Onam – the gorgeous confluence of all things Malayali. For Malayali people, Onam is the highlight of their rich culture – the most awaited event on the Malayalam calendar that marks the Malayalam New Year. It is the occasion to drop everything else and bask in the delightful festivity that pervades the very air of the Malayalam milieu.
From delightful “Pookalam” to lip-smacking “Sadya”, these Malayalam words for Onam paint such a vivid picture of the Onam celebrations that no one can stay calm and untouched by the festive spirit. After all, this harvest festival is all about venerating the abundance bestowed by a fertile land upon its people and then partaking in that abundance.
So, are you guys ready to dive into the colorful and joyous world of Onam? Then grab a bag of banana chips and gather onboard because I’m about to take you on a boat ride through the awesome celebration of this traditional Malayali cultural festival!
The Vivacious Onam Celebration
Imagine a time when the air is filled with excitement and a hint of nostalgia. That’s what the Onam season feels like in Kerala, India. It’s like the state decides to throw a week-long party, and everyone’s invited to join in on the fun-filled Onam celebration. And even though this harvest festival has its roots in Hindu mythology, it is celebrated by all the Malayali religious communities alike, in a non-sectarian manner.
My most favorite part of this super gorgeous festival is to be enchanted by the exquisitely dressed up men and women in the traditional attire. Women of the household all deck up in white or off white Kerala sarees with golden borders called “Kasavu”. Fresh jasmine flowers in their long and lustrous hair complete the entire ethnic look. Men dress up similarly in a white/ off white sarong like cloth with golden borders, tied around their waist, called a “Mundu”.
Why Is It Celebrated?
Onam Festival falls during the Malayali month “Chingam” (August to September) and marks the homecoming of legendary King Mahabali who was known for his benevolence and the prosperity of his kingdom. The essence of this festival lies in the belief that King Mahabali visits Kerala during Onam to see how his people are doing. It’s like a grand welcome back party for a kind-hearted ruler.
How Is It Celebrated?
The sweet Onam days begin with the cleaning and decorating of homes. The traditional flower carpet, known as “Pookalam,” is created with vibrant petals arranged in intricate designs right at the entrance. It is truly a sight to behold! It’s like Mother Nature herself is putting on her best dress to welcome everyone.
Traditionally, the families make an offering of gifts to their family head or the eldest member of the family as a gesture of their gratitude. These presents are usually their farm produce consisting of vegetables, coconut oil, plantains, bananas, etc. This gift is called “Onakazhcha.”
Special Food Offering
Onam Sadya or “Onasadya” is a major highlight of the festival. It’s a delicious and elaborate vegetarian feast served on banana leaves. The word “Sadya” means banquet.
From mouthwatering “Avial” to crispy banana chips, every dish is a celebration of flavors. It’s like a food paradise that brings families and friends together to enjoy a hearty meal.
Here is a list of some lip-smacking grub that you get to enjoy in an “Onasadya”.
|Banana Leaf||വാഴയില||Vaazhayila||Used as a plate to serve the meal|
|Salt||ഉപ്പ്||Uppu||The first item to be served|
|Plantain Chips||ചക്കര ഉപ്പേരി||Chakkara Upperi||Sweet and spicy plantain chips|
|Avial||അവിയൽ||Aviyal||Curd-based vegetable mishmash|
|Kaalan||കാലൻ||Kaalan||Curd-based yam mash|
|Thoran||തോരൻ||Thoran||Chopped and sauteed cabbage/ beans|
|Olan||ഓലൻ||Olan||Coconut milk-based curry|
|Sambar||സാമ്പാർ||Saampar||Lentil curry with vegetables|
|Rasam||രസം||Rasam||Tamarind-based hot drink|
|Thoran||തോരൻ||Thoran||Mixed vegetables cooked with dry coconut|
|Koottukari||കൂട്ടുകരി||Koottukari||Banana/ Yam cooked with black gram|
|Erissery||എരിശ്ശേരി||Arisheri||Coconut milk-based pumpkin and black-eyed peas curry|
|Pulissery||പുളിശ്ശേരി||Pulisheri||Sweet and sour curry|
|Rice||അരി||Ari||Red or brown rice|
|Flavored Yoghurt||പച്ചടി||Pachadi||Yoghurt tempered with mustard seeds, ginger and other herbs and spices|
|Dessert||പായസം||Paayasam||Milk-based dessert usually made of lentils or rice or wheat|
Of course, none of the Indian festivals can be complete without classical or traditional dances. So, the festival is marked with a beautifully choreographed traditional Onam dance called “Onam Kali.” Men and women gracefully move to the rhythm of the traditional songs, clad in their best traditional attire. It’s like stepping into a time machine and dancing to the beats of tradition.
Some other equally popular Onam dances are Kathakali, Kumattikali, Pulikali, Kaikottikali, and Thumbi Thullal.
Speaking of Onam, how can one forget the iconic boat race? This major annual event is known as “Vallamkali.” It is a spectacular sight as rowers in colorful boats compete in a thrilling race. It’s like a real-life adrenaline-pumping water sport that leaves you at the edge of your seat, cheering for your favorite team.
And none of these races are complete without bombastic drum beats and foot tapping folk songs to cheer up the boat racers. My most favorite song of this genre is “Kuttanadan Punjayile” and I specially enjoy listening to an English folk fusion version of this song called the Kerala Boat Song by an artist named Vidya Vox. In fact, this is that one song that kickstarted my Malayalam learning journey!
List Of Malayalam Words For Onam
When it comes to wishing your friends during this season, you’d say “Onam Ashamsakal,” which is Malayalam for “Blessed Onam!” It’s a time to spread joy and positivity, and you’d see people exchanging warm wishes and heartfelt greetings.
Let us recall what all new words in Malayalam we learnt while discussing Onam.
|Happy Onam||ഓണം ആശംസകൾ||Onam Aashamsakal|
|Malayalam New Year||മലയാളം പുതുവർഷം||Malayalam Puthuvarsham|
|Happy New Year||പുതുവത്സരാശംസകൾ||Puthuvalsaraashamsakal|
|Decorative Flower Pattern||പൂക്കളം||Pookkalam|
|Snake Boat Race||വള്ളം കളി||Vallam Kali|
|Second Day Of Onam||തിരുവോണം||Thiruvonam|
To Wrap Up
How did you like this whirlwind tour through the enchanting world of Onam celebration and Happy Onam wishes? From the mesmerizing flower carpets to the lip-smacking feast, the graceful dances to the thrilling boat races, every aspect of Onam is a testament to the rich Malayali culture and its spirit of unity and happiness, isn’t it?
Honestly, Onam isn’t just a festival. It’s a journey through time, culture, and togetherness. And on this note, Happy Onam, my friend! Or as they say, “Onam Ashamsakal!” May your days be as colorful and joyous as this amazing festival!
Learn Malayalam With Ling
Learning Malayalam becomes much easier when you learn it through the lens of its rich cultural heritage and traditional practices. All these aspects of the region lends a vivacious hue to Malayalam, making it a delicious language to grace your tongue.
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