Onam festival significance , customs and special foods , destinations in Bengaluru

Onam is a major annual festival celebrated by the Malayali people of Kerala and other parts of India. It marks the harvest season and the end of the monsoon. It also commemorates the mythical king Mahabali, who was a benevolent and generous ruler of Kerala. According to legend, Mahabali was so popular and powerful that the gods felt threatened by him. They asked Lord Vishnu to help them curb his influence. Vishnu agreed and took the form of a dwarf Brahmin named Vamana. He approached Mahabali and asked for three paces of land as a boon. Mahabali agreed, thinking that Vamana was a harmless beggar. However, Vamana then expanded his size and covered the earth and the sky with his first two steps. He then asked Mahabali where he could place his third step. Mahabali realized that Vamana was Vishnu in disguise and offered his head as the third step. Vishnu was pleased with Mahabali’s humility and devotion and granted him a boon to visit his people once a year. Onam is celebrated as the day when Mahabali returns to Kerala to see his subjects.

  • Significance of Onam
    • Onam is a festival of joy, prosperity, and unity. It celebrates the values of Mahabali, such as generosity, justice, equality, and sacrifice. It also celebrates the bounty of nature and the gratitude of the people. Onam is a time when people forget their differences and come together to share their happiness and culture. It is a time when people adorn their homes with flowers, wear new clothes, exchange gifts, and enjoy various activities and games. It is also a time when people worship Vishnu and Mahabali and seek their blessings for a good year ahead.
  • Celebration
    • Onam is celebrated for ten days, starting from Atham (the first day) to Thiruvonam (the tenth day). The most important day is Thiruvonam, which is believed to be the day when Mahabali visits Kerala. Each day has its own significance and rituals. Some of the common features of Onam celebration are:
      • Pookkalam: This is a floral carpet or rangoli made of fresh flowers on the floor of the house or courtyard. It is made every day during Onam, starting from a small circle on Atham and ending with a large circle on Thiruvonam. It symbolizes welcome and respect for Mahabali and Vishnu.
      • Onasadya: This is a grand feast prepared on Thiruvonam, consisting of various vegetarian dishes served on a banana leaf. It includes rice, sambar, rasam, avial, kalan, olan, pachadi, kichadi, erissery, pulissery, payasam, and more. It is enjoyed by family and friends with great relish.
      • Onakodi: This is the tradition of wearing new clothes on Onam, especially on Thiruvonam. It signifies renewal and prosperity. The traditional attire for men is mundu (a white dhoti) and kurta (a long shirt), while for women it is mundum neriyathum (a white saree with a golden border) or set saree (a coloured saree with a matching blouse).
      • Vallamkali: This is a boat race or regatta held on the rivers or lakes of Kerala during Onam. It involves long wooden boats called snake boats or chundan vallams that can accommodate up to 100 rowers. The boats are decorated with colourful flags and umbrellas and are accompanied by drums and songs. The boat race is a spectacle of speed, skill, and teamwork.
      • Thiruvathirakali: This is a traditional dance performed by women during Onam. It involves forming a circle around a lamp or a floral decoration and moving gracefully in sync with the music and lyrics. The dance expresses devotion to Lord Shiva and Parvati and also celebrates marital bliss.
      • Pulikali: This is a folk art performed by men during Onam. It involves dressing up as tigers or leopards and dancing to the beats of drums and instruments. The performers paint their bodies with bright colours and wear masks and costumes to resemble the wild animals. The performance showcases their agility and humour.
    Onam festival significance and Bengaluru celebrations

  • Special foods during Onam
    • Onam is incomplete without its special foods that reflect the rich and diverse cuisine of Kerala. Some of the special foods prepared for Onam are:
      • Avial: This is a thick curry made of mixed vegetables, coconut paste, curd, and coconut oil. It is seasoned with curry leaves and cumin seeds. It is a nutritious and delicious dish that goes well with rice or roti.
      • Kalan: This is a sour and spicy curry made of raw banana, yam, coconut paste, curd, and coconut oil. It is flavoured with mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds, turmeric powder, and curry leaves. It is a tangy and tasty dish that adds zest to the Onasadya.
      • Olan: This is a mild and creamy curry made of ash gourd, cowpeas, coconut milk, and coconut oil. It is garnished with green chillies and curry leaves. It is a simple and soothing dish that balances the other spicy dishes in the Onasadya.
      • Pachadi: This is a sweet and sour dish made of pineapple, grapes, or cucumber cooked in a coconut paste and curd. It is tempered with mustard seeds, red chillies, and curry leaves. It is a refreshing and appetizing dish that enhances the flavour of the Onasadya.
      • Payasam: This is a sweet pudding or dessert made of rice, vermicelli, or dal cooked in milk or coconut milk. It is sweetened with sugar or jaggery and enriched with ghee, cashews, raisins, and cardamom. It is a rich and decadent dish that completes the Onasadya.

    In Bengaluru , Onam is celebrated in below ways -

  • Cultural programs: Various cultural programs are organized by Malayali associations, clubs, schools, colleges, and corporates in Bengaluru during Onam. These programs include music concerts, dance performances, drama shows, comedy skits, quiz competitions, etc. that showcase the talent and culture of Kerala. These programs also invite guests from other communities to participate and enjoy.
  • Flower shows: Flower shows are held in various parks and gardens in Bengaluru during Onam. These shows display various types of flowers, plants, bonsai, orchids, etc. that are grown in Bengaluru or brought from Kerala. These shows also feature pookkalam competitions where participants create beautiful floral carpets using different flowers.
  • Food festivals: Food festivals are held in various hotels and restaurants in Bengaluru during Onam. These festivals offer authentic Kerala cuisine as well as fusion dishes that blend Kerala flavours with other cuisines. These festivals attract food lovers from all walks of life who want to taste the delicacies of Onasadya and other dishes.
  • Charity events: Charity events are held by various NGOs and social organizations in Bengaluru during Onam. These events aim to help the needy and underprivileged sections of the society by providing them with food, clothes, education, health care, etc. These events also involve the participation of volunteers and donors who contribute their time, money, and resources for a noble cause.

Here are some of the must-visit destinations to experience Onam special food in Bengaluru:

  • Kappa Chakka Kandhari: This award-winning restaurant captures the spirit of Kerala and brings to light the coastal state’s hidden culinary gems. You can enjoy a 26-course meal that includes dishes like pidi kozhy curry, appam fish moilee, and coconut pudding.
  • Moplah’s: This restaurant offers a homely feel and unique flavors of the Moplah cuisine, which is influenced by the Arab traders who settled in Kerala. You can try dishes like koonu ullithiyal, angamaly manga curry, vazhapoo cutlet, and koonu ullithiyal.
  • Vembanad: This restaurant is part of The Paul Bangalore hotel and specializes in authentic Kerala cuisine. You can savor dishes like avial, olan, thoran, pulissery, and payasam in a luxurious setting.
  • Kumarakom: This restaurant is an authentic Kerala cuisine restaurant that serves the nadan Kerala food that you love. You can relish dishes like karimeen pollichathu, appam stew, puttu kadala, and ada pradhaman.


Do share your Onam celebration experience with us.