Onam Festival: An Absolute 2021 Guide To Celebrate The Harvesting Season In Kerala


Just as the monsoon bids adieu to the land of South India, the air is filled with vigour, joy, and happiness with the arrival of Onam, a significant festival celebrated majorly in Kerala. From the intricately decorated elephants to the wild Pulikali dancers, and from the gigantic snake boats lined up at the shore to the gorgeous floral decorations, this festival paints the state in more colors than you can imagine.

And with this detailed guide, embark on a journey to know everything about Onam festival that is not only celebrated in India but also across various parts of the world.

About Onam Festival 2021

Marking the end of monsoons and welcoming the harvest season, this Kerala festival, Onam 2021 is a Hindu festival celebrated annually, all over India with its origin in the Kerala state. One of the biggest festivals of the state, Onam is celebrated for 10 days during the Malayalam month of Chingam which fills the heart of people with gaiety, and brings them together to be a part of this vibrant and cultural festival. The festivities of Onam reflects the traditions and culture of Kerala in the most unique way. Onam festival date 2021 has been released by the ministry according to which the festival will be conducted from August 12, 2021, to August 23, 2021.

Significance Of Onam Festival

dancers in onam

Image Source

Onam festival history dates back to the Sangam period, when Onam was used to be celebrated for a month. According to the ancient legends, this festival of rain flowers was celebrated to commemorate the arrival of Asura King Mahabali’s annual visit from Patala (the world underneath). The story revolves around the time when Kerala was ruled by the demon king Mahabali (grandson of Prahlad) who was known for his generosity. His growing popularity became a threat for the gods and they came to Lord Vishnu for seeking help. Sensing their concern, Lord Vishnu disguised himself as a poor Brahmin called Vamana.

When he arrived at the kingdom of the demon king, he asked Mahabali to grant him the land which he can cover within three feet. Being a kind hearted and charitable person, the king granted his wish and soon the Vamana started to grow in size and his first and second step covered the sky and earth. As the brahmin was about to take the third step, the demon king stepped up and asked him to keep his last step on his head which lead him to Patala. However for the good deeds of Mahabali, Lord Vishnu granted him a boon that he can annually visit his people which led to the celebration of the Onam festival in India.

Must Read: 15 Amazing Things To Do In Kerala [Infographic]

Cultural Relevance Of Onam Festival

Onam festival in Kerala holds an important significance for the Hindus, but this occasion is enjoyed by every religion. The grand festivities and gala of this ancient festival eliminates all the religious disparities and propagates harmony in the society. Apart from the hindu rituals, it is witnessed that the Christians of Kerala also celebrate this annual festival in great zeal. Their rituals includes lighting of Nilavilakku which is followed by an arati and waving of flowers over the Bible which is called Pushparati. Along with this they also have a meal together with Hindus which signifies the communion of brothers and sisters irrespective of faith and beliefs. Onam festival traditional dress is Kasavu Sarees and you will see all the married women wearing these exclusive sarees throughout the festival.

6 Events During Onam Festival

If you want to know what happens during Onam festival in Kerala, then we have made a list of all the events that you can check out!

1. Tripunithura Athachamayam

Elephant Procession

This marks the first day of Onam which is celebrated with grandeur and zeal. The day is filled with colorful inauguration which features a street parade. This includes different Kerala art forms, musicians, dancers and carnival floats and decorated elephants which walks down the streets.

Suggested Read: Padmanabhapuram Palace: The Seat Of Royals & Kerala’s Prominent Attraction

2. Pookalam: The Floral Decorations & Arrangement


Onam festival is also called the festival of flowers and Pookalam is one of the forms of celebrating this grand festival. This is referred to the ritual where the people make designs on the floor and decorate that with various flowers, usually at the door fronts and temples which looks like a flower mat.

Suggested Read: Here’s Why Off Season In Kerala Is The Best Time To Travel, Explore, And Chill!

3. Pulikali: The Grand Tiger Dance

Pullikuli Dance

The literal meaning of Pulikali is ‘the play of the tiger’, which was started 200 years ago. The former king of Kochi took forward the legacy of tiger dance which reflected manliness. For the dance hundreds of people get themselves painted and dressed like tiger and later they perform dance on traditional music.

Suggested Read: 10 Stunning Thrissur Temples You Must Explore On Your Next Kerala Tour

4. Vallamkali: The Snake Boat Race

Boat Race

Another fascinating thing about Onam festival is the famous boat race which takes place in Kerala. The Vallamkali or the snake boat race is held on the Pampa river in a grand procession which includes the Aranmula Uthrattathi boat race and Nehru Trophy Boat race. You will be left thrilled after doing this so make sure it is included in your itinerary!

Suggested Read: Kovalam In December 2021: Explore This Touristy Seaside Town In Kerala

5. Onam Sadya: The Complete Meal

Onam Sadya

A festival without delicious food is incomplete and the Onam festival food is one of its kinds and thus the Onasadya or the ‘Onam Feast’ is the highlight of this 10-day celebration. This is a nine-course meal which comprises of 11-13 traditional dishes which is served on a banana leaf. Commemorated at the last two days, this is a form of worship which starts at 10 am and ends by 5 pm.

Suggested Read: Destination Wedding In Kerala: Backwaters, Houseboat And Other Gorgeous Theme Venues

6. Folk Dances: Festivities At Its Peak

Image Source

Any festival is incomplete without a dance performance, and Onam festival is no different. During the festival you can see a lot of women perform folk dances. One of the dance form is Kaikottikali during King Mahabali is praised. It is a type of clap dance form. Another dance form is the Thumbi Thualli in which the women dance in circles.

Suggested Read: 10 Best Places To Visit In Palakkad: A Peek Into Kerala’s Natural & Cultural Wealth

Events Post Onam Celebration

The major part of the Onam celebration end by the Thiruvonam which is followed by the another two days as the third and fourth Onam. The third day called the Avittom marks the celebration of King Mahabali’s abode to the heavens. During this celebration the most important ritual of the day is immersing the Onathappan statue which is place in the middle of every Pokallam during these 10 days after which the Pokallam is cleaned removed.

Other Customs On Onam Celebrations

  • Among all the festivities, another important ritual is that people buy and wear new clothes which is called the Onakkodi
  • During the Onam festival in Kerala, Keralite Hindus install and worship the Thrikkakara Appan or Onathappan at their homes
  • The Hindu temples in Kerala are decorated with lamps and a Palmyra tree is erected in front of the temple which is enclosed by wooden balustrade and dry Palmyra leaves. Later it is lit to signify that King Mahabali went to Patala as a sacrifice
  • In the rural areas, the swing is an integral part of the celebration where locals sing Onappaatt or other Onam songs and push each other on the swing
  • Apart from all the zealful activities, the handloom fairs are also vigours the spirit of Onam festival

Further Read: Kerala In January: A Guide For A Memorable Vacation In This Southern State

To be a part of this grand celebration, you can book customizable Kerala tour as per your needs and witness and enjoy the Onam festival, and let TravelTriangle craft a personalized holiday for you!

Disclaimer: TravelTriangle claims no credit for images featured on our blog site unless otherwise noted. All visual content is copyrighted to its respectful owners. We try to link back to original sources whenever possible. If you own the rights to any of the images, and do not wish them to appear on TravelTriangle, please contact us and they will be promptly removed. We believe in providing proper attribution to the original author, artist or photographer.

Please Note: Any information published by TravelTriangle in any form of content is not intended to be a substitute for any kind of medical advice, and one must not take any action before consulting a professional medical expert of their own choice.

Frequently Asked Questions About Onam Festival

What are Onam 2021 dates in Kerala?

Onam will be celebrated from August 12, 2021, to August 23, 2021.

What is the story of Onam festival?

It is a 10-day festival, conducted to celebrate the golden rule of King Mahabali, the mythical ruler of Kerala. According to the folklore, the demigods sent Vishnu in the form of dwarf Brahmin to defeat Mahabali. After defeating the ruler, Vishnu granted the king’s sole wish to visit his land every year for 10 days. These 10 days are celebrated as Onam every year in the state of Kerala.

What is the importance of Onam festival?

Onam is the biggest festival of Kerala which is celebrated to welcome King Mahabali whose pious sole is believed to visit Kerala during the 10-day festival.

Which dance is performed during Onam?

Kathakali, the traditional dance form of Kerala is performed on Onam.

People Also Read: