Friday, December 3, 2021
Kerala

Fairs and Festivals


Festivals
Onam

Legend | Rituals | Onasadya | Onakalikal

The Onam celebrations open early in the morning of the Tiru Onam day, at about 4 or 5 a.m. In front of the yard of the house, a portion is cleaned and smeared with cow-dung. After this, Conical figures made of sticky clay painted red are placed there. These images are of various forms. Some represent figures of divinities, others are mere cones. The latter are known as 'Trikkakara Appan'. The tradition is that the festival had its origin at Trikkakara, a place 10km from Cochin. These images are adorned with lines tastefully drawn along and about with rice flour mixed with water. They are kept only in the front yard, but also in all prominent places commencing from inside the house and ending with the gate way outside. Flowers are strewn all along and Pujas performed to the images every day morning and evening. The first day Puja, is an elaborate one. One of the inmates of the house act the part of a priest. He bathes in the morning before dawn and prepares ata. Ata is a preparation of rice flour and molasses for 'Nivedyam' - offering for the god. Lamps are lit in front of the image and the Pujari proceeds his Puja in the presence of the family assembled in the yards. The Ata is placed in front of the images and he offers it to them. He strews flowers, pours water, shows certain signs with his fingers, puts on a solemn air and closes the ceremony. After the dedication of the images, the male members raise loud  rhythmic shouts of joy. This is known as Aarppu Vilikkukal. By this, they proclaim to the outside world that the great national festival of the Malayalis has commenced.

As the day dawns, the inmates of the house, bathe and worship in the village temple. They put on their finest clothes. The most-distinguishing feature of the Onam festival is the distribution of new clothes as presents. The Karanavar, the eldest member of the Tarawad gives these presents to the juniors, the servants and the dependants of the family and others. The junior members also sometimes give such presents to their relatives.

After the distribution of presents, then comes the feasting. The most prominent place in the house is selected and all the members of the family sit in row, with the Karanavar in the middle of the line. A bright shining lighted brass lamp is placed in front of the Karanavar at a slight distance. In front of the lamp, towards the west, a small plantain leaf is spread with its point towards the lamp. Food is served in it. This is supposed to be for the God Ganapathy to partake.

The tenants  of the family, dependants and hangers-on present themselves before the Karanavar the day previous to Tiru Onam with the fruits of their labour, such as vegetables of divers sorts, coconut oil, plantains, pumpkins, cucumbers, brinjal etc. This is called Onakazhcha. In return for this, the tenants have to be given a sumptuous feast on one of the Onam days before the festival terminates. Every village artisan will present the Karanavar of each Nayar Tarawad, a specimen of his handiwork. These are graciously received and other presents of cloth or rice and curry stuffs are given in return.