Onam is one of the most important festivals for the Keralites across the globe. Traditionally, the day begins at 4 am with family members cleaning the front-yard. In olden days, the cleaning is usually done with cow dung as the houses weren’t cemented then. This custom is followed strictly even today in several families.
With the cleaning done, the other poojas and rituals begin to mark the festivities. The oldest member takes up the role of the priest and conducts the rituals. The Nidevyam, known as Ata, is prepared by the priest with rice flour and molasses. Then the traditional lamps are lit and every member of the family joins the prayer.
Since Onam is a festival to mark the harvest, prayers are offered thanking for the abundant harvest yielded during the current year and invocations for more the forthcoming year. This is followed by the Aarppu Vilikkukal, which is a custom whereby the male members make loud rhythmic noises to exhibit their joy.
After this ceremony is done with, the family members wear on their new outfits and visit the local temples to offer their prayers.
Families comprising over 100 members are known as Tharawads and in such families the eldest member, known as the Karanavar, gifts new clothes, the Onapudavas, to the members of the entire family and the servants as well. After the Onapudava is distributed, the other family members exchange gifts. After all, giving and sharing on a festive occasion is the best way to celebrate!