Onam 2023: Observance Date, Narrative, and Importance of the Celebration

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Onam – Rituals, Significance, and Dates
Onam, the paramount and joyously celebrated festival in Kerala, holds a twofold significance as it marks the annual return of King Mahabali and pays homage to Lord Vishnu’s Vamana incarnation. Spanning ten days, this festival kindles an elevated sense of festivity among the people of Kerala and is observed with remarkable grandeur.

The date for Onam 2023 is August 29, falling on a Tuesday. This means that tomorrow is the day of Onam.

The first day of Onam, known as First Onam, falls on August 28 (Monday), while Thiruvonam, the most significant day of the festival, will be celebrated on August 29 (Tuesday). The subsequent days, Third and Fourth Onam, fall on August 30 (Wednesday) and August 31 (Thursday) respectively.

Onam Festival – Photographs and Insights

Pookkalam during the Onam Festival in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, on August 21, 2018. Onam is a harvest festival and is one of three major annual Hindu...
Women adorning the Onam Pookkalam with vibrant flowers on the eve of the Onam Festival.

Discover captivating and elegant designs of Onam Pookalam.

Southern Railways introduces five special trains for the occasion of the 2023 Onam and Velankanni Festivals.

When is Onam Celebrated?
Onam is commemorated on the day of Thiruvonam nakshatram (Shravana asterism) in the Malayalam calendar month of Chingam.

By adhering to traditional practices and the saying ‘Atham 10 Onam,’ the festival begins on Atham (Hasta) nakshatram, the first day of Onam, and culminates on Thiruvonam (Shravana) nakshatram, which is the most significant day of the celebrations. This structure turns Onam into a ten-day jubilation.

In the Gregorian calendar, Onam typically falls in late August or early September.

Artist performing cultural programmes as Delhi BJP's South Indian workers celebrated Onam 2015 at Delhi BJP Party office, on September 27, 2015 in...

The Spiritual Significance of Onam
According to mythology, King Mahabali was the illustrious ruler of Kerala, during whose reign the region experienced a golden era of prosperity and magnificence. In order to conclude Mahabali’s dominion over the earth, Lord Vishnu incarnated as Vamana, a diminutive Brahmin, and outsmarted the King into relinquishing his land. Despite this, Vishnu granted Mahabali the boon of revisiting his realm once a year. Onam venerates the homecoming of this revered King.

Rituals and Traditions of Onam
Onam signifies the rice harvest festival of Kerala, with each of its ten days carrying unique significance.

The distinctive floral patterns, known as ‘pookkalam,’ symbolize this festive occasion. Generally crafted by the women of the household, these designs are created on the ground using flowers and illuminated lamps, symbolically inviting King Mahabali to their homes. People exchange and wear new attire, referred to as ‘Onakkodi.’

Elaborate feasts are prepared during this time, commonly known as ‘onam sadya.’Woman holds a pot containing maambazha pulissery while serving a traditional Sadhya meal on a banana leaf in Toronto, Ontario, Canada during the Onam... Typically featuring around 13 dishes, this meal is served on banana leaves and includes rice along with an assortment of dishes, pickles, and papads. Traditional Sadhya meal served on a banana leaf in Toronto, Ontario, Canada during the Onam Festival on August 28, 2021. Sadhya consists of a variety...A characteristic sweet dish called ‘payasam’ is an essential part of the Onam feast, made from rice, milk, sugar, and coconut.

Vallamkali, or boat racing, particularly involving the iconic Snake boats, is a prominent Onam event. These long boats, resembling snakes, are rowed by numerous oarsmen in a competitive spirit. Generous cash rewards are bestowed upon the winners.

Snake boat race on Pampa River at Onam Festival, Aranmula, Kerala, India.

Decorated elephants are a hallmark of Onam processions.

People crowd outside a shop with a display featuring statues of elephants and Kathakali dancers during the festival of Onam in Thiruvananthapuram ,...

Homes often install Vallamkali or boat race, especially of Snake boats, is an event associated with Onam and is a grand event in Kerala these days. Huge snake shaped boats rowed by homes install Vallamkali or boat race, especially Snake boats, is an event associated with Onam and is a grand event in Kerala these days. Huge snake-shaped boats, rowed by hundreds of oarsmen, compete with each other. Massive amounts of cash rewards are distributed as prizes for the winners.

Decorated elephants are characteristic of Onam processions.

Thrikkakara appan (Onathappan) or Vaman Vishnu idols are installed at homes for worship.

The celebration of Onam is marked by various cultural activities, including traditional Kathakali dances, music performances, art exhibitions, and a rich culinary heritage.

A distinctive form of entertainment during Onam is the Pulikali dance, where performers painted in yellow and black to resemble tigers showcase their skills. This period is declared as Tourism Week in Kerala, offering the best opportunity to explore the state’s attractions.

Onam holds special significance as it unifies people of all religious backgrounds within the state, promoting messages of unity and societal harmony.

Traditionally dressed school children wait to perform during the Onam festivities in Chennai on August 21, 2023.

Significant Timings for Onam 2023
Sunrise: August 29, 2023, at 6:19 AM
Sunset: August 29, 2023, at 6:32 PM
Thiruvonam Nakshathra Begins: August 29, 2023, at 2:43 AM
Thiruvonam Nakshathra Ends: August 29, 2023, at 11:50 PM

Performer paints his face before performing as a Hindu god in a 'Kummati Kali', a mask dance, part of the annual Onam festival celebrations in the...

Onam Festival Dates from 2020 to 2030
2021: Saturday, August 21
2022: Thursday, September 8
2023: Tuesday, August 29
2024: Sunday, September 15
2025: Friday, September 5
2026: Wednesday, August 26
2027: Sunday, September 12
2028: Friday, September 1
2029: Wednesday, August 22
2030: Monday, September 9

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