In pictures: Here’s a unique chance to experience Kerala’s Onam festival in its earthy, rural best

Tourists can watch coconut tree-climbers or palm frond weavers at work, try their hand at festival sports and enjoy a traditional sadhya.
In pictures: Here’s a unique chance to experience Kerala’s Onam festival in its earthy, rural best
In pictures: Here’s a unique chance to experience Kerala’s Onam festival in its earthy, rural best
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As the women move in row along a paddy field near the Chekadi forest – planting paddy saplings one by one – the rhythm in their step turns into a dance, much to the delight of the watching tourists.

Then there is the joy of watching the indigenous blacksmiths and potters of Wayanad meticulously ply their craft. And instead of a gaudy souvenir sold by the dozen, there is a precious gift of Gandhakasala rice, a medicinal rice grown by a few tribal communities in the region.

Taking tourism off the beaten path of houseboats, beach towns, temples and churches, the state’s Responsible Tourism Mission has launched a new package since Wednesday called the ‘Nattinpurangalil Onamunnam Onasammanangal Vangam (Celebrate Onam in villages and buy presents, too).

The package, which is available till September 30, promises to provide tourists with an authentic experience of rural celebrations of the state’s biggest festival.

The objective of the new package by the Responsible Tourism mission is two-fold: Firstly, to introduce tourists to a hitherto-unknown side of Kerala and give them a chance to participate in and experience traditions that have kept their niche in various parts of Kerala.  

Secondly, the package aims to ensure that the benefits of tourism trickle down to local communities, and to give local crafts a chance to thrive and grow.

The package, recently launched by state Tourism Minister Kadakampally Surendran, involves 280 homes and 38 home stays in tourist havens across the state such as Kumarakom, Vaikom, Bekal, Kovalam and Wayanad.

During their stay, tourists get the opportunity to witness local practices like coconut tree climbing, planting of paddy saplings, coconut palm frond weaving and so on. The tourists will also be guided to Onam celebrations in villages, where they can watch and even participate in competitions such as vadam vali (tug of war) and chakkil kayattam (sack jumping).

One of the highlights of the package is the country boat race that will be conducted in Kumarakom on September 4.

Priced at a minimum of Rs 2,000, the packages also offer a traditional Onam sadhya. Besides this, tourists receive a vithu pena (pen made of seeds) and an ammomma thiri (candle wick made by elderly women from old age homes), a handloom mundu, a handloom saree, and sadhya-related snacks like banana chips, pappadam and sarkaravaratti.

“The minimum cost for the package is Rs 2000 and even for those who opt the basic package of Rs 2000 will get the gift of Rs 1000 and the sadhya. Households engaged in traditional work like segregating coir, and which can prepare a sadhya without comprising on taste or hygiene have been selected for the package. Such a family can earn double their normal daily wages when tourists visit their homes. The idea is to make the benefits of tourism reach local families and also to people who make products like the ammoomma thiri and the vithu pena,” state Responsible Tourism Mission Coordinator A Rupesh Kumar tells TNM.

The response to the package Rupesh says, has been very heartening. “100 fresh registrations, all from Keralites, were received on Thursday, a day after it was launched. In total there are 127 foreign and 160 domestic tourists who have opted for this.In a way it reminds of Keralites of what they have left behind, while people who come from outside find unique experiences that are truly cherishable,” Rupesh adds.

More information on the special Onam package can be found on the Responsible Tourism Mission’s website,

Edited by Rakesh Mehar

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