Onam 2023: Pooradam – Eighth Day Of The Harvest Festival
Image Credit: Kerala Association of Delaware Valley

As the ten-day-long carnival of Onam reaches its concluding last few days, traditions that involved prepping and planning begin to fructify in the days leading up to Thiruvonam. On the eighth day of Kerala’s grandest festival, also known as pooradam – devotees and eager festival-goers create conical clay idols resembling slender pyraminds, called Ma. Flower offerings are made to these idols, also known as Poorada Uttigal, which are worshipped by being placed on banana leaves and with oil lamps.

If families missed out on last minute shopping for gifts, Pooradam is the day when they make up for lost time. Like every other day leading up to the main event, new designs are added to the flower arrangement (pookalam), and extensive cleaning of homes take place, just in time to ensure everything is neat and tidy to welcome the Onathappan (the pyramind-like structures) into their homes. While some folklore suggests that the pyramid structures are symbolic of Lord Vishnu’s avatar as Vaman, some are also divisive in mentioning that the clay cones are a physical manifestation of King Mahabali.

Whatever the clay pyramids might represent, Onam is unique in a way where both – the victor and vanquished are celebrated with aplomb. It is also believed that these cones are symbolic of the four life stages of man’s evolution – brahmacharya, grihasta, vanaprastha and sannyasa. The Onathappan is placed on a bed of rice flour and flowers, positioned right in the centre of the atta pookalam. Pooradam is also a day where the women of the household begin making pickles and sweets for the grand feast that occurs on the tenth day.

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Family members who are usually out of town or travelling for work return home on this day, to spend some quality time with their loved ones. Children are assigned the duty of smearing rice flour batter to decorate the Onathappan and are fondly referred to as pooradaunnikkal. The eighth day of Onam is also a time for families to strengthen their inter-personal relationships and harmonise with one another. Vibrant displays of traditional folk performances also take place on this day; two of the most prominent ones being – pulikali and kummattikali.

While the former involves dancers and performers painted as tigers, enlivening the streets with their movements, kummattikali involves vividly painted characters and animals from ancient folklore, to celebrate culture and heritage. It is also on the eighth day of this festival that it is believed that King Mahabali was encouraged to pay a visit to the homes of his subjects, due to which elaborate preparations commence in anticipation.