It is the first month of Malayalam Calendar (Kolla Varsham). Malayalam Calendar is the traditional calendar followed by the Keralites. Chingam normally falls in the middle of Gregorian Calendar year. Most of the time it is on the August mid. As Chingam is the first month of Malaylam calendar and the first day is marked as the Malayalam New Year. The same day is also know as Karshaka Dinam(farmer's day). During my school days 2 or 3 times I won the best student who has vegetable garden. And all the credit goes to my father, who has has help me to make that garden at home.
Once it is "Chingam", Keralites get into the feeling that "Onam" is approaching. Onam Festival is celebrated in the "Chingam" month. Onam starts 10 days before the star "Thiruvonam". There are 27 stars or nakshatras in Sanskrit. The celebrations of Onam start on "Atham" star of "Chingam" month. This is exactly 10 days before "Thiruvonam" .
My first memory of Onam is when i was 6 years old. I remember our family having Onam sadya in the dinning room and i was enjoying cracking so many pappadams on that day.
Next year I was staying with my Badapapa (my father's brother) and family. I got a "manja kodi mundu" (yellow cloth) on the Thiruvnonam day.
I remember my mother preparing snacks like Achappam ,Banana chips, unniyappam , Karanji few days before Thiruvnonam . Me and my brother helped our mom packing them in several packets. And then we carried those snacks packets to our neighbors and gave them. It is a good gesture to share these goodness during festival.
Traditionally all the 10 days starting from "Atham" has importance. Pyrmid shapped Earthern moulds (It represents King Mahabali and Lord Vamana) are placed on dung-plastered courtyards which is in front of the house. Fresh flowers are used to decorate around moulds like 10 rings. It is called "Onapookkalam" or "athapookalam". Early morning before the sunrise, children will go and collect the flowers in their pookuda(flower basket) singing "poove...poli poove..." from the village garden (It can be house or a land or may be paddy fields).
I have heard this from my father and aunts that when they were small, they used to get up very early in the morning (around 4.30 am or 5 am in the morning) so that they can get the particular flower for that day before any other kids can get. The remaining kids who reaches a bit late need have to search for more time or walk for more distance to find that particular flower.
The first day there will only one flower. i.e., only one flower is put in the first ring. 2nd day there will be 2 type of flowers and it is put on 1st and 2nd ring. The one put on first day and the second type of flower. This happens till the 10th day. So end of the 10th day, 10 types of flowers are put around mold in the 10 rings. At least 10 type of flowers should go into the mold.
This flower arrangement was done by my niece
Google says The deities are represented in the following order (for the ten days)- Lord Ganapathi, Shiva and Shakthi, Shiva, Brahma, Pancha Boothangal, Shanmugham or Muruga, Guru, Ashta Digpalakar, Indra and Lord Vishnu.
The flowers used to decorate Attapookkalam includes - Thumba (Lucas Aspera), Kakka Poovu, Thechipoovu, Mukkutti (little tree plant), Chemparathy (shoe flower), Aripoo or Konginipoo (Lantana), Hanuman Kireedom (Red pagoda plant) and Chethi (Ixora). I got most of the flower names from Google. These flowers are not generally not found in ant flower shops or market. And now it is even hard to be find in the villages. There are still 2 more flowers which goes in to the floral arrangement. I am not sure if it is Thulsi(Holy Basil) and Pichi(jasmine)
Another thing reminds me of "Onam" is swings. It will be tied to the branches of large trees like the mango and jackfruit trees near most of the houses. And regardless age everybody enjoy the swings.
The 9th day is "Uthrdam" and it is called 1st day of Onam(Onnam Onam). This day evening before dusk, the whole house and the surroundings is cleaned. We will light all the lamps (all the nilavilakku we have at home will be used) and kept till the next day noon.
10th day is "Thiruvonam" and it is also called "Randaam Onam". Thiruvondam day it is told that we shouldn't pluck any flowers or cut any leaves. Basically we shouldn't hurt anything as the Trees, plants and flowers are also waiting for the arrival of King Mahabali. So on this day more early in the morning the flowers are plucked for Onampookkalam and the plantain leaves(to serve the sadya/feast) is cut and kept. I have heard that some people prepares "Ada" (It is Rice bread) for the pooja. Everybody takes an early bath and wear new clothes. Special alms are given to the needy. The thought is to make each and every person happy.
The important activity of Thiruvonam is the "Sadya" or "Feast". The feast served on plantain leaves have so many dishes. Each and everybody celebrates Onam in Kerala and they will never miss a Onam sadya. There is a famous saying in Malayalam - "Kaanam Vittum Onam Unnanam" . This means " Even if we have to sell our properties, we will do that and have a grand feast on Onam Day". That is the importance of this grand feast on the Thiruvonam day.
This is pookalam i made on a round tray
Now I will share the minimum items to be served for Onam Sadya
Inji Curry (Ginger curry), Mango Pickle, Naranga achar (Lemon pickle), Pachadi/Kichadi (cucumber with curds and/or beetroots with curds), Thoran, Aviyal, Sarkarapuratty, Kaya Varuthathu(banana chips), Salt, Pappadam. These are placed on the plantain leaf in an order from left to right
Curries like parippu curry, sambar, pulishery, pacha Moru(butter milk) and rasam is served. In sweet Ada pradaman is served with plantain.
Items like olan, kootu curry, erishery, kaalan, kadala pradhaman, semiya payasam can also be served. All these items are served on a banana leaf. All family members will sit together and have the wonderful feast :)
Good days ahead...
Kai kotti Kalicheedam...
Atha pookkal itteedam...
Ooonjaal aadi rasicheedaam...
ithu kandu santhoshamakunnathu...Maveli thambranalle...
So many years back a 9 years old girl wrote this. This was has her first and last malayalam poem she ever wrote in her life....She even dared to compose it...giving the same music of famous hindi song "ek do theen....." :D