Sunday, August 27, 2006

Atham - Day One Of Onam

Atham - Day One
Atham is the first day of festivities in the ten-day-long Onam carnival. The day of Atham comes ten days before the asterism Onam or Thiru Onam hence Atham is regarded holy and auspicious by the traditional people of Kerala.

To complete the rituals of Atham people take early bath and offer prayers in the local temple. There is also a set breakfast for Atham consisting of steamed bananas and fried pappadam (pappad). This breakfast remains the same till the tenth and the last day of Thiru Onam. A swing decked with flowers is also slung from a high branch and youngsters take great delight in swinging and singing Oonjal (swing) songs.

Major highlight of Atham is that people start making pookalam from this day. Pookalam, also called Athapoo, is an intricate floral mat laid in the front courtyard by maidens of the house. This is done to welcome the holy spirit of legendary King Mahabali whose spirit is said to visit Kerala at the time of Onam. In subsequent days more flowers and new designs are added to this pookalam. Selection of flower is also an important matter as a particular flower is selected for each day for a specific deity. Great deal of thought and creativity is employed in the making of Pookalam as girls vie with each other for the best design.


A grand procession called is also carriedAthachamyam
on the day of Atham to mark the beginning of the grand carnival of Onam. The procession is carried out to commemorate the royal custom of the erstwhile state of Kochi when it was customary for the King to travel with his entire entourage to the Thripunithura Fort. Even in the absence of King today, the custom still retains its majestic charm. Elephant processions, folk art presentations, music and dancing make Athachamyam a spectacular event. The procession of Athachamyam is of marked importance at Thripunithura, Kochi.

From the day of Atham an atmosphere of joy and jubilations envelops the very air of Kerala as people get engaged in one activity or the other. Everybody wishes to celebrate Onam in best possible manner.

Onam recipes Tomato Rasam

Tomato Rasam

Tomato RasamIngredients:

Red Gram Dal 3-4 tbs
Tomatoes (finely chopped) 4 large
Garlic paste 1/2 tsp
Ginger (finely chopped) 1-inch piece
Water 21/2 cups
Garlic grated 1tsp
Green chilies finely chopped 1 or 2
Coriander leaves finely chopped
Salt to taste
Chili or pepper powder to taste
Turmeric powder 1/2tsp
Mustard seeds 1tsp
Cumin seeds 1tsp
Whole dried red chili (halved) 1-2
Asafetida a pinch
Curry leaves few
Oil 2tbsp

  1. Pick, wash and pressure cook the dal and keep side.
  2. Heat 2 tbsp. oil in a pan and add mustard seeds, cumin seeds, curry leaves, dried chili and asafetida. When mustard seeds start to splutter add garlic, ginger, tomatoes and green chilies. Add salt, chili & turmeric powder and a cup of water. Simmer for 5-6 minutes and add the cooked dal and 11/2 cup of water and bring to boil.

Serve hot garnished with coriander leaves.