With a country as diverse as India, there ought to be dozens of festivals that are celebrated across the country, be it marking the beginning of a season or a heroic victory of deity over the demons or maybe just a symbolic remembrance of the god. Onam , originally a harvest festival of Kerala, is now celebrated across the globe wherever Malayalees have settled.

Ahmedabad too has a sizeable population of Malayalees. However, the only thing that we might know about their culture is our tryst with Dakshinayan Mysore Dosa and filter coffee or maybe thayeer sadam from Fern’s Dravida. So then what is Onam? What is the actual story behind these celebrations?

During the reign of Asura King Mahabali, people of Kerala witnessed a golden era of prosperity and happiness. Mahabali’s love for his people was immense. His fame was widely spread amongst heaven and earth. He was so much loved by people that even the Gods felt a threat since he had conquered not only the nether world (underwater) but ruled the earth as well by the boon granted to him by Lord Brahma. In the battle of popularity, Mahabali defeated lord Indra and ruled over heaven too. Noticing the defeat, Lord Indra’s mother Aditi gave birth to Lord Vishnu as ‘Vamana’. It was ‘Vamana’ who became the nemesis of Mahabali. The only wish that he asked for was to allow him to visit his people on earth once a year. Onam is that time of the year when Keralites believe that Lord Mahabali visits their home.

Here is the list of how God’s own country celebrates Onam as a welcoming of their beloved king Mahabali.

1) Traditional Attire

Clothes are an integral part of any celebration. Keralites are known for following their tradition and so as per their customs, the elders gives onauddupe (Clothes) and Onakkodi (Umbrella) to the younger generations. New clothes are the symbol of a new beginning and Kodi or umbrella is a symbol of protection and shelter from all the things that life is going to throw at one.

Men wear Kasavu mundu whereas women wear kasavu saree; usually hand-woven with golden border.

Our Bollywood actresses have definitely adopted this style statement.

2) Pookalam

A floral Carpet is spread at the doorstep. It is an art where young and old come together and make various designs and patterns with flowers. In other parts of India, we use Rangoli to beautify the entrance. It acts as a symbol of good Luck. The Malayali Samajam conducts various pookalam competitions in schools, colleges and community halls. This is done so that the tradition remains intact and is passed on from one generation to another.

Over the period of time people have mastered this art. We can see some of the most eye catching designs in these Pookalam competitions. Now-a-days people also use pulses grains as a substance to add up to the beauty of these designs.

3) Onam Sadhya

Who doesn’t love South Indian food?

Sadhya (banquet) is an integral part of all the festivities celebrated in Kerala. The charm of Onam sadhya spread is far and wide. The food is served traditionally on a banana leaf that serves as a plate and it includes in total 64 items ranging from banana chips, fried pieces of banana coated with jaggery, Pappadam, Thoran, Kaalan, Olan, Manga Pulli, Avial, Sambhar, Erissery, Rasam, Pulissery which are just few to name. Not to forget the Payasam (Kheer), this is one thing you might not want to miss ever.

There are many more mouth watering dishes that one will find in this meal. Unique part about Onam Sadhya is that there are all kinds of taste in it, sweet, salty, sour, spicy and bitter.

Usually Keralites have a family meal on this auspicious occasion.

Why not try this mouth watering delicacy at the nearest Malayali Restaurant? Try going to Dravida at Fern hotel or Dakshinayan or Four foods to experience authentic Kerala meal.

4) Recreation

Music and dance are known for bringing out the best of people in the festivals. Culture of a society is dependent on these fine arts. In Onam, women dance in a circle around a Vilakku (Lamp); it serves as a promise to never go on the wrong path and to always do what is just and right. People groove at the Thump of chenda (cylindrical drum), a sight you would not want to miss. Thiruvonam Patte (songs) are sung which narrates the entire story of Onam. Some other songs highlights the simplicity and wishes the best for the year to come. Some songs are a delight to listen, however Onam Ponnonam sung by Yesudas is a song that you would definitely want to put up in your playlist to get the feel of Onam and Malayalee culture.

Kathakali, a dance where famous mythological legends are enacted, is performed mostly through Facila and body expressions only. These Dancers wears different masks and colours their faces. A must watch performance in Onam month for those who admire performing arts.

The Vallamkali is the traditional boat race that one has seen probably on TV many a times and some have witnessed it in person in Kerala. But Onam month is the time when this form of canoe racing is done in mass. The race of Chundam Vallam (Snake boat) is very famous. There are hundreds of oarsmen who row huge snake boats to win the prestigious Nehru Trophy boat race in Allapuzha, Kerala.

With this information, how would you want to celebrate your onam this year? Do you want to visit a Malayalee friend and wish them Onam or do you want to go to nearest South Indian restaurant to gorge on the delicacies? Or do you want to travel to God’s own country and witness the festivities?