Why Do We Celebrate Onam, What Does It Mean? Hear From Malayalis

Students of SH School of Communications in Kochi, Kerala narrate the story of why we celebrate Onam, King Mahabali.

2 min read

Video Editor: Smitha TK
Rittu Jacob


(This article was originally published on 9 September 2019 and has been reposted from The Quint's archives on the occasion of Onam.)


Every year, when it is time to lay out that green leaf, let the ghee dribble onto the steaming rice and mingle with the heavenly jackfruit, my mother tells me a story. The story of why we celebrate Onam.

It is festival time now, and so The Quint asked students of Sacred Heart School of Communications in Kochi, Kerala to narrate this age-old story. Onam is celebrated in remembrance of King Mahabali, whose reign saw no sorrow or poverty, only prosperity.

Onam or Thiruonam is a 10-day harvest festival celebrated in Kerala. This year, the festival is from 1 September to 13 September.

Every year, people lay out floral rangolis outside their homes to commemorate the homecoming of the king.


An elaborate nine-course vegetarian meal, Onam Sadhya, is cooked in every household in Kerala, to show their king that they are all living a happy, content life.

The feast is served on plantain leaves and includes native dishes like charkaraveratti (fried pieces of banana coated with jaggery), pappadam, puliInji (tamarind chili paste), thoran (vegetable side dish), sambhar, olan (white pumpkin curry), and rasam. A payasam (a sweet dish made of milk, sugar) completes the meal.

Several cultural events like boat races and pulikali (tiger dance drama) also take place during the month.

Last year, due to the floods, there were no Onam celebrations. This year too, several flood-affected parts of the state are indulging only in low-key celebrations.

Onam falls in the month of Chingam, which is the first month according to the Malayalam calendar.

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Topics:  Kerala   onam   Malayali 

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