Why is Malayalam New Year called Vishu

Heidi Glemnitz reports on her life in Kerala, everyday life in India and Ayurveda

Onam is the most significant and largest festival in Kerala.
(comparable to Christmas for Christians)
Originally it was primarily a harvest festival.
Nature shows itself in her festive dress in shiny green, rich in fruits and flowers.
The rice fields sway in a ripe gold shimmer.
The weather is sunny and warm.
Onam becomes Chingam at the beginning of the first month
of the Malayalam calendar, celebrated.
Since it is a lunar calendar, the times change and roughly correspond to the end of August / beginning of September in the Gregorian calendar and Bhadrapada, the Hindu calendar.
This festival is celebrated by all Keralites around the world,
regardless of social class, caste or religion.

Another reason for Onam comes from one Legend:
It is reported that the time when King Mahabali (also Maveli) ruled was a golden age. The king was revered as wise, just, and extremely generous. Everyone in the state was doing very well, every inhabitant was respected equally, regardless of class, caste or income.
There was neither crime nor poverty nor corruption - so really golden times.
People worshiped their King Mahabali like a god.
Therefore the gods became jealous and jealous ... and advised
how they could benefit from offering themselves again.
As I said, the king was very generous and charitable.
He never turned down a request from a supplicant.
This virtue was used by the gods.
The god Vishnu appeared before the king as a dwarf Vanama and asked for a piece of land.
The king was astonished that he wanted so much land
as he can include with 3 steps. However, he agreed.
A wise counselor drew his attention to the fact that the dwarf was no ordinary person.
However, the king wanted to keep his word.
The "dwarf" then expanded so far that its shape assumed cosmic dimensions.
With the first step it covered the entire earth, with the second the entire vault of heaven. Thereupon he asked the king where he should take the third step.
Now the king realized that this was no ordinary Brahmin boy….
And with the third kick he would destroy the earth.
Therefore, the king bowed to Vanama and asked him to take the third step
to make his head so that he could keep his promise.
This happened and the king was doing it after patala, i.e. pressed into the underworld.

There Lord Vishnu appeared to him in his true form and declared,
that the king should be tested to see if he would keep a promise made.
This had happened, but the king had to stay in the underworld.
One wish was granted to him: every year he wanted to visit his people to see whether his people were doing well.
Lord Vishnu was touched by this wish, blessed it and declared that the king would continue to be loved by his people and by him. His wish to return to earth once a year was granted.
This “visit” is now celebrated every year as Onam with a lot of enthusiasm to show the king that people are doing well.

The King Mahabali with the other characters from mythology

Onam is celebrated between four and ten days.
Atham, the first and Thiruonam the tenth day are particularly important.

In order to greet the king appropriately, the pookalam (mandalas)
made from flowers. In the past, these were laid out in front of the houses.
It has now become common practice to hold competitions for the most beautiful pookalam all over Kerala:


The families invite each other to the famous Onasadya, a very extensive feast.
It is purely vegetarian and consists of at least 11-13 different dishes.
It is always served on a banana leaf. The most important "curries" are:
avial, sambhar, rasam, parippu, thoran, kichadi and payasam.
There are also various pickles, pappadam,
banana chips etc and of course rice.

This feast is especially important for all Keralese for Onam.
There is a saying:
"Kanam Vittu Onam Unnanam" which means:
"We should have the Thiruonam lunch even if we have to sell all our properties".

It is very important for young and old to wear new clothes when visiting each other,
which are usually given as gifts by relatives.

The so-called Kerala saree made of cream-colored cotton with a gold border is often worn for the Onam festival

In the last few years the “farmer festival” has become a “consumer festival”.
That said, gift shopping became very important

Shopping in the Chalaibazar

Not just new clothes, but also
Washing machines, televisions, microwave ovens and induction cookers are now part of the range of gifts that are advertised in large advertisements and offered at numerous sales exhibitions.

Onam also offers the opportunity to experience the diverse culture of Kerala.
A wide variety of traditional dances are performed everywhere,
there are classical music performances, folk songs and theater.

Onam is ceremoniously opened in a large stadium by the Prime Minister,
followed by a varied cultural program.
This year around 4,000 artists perform in 18 different places in Trivandrum during the Onam Festival.
Something for every taste!

In the evening the city is bathed in a colorful sea of ​​lights.

Many buildings are lavishly decorated with colorful lights.

a really impressive sight.
In some areas boat races are held with the traditional "snakeboat".
The best known is now the Nehru Trophy Boat Race in Allepey.

In Trivandrum there is a big parade at the end of Onam.
Every year it has a special theme.

The floats are designed with a lot of imagination and effort, colorful groups and many music bands roam the city for hours.

Thousands line the streets to admire this parade.

Puli Kali ("Puli" = leopard / tiger & "Kali" = play in the Malayalam language) is made up of groups
depicted on the festival of Onam.
In addition, men can be painted all over their bodies by artists as tigers / leopards.
A very complex procedure that can take 5 to 7 hours.
To the sound of the drums Udukku and Thakil, the groups dance and hop through the streets.

Added on: 08/26/2010
Subject: All Articles, Kerala