The state festival of Kerala, Onam, is a ten-day carnival for all the Malayalees residing in different parts of India and abroad. The festivities, which start from the Attam nakshatram of Chingam (the first Malayalam month) last until Thiruvonam, the tenth day of Onam. In many parts of Kerala, Avittam and Chatayam (the days following Thiruvonam) are also considered important. Each day has its own significance. Various forms of dance, interesting games and feasting form the prominent parts of the festivity. In the following lines, we have given description about the ten days of Onam.
10 Days of Onam Festival
First Day - Attam
Attam marks the beginning of Onam festival. The day is considered holy and auspicious by the Malayalees. On the day, people get up early in the morning, take bath and offer players by visiting the nearby temple. After having breakfast, they start their celebrations for the day. A swing, adorned with flowers, is slung from a high branch at the lawn of every home. Youngsters and women take immense pleasure in swinging and singing oonjal (swing) songs. Pookkalam (floral carpet) is laid in the front courtyard of every household. From this day onwards, Pookkalam is laid for the following nine days of Onam.
Second Day - Chithira
Chithira is the second day of Onam and has a special significance in the celebrations. To seek the blessings of the Almighty, people take bath in the early morning and visit the local temples. Thereafter, they add new flowers to the Pookkalam that was laid in the previous day. People start making all their plans for the big day of Thiruvonam, right from this day. Every event is discusses in detail, so that nothing remains incomplete, for the important day. A long shopping list is prepared for the family. It is the time for the children to demand all their pending wishes, because they know that their wish would be granted on the occasion.
Third Day - Chodhi
Chodhi or Chothi is the third day of Onam festival. The day involves many activities, starting from Pookkalam to shopping. The day is marked by buzz and the marketplaces are filled with people, who shop for new clothes (Onakkodi) for the important day of Onam, that is, Thiruvonam. Gifts are also purchased for the loved ones, on the day. No rituals are set for the day. People add new flowers to their Pookkalam, making it even more attractive. Specific flowers are chosen for the day. Boys take pleasure in choosing the flowers for the floral carpet.
Fourth Day - Visakam
As the number of days for the big day is very few, excitement becomes overt amongst the people in Kerala. On Visakam, the fourth day of Onam festival, the streets are busy. Activities are brisk in the market as well as back home. In the marketplace, one can witness rush in the stores, because by this time, the shops would put up season sales for the festival. Maveli stores (government owned departmental stores, which offer fair price shopping) would display their latest offers and discounts on household items. Back home, the homemakers would be busy in the kitchen, making delicacies (sweets and pickles) for the festive season.
Fifth Day - Anizham
Anizham is the fifth and one of the important days of Onam festival. The highlight of the day is the grand Vallamkali (snake boat race), which is organized on the banks of Pamba River at Aranmulla, Pathanamthitta district of Kerala. The event attracts tourists from the nook and corner of the country. International tourists also come to witness the race. In the households, more flowers are added to Pookkalam, in an attempt to make it look even more beautiful. One can witness the degree of enthusiasm and excitement increasing in the people, as there are only four days to go for the important day of Onam.
Sixth Day - Thriketa
On the sixth day of Onam - Thriketa - various cultural programs are organized by the committees. People take initiative to attend the events and take part in the cultural programs. No rituals are specific for Thriketa. People decorate their homes and add new flowers to their already laid Pookkalam. It is the time for family reunion, as the family members and acquaintances living outside the state and abroad visit Kerala, to take part in the celebrations. The air is filled with festivity, while people indulge in preparations for Thiruvonam.
Seventh Day - Moolam
Moolam is the seventh day of the ten day carnival of Onam. During the day, the commercial areas of the state are filled with the bright color of the festivities. People overcrowd the market places for their last-minute Onam shopping. By this time, the spirit of joy and happiness increases manifold and is clearly reflected from the eyes of the people of Kerala. People back home revamp their Pookkalam, giving it an entirely new look with special flowers. The design of the Pookkalam is made even more intricate.
Eighth Day - Pooradam
Pooradam, the eighth day of Onam, holds a special significance. The Athappookalam is increased in size, with the addition of special flowers. During the day, people clean their house and ensure that every nook and corner of the place is spick and span, as they expect the arrival of Onthappan. While the women of the home are busy in the kitchen, making pickles and other kinds of delicacies, the family members and relatives arrive at their home, on this day.
Ninth Day - Uthradam
Uthradam is the ninth day of Onam. By this time, people are in high spirits to welcome King Mahabali. In some regions of Kerala, full fledged preparations for Onam kick-start on Uthradam itself. On the day, Onakkazhcha is given by the tenants and farmers, to the Karnavar (eldest member of the family) of Nair Tharawad (Nair household). The farmers bring produce of their farms to the Nair Tharawad, in return of which, they are greeted and treated with sweets by the Karnavar. This is a very old tradition, followed in the interiors of the state. Uthradam is also known as Onnam Onam (first Onam).
Tenth Day - Thiruvonam
The tenth and the important day of Onam festival is Thiruvonam. Also known as Rendam Onam (Second Onam), Thiruvonam is marked by huge fanfare, with people all over Kerala indulged in the celebrations. People wake up in the early morning, smear oil all over their body and take bath at the nearby pond. People clad themselves in Onakkodi. Thereafter, the small children, women and young girls lay the Pookkalam at the veranda, to welcome King Mahabali (the legendary king of Kerala, who visits the state every year, on Onam). Special prayers are organized at households. In the noon, the grand feast (Onasadya) is prepared. Onnakkali (Onam games) are played thereafter.