Essay on Onam 2023 | Essay on Onam Festival

Essay About Onam festival in English

Essay on Onam 2023


Onam is a captivating and lively festival celebrated with great zeal in the southern Indian state of Kerala. It holds immense cultural and historical significance, making it one of the most cherished festivals in the region. The festival marks the homecoming of the mythical King Mahabali and showcases the rich cultural heritage of Kerala. The festivities last for ten days, during which the entire state comes alive with vibrant colors, traditional dances, melodious music, boat races, and sumptuous feasts.

Mythological Background

King Mahabali

The origins of Onam can be traced back to a fascinating mythological tale. According to legend, Kerala was once ruled by King Mahabali, who was known for his benevolence and generosity. His reign was marked by prosperity, harmony, and equality. However, the gods became envious of his power and sought to humble him. Lord Vishnu took the form of a dwarf Brahmin named Vamana and approached Mahabali. Vamana requested three steps of land, and the king, true to his nature, granted the request. To everyone’s surprise, Vamana grew into a colossal figure and covered the entire universe with his first two steps. For the third step, Mahabali offered his head, and Vamana placed his foot on it, banishing the king to the netherworld. However, recognizing Mahabali’s virtuous nature, Vamana granted him the privilege of visiting his people in Kerala once a year during Onam, thus symbolizing the king’s homecoming and the people’s reverence for him.

Duration and Celebrations

Onam is a ten-day-long festival filled with festivities and merriment. The celebration typically takes place in the months of August or September, coinciding with the Malayalam month of Chingam. Each day of Onam has its own significance and unique traditions. The festival commences with Atham, the first day, when people begin the preparations for the grand celebrations. As the days progress, the excitement builds up, and the entire state becomes immersed in the spirit of Onam. Homes are adorned with intricate flower rangolis called pookalams, made with vibrant flowers like marigold and jasmine. The fragrance of these floral designs permeates the air, creating a joyous and festive atmosphere.

People dress in new clothes, mostly traditional attire like the kasavu saree for women and the mundu for men, adding to the visual splendor of the festivities. Special prayers and rituals are performed at temples, and people visit their loved ones to exchange greetings and gifts. Cultural programs, music concerts, and dance performances are organized throughout Kerala to showcase the state’s artistic heritage. The streets come alive with processions, featuring traditional music bands, folk dances, and stunning displays of traditional art forms like Kathakali and Mohiniyattam. The evenings are filled with the melodious beats of drums, as people gather for cultural events and performances. The grand finale of Onam is Thiruvonam, the most important day, when families gather to offer prayers, indulge in the grand feast known as Onam Sadya, and engage in various recreational activities.

Traditional Dances and Music

Onam is synonymous with vibrant dances and enchanting music, which play a significant role in expressing the cultural heritage of Kerala. One of the most popular traditional dance forms performed during Onam is Thiruvathirakali. It is a graceful dance performed by groups of women in a circular formation, showcasing synchronized movements and elegant hand gestures. The dancers, dressed in traditional attire, adorn themselves with exquisite jewelry and sing melodious songs that narrate stories of love and devotion.

Another prominent dance form during Onam is Kathakali, a classical dance-drama that combines intricate footwork, facial expressions, and elaborate costumes. Kathakali performances portray mythical tales and epics, captivating the audience with their visual splendor and dramatic storytelling. The music accompanying these dances is equally mesmerizing. The sound of the flute, the rhythmic beats of the mridangam (a percussion instrument), and the chiming of cymbals create a harmonious symphony that adds to the festive ambiance of Onam.

Boat Races (Vallamkali)

The boat races, also known as Vallamkali, are among the most thrilling and eagerly anticipated events during Onam. These races are a testament to Kerala’s strong bond with its backwaters and waterways. The highlight of Vallam kali is the snake boat race, where long and sleek boats called snake boats or Chundan Vallams compete against each other. Each boat accommodates over a hundred rowers, who paddle in perfect synchronization to the rhythm of the boat song or Vanchipattu. The sight of these magnificent boats gliding through the water, propelled by the synchronized efforts of rowers, is truly awe-inspiring. Thousands of spectators gather along the riverbanks to witness this exhilarating spectacle and cheer for their favorite teams. The atmosphere is electrifying, with the cheers and shouts of the audience reverberating through the air. The boat races not only display the spirit of competition but also serve as a symbol of Kerala’s rich maritime heritage and the unity and teamwork of its people.

Onam Sadya (Feast)

Onam Sadya (Feast)

No description of Onam is complete without mentioning the grand feast known as Onam Sadya. It is a vegetarian banquet served on fresh banana leaves and is an integral part of the festival. The Sadya consists of a wide array of dishes, meticulously prepared with traditional ingredients and spices. The feast typically includes a variety of mouth-watering delicacies such as avial (a mixed vegetable dish), olan (a curry made with ash gourd and coconut milk), sambar (a lentil-based soup), rasam (a tangy soup), and thoran (a stir-fried vegetable dish). These dishes are served along with rice and accompanied by an assortment of pickles, papadam (crispy lentil wafers), and curd (yogurt). To end the feast on a sweet note, a delectable assortment of desserts, including payasam (a sweet pudding), is served. The Onam Sadya is not only a culinary delight but also a symbol of unity, as people from all walks of life come together to relish the traditional flavors and bond over food.

Other Activities and Games

In addition to the traditional dances, boat races, and feasts, Onam brings forth a host of other activities and games that add to the festive spirit. These activities cater to people of all ages, ensuring that everyone can actively participate and enjoy the celebrations. For children, there are various competitions such as tug-of-war, sack races, and running races organized in schools and local communities.

Cultural programs and talent shows provide a platform for individuals to showcase their artistic abilities. Traditional games like Uriyadi, where blindfolded participants attempt to break a suspended pot filled with goodies, and Kummattikali, a mask dance performed by artists wearing colorful and intricately designed masks, bring joy and excitement to the festival. Furthermore, Puli Kali, also known as the Tiger Dance, is a unique and entertaining activity during Onam. Artists paint themselves as tigers, wearing elaborate costumes and masks, and perform lively dance routines that captivate the audience. These activities and games create an atmosphere of fun and camaraderie, fostering a sense of unity and togetherness among the participants.

Pulikali (Tiger Dance)

Pulikali, or the Tiger Dance, is an enthralling and distinct dance form that adds a vibrant touch to the Onam festivities. It is a folk art form performed by trained artists, who dress up as tigers in bright and vivid colors. The performers paint their bodies to resemble tigers, complete with intricate designs and patterns. They wear traditional tiger masks and adorn themselves with colorful and eye-catching costumes. The dance movements of Pulikali imitate the agile and playful nature of tigers, with performers showcasing their energy, flexibility, and acrobatic skills. The rhythmic beats of traditional percussion instruments like chenda (a cylindrical drum) and thakil (cymbals) set the tempo for the dance. Pulikali performances are a visual treat, with the performers leaping, prancing, and playfully interacting with the audience. The lively and spirited atmosphere created by Pulikali is contagious, spreading joy and laughter among both participants and spectators alike. The Tiger Dance is a unique tradition that not only entertains but also highlights the cultural richness and artistic talents of Kerala.


In conclusion, Onam is a festival that encapsulates the essence of Kerala’s vibrant culture and heritage. The ten-day extravaganza is filled with a myriad of festivities that bring people together, fostering a sense of unity and celebration. The mythological background of King Mahabali’s homecoming adds a touch of mysticism to the festival, symbolizing the deep-rooted respect and reverence the people of Kerala hold for their beloved king. The colorful traditional dances, soul-stirring music, exhilarating boat races, and mouth-watering feasts create an atmosphere of joy, excitement, and togetherness. Onam is a time when Kerala showcases its artistic talents, with various cultural programs and performances highlighting the state’s rich artistic heritage.

The activities and games organized during Onam provide an opportunity for people of all ages to actively participate and revel in the festivities. Whether it’s the captivating Tiger Dance or the camaraderie found in traditional games and competitions, Onam brings forth a sense of merriment and enjoyment. As the festival draws to a close, the memories and experiences shared during Onam leave an indelible mark on the hearts of all who partake in its celebrations. Onam serves as a reminder of the cultural richness, unity, and cherished traditions of Kerala, and it continues to be a source of joy and pride for the people of the state.

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