Onam: The Annual Harvest Festival of Kerala

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According to the Malayalam calendar, Onam, is the annual harvest festival of Kerala and is celebrated for 10 days in the month of Chingam, which, as per the Gregorian calendar, overlaps with the months of August-September. This year, the celebrations of Onam have commenced from 1st September and will continue till 13th September. Malayalis all over the world celebrate this religious and cultural festival. Onam is celebrated to welcome the annual homecoming of the legendary King Mahabali, who was the grandson of Prahlada.

There are four main days in the festival of Onam. First Onam or Uthraadam will be celebrated on 10th September. This is considered as “Onam Eve” and is believed to be the return of King Mahabali to Kerala. The most important day of Onam is Thiru Onam or Thiruvonam (Sacred Onam Day) is the second day which will be celebrated on 11th September.  It is a saying that King Mahabali pays a visit to people’s homes on Thiruvonam. The Third Onam or Avittam, will be observed on 12th September. Preparations will be conducted for King Mahabali’s departure on this day. The last day will be Chathayam, on 13th September. This day would be observed as Sri Narayana Guru Jayanthi with post-Onam celebrations to continue for the next few days with – Snake boat races, Pulikkali Tiger play, Women’s dance (Thumbi Thullal), Colourful masked dance (Kummattikali) and Kerala Tourism’s Onam Week program.

The highlight of the festival is the Onam Sadhya, which in Malayalam means ‘banquet’. It is a multi-course vegetarian meal that comprises of 24 dishes served on a banana leaf.  Onam Sadhya is enjoyed without any cutlery and is usually eaten sitting on the floor.

The food items in an Onam Sadhya includes: Kaaya varuthatha (Banana Chips), Chena Varuthatha (Yam Chips), Sarkara Upperi (Jaggery coated banana chips), Mango and Lime pickles, Puli Inji (Tamarind and Ginger Chutney), Kichadi (Gourd in mildly spiced yoghurt), Pachadi (Pineapple in yoghurt) , Olan ( Ash gourd with black beans in a coconut milk gravy), Stir-fried vegetables with grated coconut, Theeyal (Mixed vegetable curry), Erissery (Mashed beans and pumpkin with coconut gravy), Avial, Puliserry(Yogurt based curry), Kootu curry (Black Chickpeas Curry), Sambhar, Rasam, Spicy Buttermilk, Bananas, Papad and boiled rice.

 

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