Onam is undoubtedly the most spectacular festival of Kerala. One requires experiencing its magnificence in person. Simply by reading books, watching pictures or browsing the net one cannot appreciate Onam festivals. The mentioned media do not present entire splendours of Onam, full of breathtaking vistas.
During the Onam, from the very day, Atham, colours begin to emanate from this ebullient festival. On Atham, making of Pookalam, the exquisite flower mat is commenced and continued till Thiruvonam. The Pookalam reaches an overwhelming size with the most elegant design. Taking a walk in the streets of Kerala gives a good feeling at this time of the year. There are meticulous Pookalam that adorn the courtyards of every house. The fragrance from the flowers of the Pookalam wraps the air.
Snake Boat Race or Vallamkali is the most astonishing sporting experience from the panorama of Onam. Several snake-like-long boats embellished with festoons, silk umbrellas and gold coins are presented. These form a charming spectacle in the mind blowing backwaters of Alappuzha. The Vallamkali are oared by over a hundred oarsmen. They move in a rhythm to the beating of drums and cymbals. The energy of the oarsmen is transferred to the energy of the thousands of spectators. People visit from distant places, even from far away foreign lands. All watch the event in its full grandeur.
The grand meal served on Onam festival known as Onamsadhya also gives much delight to all. Meal served on green banana leaf makes the food look colourful and appetizing. The people of Kerala serve the meal in a creative way by following rules. They place the food from different dishes on traditional fixed space on the banana leaf. Probably there is a valid reason for this custom. Yet, the colour scheme of Onasadya looks bright and wonderful. This is a scene to watch but joining in this is the best part. People sit in rows on a mat placed on the floor. They are served strictly vegetarian meal. The favourite dish of all is the “payasam” [sweet made with rice boiled in milk].
During Onam festival, there are grandiose and spectacular processions of caparisoned elephants from Thrissur. These elephants are adorned with gold plates on their forehead and have umbrellas over their heads. They look majestic to their onlookers who gather to watch the regal show. Some of them even take photographs of the elephants for their album of Onam.
Women in their traditional gold bordered off-white mundu and neriyathu perform the very elegant folk dance Kaikottikali. This is an entirely wonderful scene from the carnival of Onam. There are several other events that take place during the Onam. The spirit of this great carnival can only be witnessed and experienced. After the first experienced, it would be cherished for a lifetime.