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Onam Atham: Igniting the Splendor of Kerala’s Festival

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As the month of Chingam heralds the arrival of Onam, the heart of Kerala’s cultural calendar, the first day, known as Onam Atham, sets the stage for a joyous and vibrant journey. Atham marks the beginning of the ten-day festivities that culminate in the grand Thiruvonam celebration. In this blog, we explore the significance, rituals, and exuberance of Onam Atham, as Kerala embarks on a journey filled with unity, traditions, and the spirit of giving.

A Prelude to Festivity:

Onam Atham falls on the first day of the Malayalam month of Chingam, and it’s as if Kerala is awakening from its slumber to embrace the festival with open arms. The atmosphere becomes charged with excitement, and the preparations for the grand celebrations that follow kick into high gear.

Pookalam Prowess:

One of the hallmarks of Onam Atham is the commencement of Pookalam preparations. Onam Pookalams are intricate and vibrant floral carpets created using a myriad of colorful flowers. On this day, the outlines of Pookalams begin to take shape, with small circles or basic patterns laid out as a foundation. This act symbolizes the start of the artistic journey that will culminate in stunning and elaborate designs over the course of the ten days.

Rural Resonance:

Onam’s roots are deeply intertwined with Kerala’s rural heritage, and Onam Atham brings this essence to the forefront. In villages, women gather in courtyards and public spaces to begin the process of plucking flowers and leaves to craft Pookalams. The sound of laughter, the scent of flowers, and the rhythm of traditional songs fill the air, creating an atmosphere of togetherness and cultural pride.

Onam Athachamayam Procession:

In some parts of Kerala, particularly in Tripunithura near Kochi, the Onam Athachamayam procession is a significant highlight. This colorful parade, featuring caparisoned elephants, traditional art forms, and musicians, marks the start of the Atham festivities. It captures the grandeur and cultural diversity that define Kerala’s spirit.

Symbolic Significance:

Atham is associated with Lord Vishnu’s avatar, Vamana, who is believed to have visited Kerala during this time. The day is a symbolic reminder of the virtuous rule of King Mahabali, characterized by prosperity, equality, and unity. Onam Atham represents the values that Kerala upholds: the spirit of harmony, cultural diversity, and social well-being.

Harmony and Unity:

Onam Atham embodies the essence of unity and collaboration. It’s a day when communities come together to clean and decorate their surroundings, share joyous moments, and prepare for the upcoming celebrations. This sense of unity echoes the ethos of King Mahabali’s reign, where divisions blur, and people stand united.

Cultural Customs:

Beyond Pookalam preparations, households engage in other customs that mark the onset of Onam. Women adorn their homes with intricate Kolam designs, and families ensure their homes are thoroughly cleaned and decorated. Additionally, the Athapookalam, a simple version of the grand Pookalam, is created using seven varieties of flowers as an offering to deities.


Onam Atham is not merely the first day of a festival; it’s the embodiment of Kerala’s cultural heritage, unity, and the anticipation of a joyous journey. As Pookalam outlines take shape, and the fragrance of flowers fills the air, Kerala awakens to the melodies of tradition and the celebration of shared values. Onam Atham sets the stage for the spectacular ten-day odyssey that is the Onam festival, reminding us all of the beauty in coming together, embracing our heritage, and spreading joy.


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