Onam is the one of the largest most spectacular festivals in Kerala, India, celebrating the end of the Monsoon season and welcoming the harvest season.
The festival commemorates the legend of King Mahabali, who reigned over Parasurama Kshetra, which is an ancient name for Kerala.
Kerala, which means ‘land of the keras’ or coconuts, is surrounded by towering coconut trees, lush rice paddies and the stunning backwaters called the ‘Venice of the East’ where traditional Kerala houseboats travel up and down the waterways attracting millions of people to the region each year.
The coastal state once lured explorers and traders from around the world to its shores for its exotic spices, including the much sought-after Kerala black pepper.
Kerala state has over 35 million people with large diaspora communities who have settled abroad including US, UK, Canada, UAE and Australia.
During the festival week, the Onam ‘pookalam’ or flowers are arranged at the entrance of the family home. The decorations are prepared by family members to welcome the spirit of King Mahabali.
It’s an auspicious occasion where family members clean and prepare the house, usually wear new clothes and exchange gifts with each other.
During the Onam festival in Kerala, Vallamkali, the oldest river boat festival takes place.
Traditional dance forms include ‘Kaikottikali which is performed by females and the Puli Kali the masked leopard dance performed by the males.
The highlight is the Onam Sadhya which is a traditional feast of vegetarian dishes served on a banana leaf.
This year, however, due to impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, Malayalees will celebrate Onam at home.
According to the ABC Census figures in 2016, Malayalees are one of the fastest growing populations in Australia with 53,206 speakers.
Keen to learn more or engage the Malayalee community in Australia? Contact our team at [email protected]
Image source: Kerala Tourism