Onam Festival : History of ‘Names of Onam’

Vibrant and joyful festival of Onam is known by two different names in the state of Kerala – Thiru Onam or Thiruvonam and Sravanmahotsav or Sravanotsavam; These are the names of the tenth day of Onam festivities. While the colourful festival of Onam has not just names but a prescibed set of rituals and traditions allotted for each day of the ten-day-festival. These events and small rituals is what makes Onam so special and endearing.


The tenth and the most important day of Onam celebrations is known as Thiru Onam or the Tiru Onam. Here Thiru or Tiru stands for sacred, holy, beautiful or auspicious and is equivalent of ‘Sri’ in Hindi. It is so called as the day is the most significant of all, for the people of Kerala.


The festival of Onam is celebrated on the full moon day in asterism Sravana in the month of August-September. This asterism was sacred to Lord Vishnu. And as King Mahabali was a great devotee of Lord Vishnu the day became sacred for the people of Kerala.

Ten days of Onam

The first day of Onam is called Atham and is of great significance. People start making Pookalam from this day and wait for Maveli to visit their house. A colourful procession Athachamyam is also carried in Kochi to mark the arrival of Onam.

The second day of Onam is called Chithira. There are no major customs for this day. Girls add more flowers to the already existing Pookalam and give it a more colourful design.

Third day of Onam is called Chothi or Chodi. People indulge in shopping on this day and make every effort to see that nothing is left undone for the day of Onam.

Fourth day of Onam is called Vishagam or Visakam. With a few days left for Thiru Onam excitement is palpabale amongst the people. Women get busy in making prior preparations of the grand meal called Onasadya.

Fifth day of Onam is called, Anizham. The major highlight of this day is the grand race called Vallamkali which takes place on the banks of the river Pampa at Aranmulla.

Sixth day of Onam is called Triketta or Thriketa. A large number of cultural programmes are organised in various parts of the state as a general atmosphere of excitement and mirth prevails.

Seventh day of Onam is called Moolam. Markets are abuzz with activity on this day as a large number of people do their last bit of shopping. Pookalam gets an even more interesting design with fresh flowers.

Eighth day of Onam is called Pooradam. On this day people make clay idols in the shape of small pyramids called a called a Ma. As the idol is created on the day of Pooradam, it is also called Poorada Uttigal.

Ninth day of Onam is called Utradam or Uthradam. This is a significant day as it is a penultimate day to Thiruvonam. In some places celebrations begin from the day of Utradam only.

Tenth day of Onam is called Thiruvonam or Sravanotsav. This is the considered to be the most important and auspicious day. People believe that it is on this day that the spirit of King Maveli comes to visit his people in the state of Kerala. Each of these two names has a special significance for the people of Kerala. However, some scholars believe that the two names are related and the now popular Thiru Onam comes from Sravanotsavam.


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