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Onam Celebrations – Kerala Culture & Traditions

The state festival of Kerala – Onam – is celebrated with zeal by the Malayalees in the state as well as in different parts of the world. Marked with fun and fervor, the celebrations of the festival comprise of a wonderful spectrum of rituals and traditions followed by the people. The most important day of the festival is Thiruvonam (the tenth day of Onam), which is eagerly awaited by the people. Until some time back, the festival was only a private affair, a kind of family reunion. Today, it has taken the shape of a community function. Apart from the natives of Kerala, innumerable Malayalee Associations across India as well as abroad have taken the festival as the wonderful opportunity to rejuvenate the social ties, by organizing cultural programs during the festive season. Know more about the celebrations of Onam, by going through the following lines.

Onam Celebrations



Attam marks the beginning of Onam. From the very first day, people put pookkalam (floral rangoli) at their entrance way, using a number of flowers. It is a tradition and a part of the celebrations of Onam festival. In the Malayalee committees, pookkalam competitions are held. Various designs, both simple and intricate are made using flowers like marigold, roses, jasmine, etc. Small children take pleasure in gathering flowers from their premises. Apart from the use of flowers, people make use of colors to decorate their Pookkalam. Hectic preparations for the ten-day carnival start from Attam.

Kaikotti kali

Dances Performances

Kaikotti kali (also known as Thiruvathira kali) is the main dance of Onam. This is the traditional dance, truly native to Kerala. Kaikotti kali is performed by middle-aged women, who stand around deepam (traditional Kerala deep). The women are clad in set saree (traditional Kerala dress) and accessorized with gold jewelry. Eight to twelve women can perform the dance. Another dance form that is performed during the season is known as ‘Pulikali’ or ‘Kaduvakali’. In this dance, performers (mostly men) paint themselves like tigers in bright yellow, red and black colors and dance ferociously to the accompaniment of musical instruments such as ‘udukku’ and ‘thakil’.

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