carpet festivals and competitions across Kerala

If you are in Kerala during the season of Onam, you will definitely come across a lot of flower carpets, mostly the hotel you are going to stay. Flower carpet is the most common hint that resembles the season of Onam in Kerala. This is the most accessable and popular activity where everyone gets involved. In the modern scenario, a typical Onam celebration starts with laying the flower carpet, everybody joins together from the design, cutting of flowers, laying it and finally taking a group photo along with it :-) It is more of a group activity to resemble the togetherness of Onam. In schools this becomes more of a competition, where children prepare flower carpets and Judges choose the best ones. At Green Earth Trails, we believe that these little experiences would give you a better perspective into the Keralan culture.

Thrikkakara Vamana Temple

Grand Onam Festival - At Thrikkakara Vamana Temple

Vamana is the fifth incarnation of lord Vishnu and the temple at Thrikkakara 20 Kilometres away from Cochin is the only Vamana Temple in the country. It is believed that the concept of Onam began from this temple, however there are different versions to it. The grand Onam festival is organised at the Thrikkakara Temple every year, where caparisoned Elephants and trumpets form together and mark a great festive ambiance. Only the Vamana temple in Cochin celebrates Onam in a traditional Keralan festival style with elephants and trumpets. There would be a grand Onam Sadhya, a vegetarian feast on banana leaves organised, where people come and enjoy it irrespective of religion, caste and creed. Onam is moment of togetherness and happiness.

Pulikali (Tiger Dance) at Thrissur

Pulikali - Tiger dance

Pulikali is folk art that could be seen only in the district of Thrissur 70 kilometres [1.5 hours from Cochin] It is a 200 years old art form where a tiger face is painted by artists on to a big fat belly. The big bellied gang walks in to the streets and dance to the tunes of the trumpet. It was introduced by the Kochi Maharaja Rama Varma Sakthan Thampuran - who wanted to celebrate Onam with a dance that reflected the wild and macho spirit of the force. It is a full day activity where the painting starts off by six in the morning and ends by late evening. The dance today moves as procession accompanied by other folk arts and tableau that happens in Thrissur. There would be hunter in between to shoot down these tigers as well.

Aranmula Snake Boat race

Aranmula Snake boat race

The 2000 year old Aranmula Parthasarathy temple has a tradition where long navy boats, considered to be the Vessels of lord Krishna, come along with its rowers to the temple. A feast is organised for them which they call Vallasadhya. It is an offering conducted to feed the oarsmen of the Lord Krishna's vessels who arrive from different villages. A race of all these holy vessels were conducted in the year 1972, keeping to its tradition of singing anthems and oarsmen rowing to its tunes with ornamental umbrellas in the centre. It is an exciting event to watch as people crowd on both the banks of the Pamba River to see the boats row in charm.

If you are in Kerala during the months of August and September, don't forget to check for the dates so that you can also be part of these events and become a part of Onam in Kerala.

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