Uthradam, also known as the “First Onam,” is the ninth day of the ten-day-long Onam festival celebrated in Kerala, India. Onam is a harvest festival and is considered one of the most significant festivals for Malayalees. The history and significance of Uthradam are intertwined with the broader legends and traditions of Onam.
Legend of King Mahabali and Onam: The Onam festival is rooted in the popular legend of King Mahabali, a benevolent Asura king who once ruled Kerala. Under his reign, the state witnessed a golden era where everyone was equal, there was no dishonesty, and people lived in harmony. Due to his increasing popularity, the Devas felt threatened and sought the help of Lord Vishnu to curb Mahabali’s influence.Lord Vishnu took the form of Vamana, a Brahmin dwarf, and approached Mahabali, asking for three paces of land. The generous king agreed. Vamana then grew in size and covered the earth and the heavens in two steps. For the third step, Mahabali offered his head, and Vamana pushed him down to the netherworld. However, impressed by the king’s devotion and humility, Lord Vishnu granted him a boon: Mahabali could visit his subjects once a year. This annual visit is celebrated as Onam.
Significance of Uthradam: Uthradam is the day when it’s believed that King Mahabali starts his journey to visit Kerala. It’s a day of preparation, where people get ready to welcome their beloved king. The day sees a flurry of activities:
- Pookalam: The floral carpets, which are started on the first day of the Onam festival, become grander by Uthradam. Families compete to have the most intricate and beautiful designs.
- Shopping and Preparations: As Uthradam is the day before the main Onam, people finish their shopping, ensuring they have everything needed for the grand feast, known as Onasadya, the next day.
- Uthradappachil: This is a tradition where fruits and vegetables are gifted, and it’s especially significant on Uthradam. Traditionally, children from families would collect produce from their neighborhoods, symbolizing community participation and sharing during the festival.
While Thiruvonam (the tenth day) is the most celebrated day of Onam, Uthradam holds its own importance as the day of eager anticipation and preparation for the grand festivities to follow.