Onam Games and Onam Celebrations
Onam Feast  

The Onam sadhya (feast) is another very indispensable part of Thiruvonam, and almost every Keralite attempts to either make or attend one. Rich and the poor, everybody prepares Onasadya in a grand fashion as people of Kerala are extremely devotional and passionate when it comes to Onasadya. So much so that, it has lead to saying, 'Kaanam Vittum Onam Unnanam'. Meaning - men go to the extend of selling all their possessions for one Onam Sathya.
The feast is served on plantain leaves, laid with the end to the left and has more than 13 to 15 curries, along with traditional pickles, papadam and a dessert called 'payasam' (a sweet dish made of milk, sugar, jaggery and other traditional Indian savories). The meal is traditionally served on a mat laid on the floor. A strict order of serving the dishes one after another is obeyed. Besides, there are clear directions as to what will be served in which part of the banana leaf. 

In hotels and temples, the number of curries and dishes may go up to 30.
Boat Race

The Vallamkali   (the snake boat race) is another event that is synonymous with Onam. Well-known races include the Aramula Boat Race and the Nehru Trophy Boat Race . About 100 oarsmen row huge and graceful snake boats and men and women come from far and near to watch the snake boats skim through the water.
The event is promoted as a major tourist attraction of the state of Kerala and draws a large number of domestic and international tourists. Vallamkali has been going on for good number of years and its popularity is soaring with each passing year. Much credit for the success of Snake Boat Race can be attributed to Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru who was so enamoured by this colourful event that he instituted a trophy for the race.

Vallamkali boat are no ordinary boats and there are fixed measurements to it. It is about 100 feet long and has a seating capacity of 150 men. The boats are usually made of anjili (Artocarpus hirsuta), though sometimes teak and kadamb (Naucleacadamba) wood is also used. The curled ends of the boats are shaped like cobra hoods and it is from this shape that boat has derived its name. Each boat is meticulously crafted by skilled craftsmen and a lot of patience and hard work goes into making and decorating it. The boat is treated as a deity and a holds a lot of emotional value for the village folk. Each boat belong to individual villages located near the river Pamba.

The songs are being religiously carried forward from one generation to other as people take great delight in singing them.

Music loving people of Kerala have created songs for every major event of the festival. Onappattu help to add colour to Onam. It is a treat for eyes and ears to watch young men and women, sing melodious songs dressed in their traditional attire.
A scintillating Onam song sung by maidens, usually during the performance of Kaikottikkali celebrates the golden period witnessed in the reign of benevolent King Mahabali.

മാവേലി  നാട്  വാണിടും  കാലം
മാനുഷ്യരെല്ലാരുമൊന്ന്  പോലെ
ആമോദത്തോടെ  വസിക്കും  കാലം
ആപത്തങ്ങാര്‍കുമൊട്ടില്ല  താനും

ആധികള്‍ വ്യാധികള്‍ ഒന്നുമില്ല
ബാലമരണങ്ങള്‍ കേള്‍ക്കാനില്ല
ദുഷ്ടരെ കണ്‍കൊണ്ട്  കാണ്മാനില്ല
നല്ലവരല്ലാതെ ഇല്ല പാരില്‍… ഇല്ല പാരില്‍

കള്ളവുമില്ല ചതിയുമില്ല
എള്ളോളമില്ല പൊളിവചനം
വെള്ളികോലാദികള്‍ നാഴികളും
എല്ലാം കണക്കിന് തുല്യമായി… തുല്യമായി

കള്ളപ്പറയും ചെറുനാഴിയും
കള്ളത്തരങ്ങള്‍ മറ്റൊന്നുമില്ല
കള്ളവുമില്ല ചതിയുമില്ല
എള്ളോളമില്ല പൊളിവചനം…പൊളിവചനം

(Maveli nadu vaneedum kalam,
manusharellarum onnupole
amodhathode vasikkum kalam
kallavum illa chathiyumilla
ellolamilla polivachanam
kallapparayum cherunazhiyum
kallatharangal mattonnumilla
adhikal vyadhikalonnumilla
balamaranangal kelppanilla)

English translation of this beautiful Onam song:

' When Maveli, our King, rules the land, 
All the peoples form one casteless race. 
And people live joyful and merry; 
They are free from all harm. 
There is neither theft nor deceit, 
And no one is false in speech either. 
Measures and weights are right; 
No one cheats or wrongs the neighbor. 
when Maveli, our King, rules the land, 
All the peoples form one casteless race.'

Thalapanthu kali

Thalappanthukali is one of the major out-door games played on the occasion of Onam. The game is essentially a ball game and extremely popular one.

The ball is prepared by tying a few pebbles in the layers of dried-up plantain leaves with the help of a plantain or coconut fiber. The players are divided into two groups and a stick called 'natta' is planted at one end of the court. The court is basically an open space with lines drawn at to indicate the limit beyond which the ball should not be thrown. One party serves the ball and tries to hit the stick while others try to catch it. If the ball is caught then the man is out otherwise he gets another chance.
Attakalam is another kind of combat which is comparatively less hazardous in nature .In this the game is not played individually rather the players are made to play into groups. A large circle is drawn on the plain sand floor and one group is placed inside the circle. A member of the second group tries to bring the former outside the circle and both are free to use force. However, once any member of the inside team steps of the circle, he is considered out. After all the members of a team are dragged out, the other team takes its position inside the circle. If a member of any team cannot be driven out, his party is declared victorious.
Onathallu is a mock fight performed to mark the advent of the festive season of Onam. Also referred to as Kayyankali, Onathallu is a very old ritual that is followed in many regions of Kerala. In the barehanded fight, the combatants are clad in mundu (dhoti) or plain white cotton cloth that is worn high, like tight shorts. The men are accessorized with a sort of bandage around their legs, which protects them from injury. Apart from being a ritual, Onathallu is an interesting game that is performed by the male members of the family, during Onam.

Kaikottikali or Thiruvathirakali is an extremely popular folk dance performed by the maidens of Kerala. It is a group dance and is mainly performed on the occasion of Onam and Thiruvathira. Women, both young and old submerge themselves in the spirit of the occasion and dance with perfect ease and e¢lan.
Dress code of Kaikottikali is hugely impressive as women folk neatly attire themselves in a typical Kerala style. They wear gold bordered traditional two piece cloth called mundu and neriyathu; A mundu is a one piece cloth draped on the lower part of the body while neriyathu is worn over a blouse. 

Tales depicted in Kaikottikali owe their origin to Kathakali, a profound dance form of Kerala. 'Ragachaya' of Kaikottikali derives its origin from Kathakali. Accordingly, the songs are based on episodes like Krishna-leela, Shakunthalam, Kuchelavritham and Dhruvacharithram. Greater emphasis is given to the rhythmic movements than mudra. 

Popular ragas found in Kaikottikali songs include Hussaini, Bhairavi and Kamboji. Though on several occasions songs deviate from puranic stories and make use of folk tales. At times, devotional songs are also rendered in the worship of Saraswati, Ganapati and Krishna. Special songs are also sung in praise of King Mahabali as according to a popular legend, the festival on Onam celebrates the arrival of the king to the state of Kerala.
Puli Kali  is a colorful recreational folk art from the state of  Kerala. It is performed by trained artists to entertain people on the fourth day of Onam  celebrations (Nalaam Onam), performers painted like tigers and hunters in bright yellow, red, and black dance to the beats of instruments like Udukku performance revolve around the theme of tiger hunting. The folk art is mainly practiced in  Thrissur  District of Kerala .Best place to watch the show is at Swaraj Round, Thrissur  on the fourth day of  Onam, where Pulikali troupes from all over the district assemble to display their skills. The festival attracts thousands of people to the  Thrissur city.
Kummattikali or Kummatti Kali is the famous colorful mask-dance of  Kerala , prevalent in Thrissur and  Palakkad District and parts of South Malabar. During the festival of Onam , Kummattikali performers move from house to house collecting small gifts and entertaining people. Kummatti dances are rampant in the  Thrissur District during Onam. Pristine or original form of Kummattikali can be seen in the  Bhadrakali temple inPalakkad District . The costumes are a most interesting facet of Kummattikali.The dancers don a heavily painted colourful wooden mask depicting faces of  Krishna, Narada, Kiratha, Darika or hunters. These masks are usually made out of  saprophyte , jack fruit tree,  Alstonia scholaris ,Hog Plum Tree  or the Coral tree.The rhythm for the dance movements is provided by vibrating the string of a bow like instrument called an  Onavillu. Areca nut  wood is used to make the bow and the strings are beaten with a narrow bamboo stick.The themes of Kummattikali are mostly taken from the stories of  Ramayana, Darika Vadham, the story of Shiva  and folk tales like Manjan Nayare Pattu.
Aranmula Vallamkali

Noted for its grandeur and long tradition, the Aranmula Uthrittathi boat race is considered as a ritual than a race that takes place on the Uthrittathi asterism (as per the local Malayalam calendar) during the Onam festival. There is an interesting story associated with the boat race that makes it all the more beautiful.

Legend has it that a devout Brahmin vowed to offer all the requirements for the thiruvona sadya (the grand traditional feast on the day of Thiruvonam) at the Aranmula Parthasarathy Temple. Once, the boat known as Thiruvona Thoni carrying these offerings was attacked by enemies. In order to protect the Thiruvona Thoni people from neighbouring areas sent their snake boats. Later on, this practice evolved into an offering to Lord Parthasarathy in the form of a snake boat race, held on the Uthrittathi day which eventually became popular as the Aranmula Boat Race.
It occurs in  Ochira Temple, situated near the National Highway between Kollam and Alappuzha, it involves a mock battle between two groups to the sound of drums in a waterlogged field called Padanilam. Boys and men split in two groups jump into the field and engage in a mock battle. The battle is fought with sticks instead of swords and the participants splash the muddy water at each other. The battle commemorates the historic battle fought between the erstwhile Kayamkulam and Ambalapuzha kingdoms.
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