How to Celebrate Onam

Onam is a major festival celebrated in Kerala, a southern Indian state. Throughout the months of August and September, there are numerous celebrations. During those months, a grand harvest festival is held for 10 days, during which more precise traditions are displayed. Participating in Onam celebrations, whether in India or abroad, means spending time with family. Sharing a Sadya feast and exchanging gifts is a particularly meaningful way to commemorate the occasion.

Method 1 Participating in Daily Celebrations

1. On the first day, go to the temples. Seek out a temple on the morning of the first day of Onam, known as Atham. While you’re there, please pray for King Mahabali’s safe return from the underworld to modern-day Kerala.

2. If you’re near Thrippunithura, join a procession. Walk alongside other revellers to the city of Thrippunithura, which is located near Kochi. When you arrive at your destination, pray and leave food or small trinkets as offerings. It is thought that the King left the world near this location.

3. Begin constructing the Pookalam. This is a multi-colored floral carpet that most Indian families place at their front door. The design will begin simple and gradually become more complex and colourful. Arrange yellow flowers in a basic circular design for this first day.

4. On the second day, clean your house. Go through your house and scrub it from floor to ceiling on the second day of Onam, known as Chithira. Remove any excess debris or trash from the interior. Examine the exterior to ensure that it is also clean.

5. On the third day, the market opens. Go shopping with your entire extended family on the third day of Onam, known as Chodhi. Look for jewellery or clothing items that you can give as gifts to others. The gifts don’t have to be extravagant, especially if you’re giving them to multiple family members.

6. On day 4, begin preparing the sadhya. The Onam sadhya is a large meal made up of 26 different delicacies. Each family member is expected to contribute something to the preparation of this meal on the fourth day of Onam, known as Vishakam. Go to the market for basic ingredients, or spend time grinding herbs and spices.

7. On day 6, exchange gifts with loved ones. You should visit your ancestral home on the sixth day of Onam, known as Thriketa. Pay a visit to the home of your eldest living relative. Meet other relatives there and exchange gifts you purchased a few days before.

8. On day 7, go visit other families in your community. Travel around your neighbourhood on the seventh day of Onam, known as Moolam, and share miniature sadya meals with your neighbours. Alternatively, visit your local temple and partake in a sadhya prepared for worshippers.

9. On day 8, welcome the statues of Mahabali and Vamana. Purchase miniature statues of Mahabali and Vamana for the eighth day of Onam, known as Pooradam. Walk these statues around your house as a symbolic way of welcoming them in. Then, in the centre of your Pookalam design, place these statues.

When the statue of Mahabali is placed on the Pookalam, you will begin to refer to him as Onathappan instead.

10. On day 9, make the final preparations for the sadya meal. The ninth day is referred to as Uthradam or Onam eve. Purchase any fresh vegetables or fruits that you will require for your sadya meal the following day. Examine your home once more to ensure that it is clean and orderly.

Method 2 Enjoying Day 10 or Thiruvonam

1. Scatter rice flour across the front of your door. Sift a small amount of rice flour between your palms and sift it over the main entrance to your home. This is a signal to others that you are celebrating Onam and would appreciate their visit.

2. Put on some new clothes. Take a bath first thing in the morning. Then, put on your formal attire for the day, which is usually presented to you by the eldest female family member. Women will typically wear white sarees with a golden thread border. Men will typically wear a white dhoti with a golden thread border.

3. Visit a light and fireworks show. Temples and cities may set off fireworks throughout the Onam celebration, particularly on the final day. Watch the show at one of these locations. Depending on the local budget, the display could be modest or extravagant.

Method 3 Partaking in a Sadya feast

1. Place your banana leaf in its proper place. The banana leaf serves as the primary table setting for the Sadhya meal, and all food items are served on it. The leaf, on the other hand, must be in the proper position, with the tapered end facing to your left. It should be close enough to you that you can reach the food without having to stretch too far.

2. Concentrate on eating the most recent course that has been served. Depending on the Sadhya, you may have up to 24 dishes on your leaf over the course of the meal. This means that if you try to eat everything, you will quickly become full. Instead, each time a course is served, concentrate on trying each of these new foods.

Typically, the first course consists of a variety of rice dishes. The flavours in the courses range from salty to spicy. Desserts can be served at the end of the meal or as a course in the middle.

It is acceptable to return and eat some of the foods from previous courses. However, only do this after you’ve eaten a little bit of each of the more recent foods that have been offered to you.

3. When you’re finished, fold the leaf. When the final course has been served and you have finished eating, gently grab the edges of the banana leaf and fold it from top to bottom. Continue folding until the leaf has shrunk to the size of a small packet and the food inside is completely contained. Pull the leaf closer to you.

Not folding or pushing your leaf away from yourself indicates that you did not enjoy your meal and is disrespectful to the hosts.

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