Harvest Festival of Kerala: Know History, Significance of Onam

By : Neha Dhyani

Updated : Feb 24, 2022, 10:15

Onam, the harvest festival of Kerala, holds immense significance for South Indians. It heralds the start of the Malayalam calendar year, known as Kolla Varsham. People celebrate the harvest festival of Kerala with a variety of festivities such as the Pulaski (tiger dances), Pookkalam (flower Rangoli), and Vallam Kali (boat racing). This 10-day festival is on the 22nd Nakshatra Thiruvonam in the Malayalam month of Chingam, which is the August-September period. In 2021,  Onam began on August 12 and ended on August 23. 

About the Harvest Festival of Kerala

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Harvest festival


Atham, Chithira, Pokkalam

History of the Harvest Festival of Kerala

King Mahabali had conquered all the Gods and ruled over all three planets. Mahabali, unlike other demons, was lovely and gentle. This demon king was well-liked by the populace. On the other hand, the Gods were uneasy and sought Lord Vishnu's help. Lord Vishnu went to visit King Mahabali as Vamana, a Brahmin dwarf. Vamana answered, "three pieces of land," when the king asked for his requests. The monarch granted his desire, and he grew in size until all three realms could see him.

When King Mahabali was ready to go to heaven, he offered his head, and his generosity moved Lord Vishnu. He allowed his request to visit the realm during the harvest festival of Kerala.

Significance of the Harvest Festival of Kerala

The harvest festival of Kerala commemorates King Mahabali's yearly return, whose reign has been Kerala's most affluent period. The festival also marks Lord Vishnu's Vamana avatar's arrival. Keralites throughout the country and the world celebrate the occasion with tremendous zeal.

Celebrating the Harvest Festival of Kerala

  • Atham is the first day of the harvest festival of Kerala. People use yellow flowers called Pokkalam to beautify their homes. 
  • Chithira is the second day. People clean their homes and add a new layer of flowers to the Pokkalam on this day. 
  • On the third day, family members reunite and give presents, known as Onakodi and jewellery.
  • The fourth day, when people prepare Onam Sadhya, is holy.
  • The annual Vallamkali boat race takes place on the fifth day from the town of Aranmula on the banks of the Pamba river in Pathanamthitta.
  • The sixth day of the harvest celebration is Thriketta. Schools are closed on this day, and children begin to prepare for devotional prayers. 
  • The seventh day marks the start of the harvest festival of Kerala. This day includes many dance performances. 
  • On the eighth day, people make Vamana and King Mahabali out of clay and set them in the centre of the Pokkalam.
  • The celebrations commence in earnest on the ninth day of Uthradom. People use fruits and vegetables to begin the preparation of traditional meals. 
  • The most important day of the harvest festival of Kerala is the tenth day of the festivities. The spirit of the mythical King Mahabali enters Kerala on Thiruvonam, and the celebrations begin early in the morning. People also prepare Onam Sadhya.
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FAQs About Harvest Festival of Kerala

  • Is Onam the Harvest Festival of Kerala?

Onam is marked by the harvesting of the standing crops in Kerala. That is why it is known as the Harvest Festival of Kerala.

  • Why is the Harvest Festival of Kerala celebrated?

The Harvest Festival of Kerala marks the appearance of Vishnu's Vamana avatar and the legendary King Mahabali's subsequent return home.

  • Why is the Harvest Festival of Kerala celebrated for ten days?

The Harvest Festival of Kerala celebrates the arrival of King Mahabali after ten days.