Colourful parades, Pookalam, exclusive dishes, sports competitions, welcome songs, boat races, regional and classical dance, and crowded streets of Kerala and nearby states are all about celebrating joy, happiness, tradition, and culture of the biggest regional festival celebration ‘Onam’.
Onam marks the harvest season’s arrival and the monsoon’s last. It is celebrated in Chingam; the first month of the Malayalam calendar also signifies the new year of “God’s own state,” Kerala. Onam is celebrated for 10-days, usually in August and September, also known as the festival of rain flowers.
In 2022, Onam festival will be celebrated from 31 August to 9 September. People across the country visit Kerala during the Onam celebration to witness the Keralan Culture and admire the state’s beauty.
If you are a person who admires the diversity of India and is interested in exploring the diversified culture of this vast nation, read further to know all about the Onam festival.
History of Onam Festival Celebration
Onam celebration is a Hindu festival associated with a mythological story of the Vaman avatar of Lord Vishnu and Asura King Mahabali. People believes that the king of ancient Kerala, Mahabali defeated the Gods and started ruling all three worlds.
Kerala witnessed the golden era during the time of the king. However, Gods were insecure due to the popularity of Mahabali and, in fear, asked Lord Vishnu for help. Lord Vishnu turned into a short Brahaman (Vaman) and asked the ruler for three steps of land. Mahabali accepted the proposal.
Vaman’s avatar of Vishnu turned big and measured the whole three worlds in 2 steps. There was no space for God to put his leg to complete the 3rd step. Mahabali surrendered himself in front of Vishnu to put his leg. The king went to the lower world when God put his leg.
But at the same time, the king won the heart of Lord Vishnu. The Lord granted a wish to the king that he could come to visit his land each year. Onam is the celebration of the homecoming of brave and generous king Mahabali.
Significance of Onam Traditions
Onam is one of the most significant harvest festivals that remind us of the importance of food, agriculture, and farmers’ hard work. Onam significantly brings back Keralites to their home and spreads the message of unity and prosperity across the world.
Moreover, the great Onam festival holds more cultural values than a religious one. The Hindu and non-Hindu communities join hands, leaving their caste and religion behind to celebrate the Onam with great zeal.
Christians commemorate Onam in their own way. They lighten Nilavilakku, followed by an arati and Pushparati, i.e., waving flowers over the Bible. After that, they have a meal together with their Hindu friend. The gala eliminates all the religious disparities and propagates communion of brothers and sisters irrespective of faith and beliefs.
How Does the Onam Celebration Take Place?
People celebrates 10-day festival with great enthusiasm, love, fun, and peace. The festivities include cleaning the house, traditional dances like Pulikali, Thumbi Thullal, Kummattikali, Atahamayam, classical dance like Kathakali, sports competitions, boat races, and creation of Pookalam on the floor, Onam shopping and enjoying the Onam special meal Sadhya.
Each Onam day is celebrated with spacious rituals.
Day 1 – Atham
On the first day of Onam, Keralites start their celebration with a morning bath, perform prayers, and begin the creation of Pookalam. On Atham, they design simple Pookalam small in shape called Athapoo by using yellow flower petals to welcome the king. After that, each upcoming day, they add more designs to Athapoo.
Day 2 – Chithira
On the Chithira, House cleaning began, and in Pookkalam, two more layers of orange and yellow flowers used to be added. Besides, with the Pookalam design, earthen mounds for the representation of King Mahabali are placed in courtyards of homes and public spaces.
Day 3 – Chodhi
On Chodhi, another layer of flower design is applied to the Pookalam, and Keralites start shopping for new clothes and jewellery. The markets of Kerala flood with people during the days. During Onam shopping, people buy traditional dresses like Kasavu Sari, Mundu, and Pattu Pavadai.
Day 4- Vishakam
Vishakam is the day of the beginning of the preparation of the principal festive feast; Onam Sadhya comprises 11 to 13 traditional vegetarian dishes served on a banana leaf. In many families, up to 30 dishes get served.
Day 5 – Anizham
On Anizham, a Traditional snake boat race named Vallamkali is organised on the sacred Pampa River. It involves a grand parade. Keralites come to watch the races from all across Kerala and cheer for their team. The Aranmula Uthrattathi Boat Race and Nehru Trophy Boat Race are also held on Onam.
Day 6 – Thriketta
On the sixth day, Onam flowers are added to Pookalam, and people exchange gifts with their loved ones. Most people who have migrated to other cities, states, or counties return to visit their ancestral homes to this date.
Day 7 – Moolam
On Moolam, Hindu temples start serving the Onasadya, a religious vegan meal, and Keralan families also make a miniature version of the main meal Sadhya. On this day, people visit each other’s homes to celebrate the joyousness of the festival. People perform traditional dance performances, such as the Puli Kali on Moolan.
Day 8 – Pooradam
For the eighth day of Onam, people purchase miniatures of Mahabali and Vamana and bring them home as a symbolic way of welcoming the Onam King and Vamana into the home. They place these statues in the centre of the Pookalam design. After placing the statue of Mahabali on the Pookalam, people need to call the Onam king Onathappan.
Day 9 – Uthradam
Uthradam is the primary day of Onam tradition when the celebration preparation reaches its peak. Legends believe that King Mahabali reaches Kerala on this day. Cleaning the houses on this day ensures all the preparation for the Sadhya feast is ready. People shop for fresh vegetables for the feast.
Day 10 – Thiruvonam
Thiruvonam is the final day celebration. On this day, rice flour batter is added to the Pokallam, a traditional welcome sign. At this time, the Pokallam became complex. People on this evening celebrate the Onam with bright lights and fireworks and participate in folk music and dance. People also denote things to the needy on this day.
Highlights of Onam Festive Celebration
- Thiru Onam, the 10th day of the Onam tradition, is the most important day. It is sacred Onam day. On this day, boat races, special feasts, and temple events occur.
- Married women wear traditional Kasavu Sarees throughout the Onam days, while young girls wear Pattu Pavadai. Men wear a waist garment called Mundu for the celebration.
- Pookalam is created on the floor at the entrance of homes and buildings from flower petals and rice.
- For designing Pookalam, flowers like marigold, tulsi, mandram, butterfly pea, and hibiscus are used.
- Onam Sadhya, a nine-course vegetarian meal, is the special meal of the celebration.
The 10-day harvest festival filled with great festive activity is top-notch to understand the Keralan culture and celebrate the festival that unites people, values sacrifices, recognizes various art forms, and believes in giving.
Onam is a great Indian festival that one should experience whether they belong to this southern state or not.
How to Experience the Joy of Onam Celebration?
Onam is the most revered and celebrated festival in Kerala. If you are not a Keralite but much more interested in experiencing the joy and learning Kerala’s culture. You can plan to visit some of Kerala’s best places and other southern states to witness Onam. Trivandrum, Palakkad, and Ernakulam are some top locations to celebrate Onam.
However, Kerala or South States attracts lots of rush. So, you will need to plan your train trip in advance to get a confirmed ticket. You can visit Kerala by flight, car, or Indian Railways as per your resources. Trains are the most affordable and likable mode of transport.
Onam Festival Special Train to the Southern States
If you are planning to visit southern states by train during Onam. Here is some good news, Southern Railways has announced 4 pairs of Onam Special Trains to handle the rush of the annual festival in southern states. Here are the special train details:
1. Train no. 06046/06045 Ernakulam Jn-MGR Chennai Central Festival Special Fare Special
- Train no. 06046 Ernakulam Jn – Dr. MGR Chennai Central Festival Special Fare Special will leave Ernakulam Jn at 10.00 PM on 1st September 2022 (Thursday) and arrive at Dr. MGR Chennai Central at 12.00 PM on the next day. The coach composition of the train will include 1- AC Two Tier Coaches, 4- AC Three Tier Coaches, 10- Sleeper Class Coaches, 3- General Second Class Coaches, and 2- Second Class Divyangjan Friendly cum Luggage Cum Brake Vans.
- The same train with train number 06045 Dr. MGR Chennai Central – Ernakulam Jn Festival Special Fare Special will leave Dr. MGR Chennai Central at 3:10 PM on 2 September 2022 (Friday) and reach Ernakulam Jn at 03.00 AM the next day. The train will pass via Palakkad, Erode, Arakkonam.
2. Train no. 06043/06044 Tambaram-Kochuveli Festival Special Fare Special
- Train no. 06043 Tambaram – Kochuveli Festival Special Fare Special will leave Tambaram at 2:15 PM. on 4 September 2022 (Sunday) and reach Kochuveli at 12.00 PM the next day. The train offers 1- AC First Class cum AC Two Tier Coach, 2- AC Two Tier Coaches, 12- Sleeper Class Coaches, 4- General Second Class Coaches, and 2- Second Class Divyangjan Friendly cum Luggage Cum Brake Vans.
- The return direction of Train Kochuveli –Tambaram Festival Special Fare Special with train no 06044 will leave Kochuveli at 2:30 PM on 5 September 2022 (Monday) and reach Tambaram at 10:55 AM the next day. The train will go via Arakkonam, Salem, Palakkad, etc.
3. Train no. 06048/06047 Nagercoil-Chennai Egmore Festival Special Fare Special
- Train no. 06048 Nagercoil – Chennai Egmore Festival Special Fare Special via Thiruvananthapuram, Ernakulam North, Palakkad will leave Nagercoil at 5:50 PM on 11 September 2022 (Sunday) and reach Chennai Egmore at 12:30 AM, the next day. This train will run via Thiruvananthapuram, Ernakulam North, Palakkad. The train will run through Thiruvananthapuram, Kottayam, and Coimbatore. The train coaches will be 1- AC Two Tier Coaches, 5- AC Three Tier Coaches, 11- Sleeper Class Coaches, 2- General Second Class Coaches, and 2- Second Class Divyangjan Friendly cum Luggage Cum Brake Vans.
- The same train Chennai Egmore – Nagercoil with number 06047, will leave Chennai Egmore at 4.15 PM on 12 September 2022 (Monday) and reach Nagercoil at 05.55 AM the next day. The train will pass by Villupuram, Vriddhachalam, Tiruchchirappalli, Madurai, and Tirunelveli.
4. Train no. 06037/06038 SMVT Bangalore-Kochuveli Special Fare Special
- Train no. 06037 SMVT Bangalore Special Fare Special Onam train originating from Kochuveli will leave the station at 5:00 PM on 11 September 2022 (Sunday) and reach the SMVT Bangalore (SIR MOKSHAGUNDAM VISVESVARYA TERMINAL, BENGALURU) at 10.10 AM next day. The train coach compositions are 1- AC Two Tier Coaches, 3- AC Three Tier Coaches, 10- Sleeper Class Coaches, 4- General Second Class Coaches, and 2- Luggage Cum Brake Vans.
- The same train Kochuveli Special Fare Special with train no. 06038 will leave SMVT Bangalore at 3 PM on 12 September (Monday) and reach Kochuveli at 6:35 AM the next day. The train will pass by Kottayam, Ernakulam town, Coimbatore, and Erode Junction.
You can check the special schedule of trains on the Rail enquiry app. Apart from these, you can also check trains between your nearby station and the city you want to visit during Onam on the train app.
When is the Onam Festival Celebrated?
Southern States celebrate Onam with great splendour in the first month of Chingam according to the Malayali calendar. It usually falls in August and September. This year, Onam will begin on 31 August 2022 and end on 9 September 2022.
Why Should I Witness the Celebration of Onam?
Onam is one of the most popular harvest festivals. People commemorates it for 10-days. Its festivity includes various celebration acts, which makes it worth the experience. One way, it is the most sightseeing, because of cultural activities. On the other hand, each festivity of this admiring festival makes us learn life lessons. The creation of Pookalam teaches us ‘always take the first step and add your hard work each day to it and make something incredibly beautiful’.
Exchanging gifts are admiring activities to share happiness. The festivity values the togetherness of family and doing various activities together, from cleaning the house to cooking Onam’s special feast. Besides, the Onam celebration takes place beyond faith and belief, spreading the message of communal harmony. So, this time Slow down, take your time and Embrace the Onam. Visit Kerala!
How to Plan Onam Trip by Train?
To plan your visit on Onam by train, you can use the Rail app RailMitra. It is an AI-enabled app and website that helps passengers plan their train trips efficiently. Its tools check trains between stations, train schedule, seat availability in different trains, live train status, and PNR status of a train ticket to know whether it has confirmation, RAC, or waiting list status.
Besides, with RailMitra, passengers can also order food in train to gratify their Journey to the southern state.
RailMitra wishes the happiest vogue to the official Host to God’s Own country!