Onam 2023- Atham-First Day of10-day Harvest Festival

Today marks the beginning of the annual 10-day Harvest celebration in Kerela fondly known as Onam. This festival marks the official start of the Malayalam New Year. The first day, Athachamayam which starts today, 20th August is celebrated in magnificent style. Thripunithura, located not far from Kochi, plays host to a legendary ritual every year on the Atham of the Malayalam month of Chingam (about August/September). The event celebrates the triumph of the Raja (King) of Kochi and the King and his court are depicted in a grand procession. The 'pathaaka ettuvaangal' or the ceremony of receiving the flag for the rally hold much significance this day at Thripunithura. 

History and Significance 

According to the mythology surrounding this celebration, there once was a king named King Mahabali who was incredibly generous to his people. The followers then began to idolise him and were utterly devoted to him. However, because this king was of the demon kind, they attacked him, which infuriated all the gods. He was then granted control over the underworld by Lord Vishnu. Since its inception, the event has been held in Tripunithura, where bright colours are worn and displayed to signify the excitement surrounding the celebration and to arouse additional memories of King Mahabali. 

Festive Celebration 

The festival is traditionally kicked off with a big procession from Thripunithura, a town close to the city of Kochi, and proceeds through the streets with a wide variety of artistic and cultural exhibitions. Athachamayam is the procession that celebrates the victory of the King. However, this is not an ordinary procession and the whole event is filled with filled with different performances and drums being played throughout. People queue up in the streets to take part in the procession and the celebrations. Tourists and residents alike are united by this shared experience, strengthening their bonds and their pride in their community. 

While cultural shows and different art forms showcase, many competitions like Pookkalam (floral carpet) and lively food-eating competitions are also held, embodying the spirit of festivity and togetherness. Participants compete in devouring traditional Kerala dishes, showcasing their hearty appetites. These contests, often accompanied by cheers and laughter, highlight the joyous celebration of abundance and  unity during the vibrant onset of the Onam festival. Theyyam takes the CenterStage. 

As the Onam festivities commence, here’s a recipe for a traditional Onam delicacy - banana chips - Kaya Varuthathu. These crispy chips are a perfect accompaniment to enjoy during Athachamayam. 

Banana chips or Kaya Varuthathu


Raw bananas (unripe, firm) 

Coconut oil (for frying) 

Salt (to taste) 

Method: Prepare by peeling and slicing thinly unripe, firm bananas. Heat coconut oil in a pan. Fry banana slices until lightly golden and crisp, stirring occasionally. Remove with a slotted spoon, drain excess oil, and sprinkle salt while warm. Cool completely before storing in an airtight container. Enjoy the crispy and flavorful homemade Onam special banana chips as a delightful snack or part of a festive meal.