Onam Games that Add to The Merriment of the Monsoon Festival…!
Tags: Ambeyyal Game in Kerala, Ancient Tradition of Onam, Malayali Culture, Onakalikal Onam Festival, Onam Celebrations in Kerala, Onam Festival In Kerala, Onathallu in Kerala, Talappanthukali Kerala, Traditional Onam Games
Onam is the harvest festival of Kerala that also marks the beginning of the New Year for the Malayali Hindus and is an occasion to pay tribute to the ancient ruler Mahabali and the various avatars of Lord Vishnu. While most people are aware of the delicacies that are prepared during the festival and the cultural events that take place during the 10-day celebration, there are certain local traditions that are not as well known among the tourists. One such unsung attraction of Onam is Onakalikal, a collection of traditional games played in Kerala especially during the Onam festivities. While elders and children enjoy the milder indoor games such as chess and cards, here is a closer look at some of the most enthralling Onam games that are played by the youth of Kerala during the festival.
Talappanthukali is a ball game that is played with a ball made out of plantain and coconut fibre which is weighed down with stones. This is an outdoor game that requires two teams and a field where a stick or Natta is erected at one end. Players from one team serve the ball while the team at the other end tries to catch it to dismiss the opponents. If the ball hits the Natta then the server wins. This game is perfect for large families and can be enjoyed by people of all ages.
Kayyankali is a relatively violent game that is played by the young men of Kerala during Onam. It is a one on one combat game between two men, without the use of any weapons. Kayyankali requires a lot of strength and courage and the players also need to be well versed in the strategies of the game. Combatants primarily use their fists to attack each other but the method of approaching the opponent is also quite important. The atmosphere during the game is quite energetic, with the spectators cheering on their favourite player.
A less aggressive combat game is that of Attakalam, which differs from Kayyankali because it is played in batches. One team stands inside a circle while the other team tries to pull them out. A player from the team outside the circle enters the ring and attempts to touch an opponent. Once this happens, a one on one competition begins between the two where the aim is to drag the opponent out of the circle. This is yet another game that requires physical strength as well as swift responses.
Kutu-Kutu is a game that is extremely similar to the game of Kabaddi that is popular in various parts of India. In this game, the court is divided into two halves, each occupied by one team. A raider from one team has to enter the territory of the other team, constantly muttering Kutu-Kutu in an audible fashion, and has to touch one opponent and make it back to his side of the court without being caught. This game may sound simple but is quite challenging and requires athletic skills and a good lung capacity.
Ambeyyal is a game that requires excellent marksmanship and the knowledge of archery. Played between two teams equipped with bows and arrows, this game is all about hitting the opponents with arrows while trying to capture all their arrows and leaving them defenceless. Arrows lying on the ground can be collected by anyone who hits the mark or Cheppu. Although Ambeyyal is played with blunted arrows, they are released with much force and may cause injuries, which is why this game is played only by those who are familiar with archery.
These traditional games played in Kerala clearly highlight how the local culture lays emphasis on physical strength and team work. Most of these Onam games are extremely unique and form a part of the Malayali culture exclusively.
Visiting Kerala during the Onam festivities is a chance to witness such hidden gems of the native culture in action. Staying at traditional accommodations such as farmstays is a great way to enjoy the authentic rituals of Onam and participate in these Onam games as a player or spectator. So if you wish to experience the traditional side of Kerala then do plan your visit during the Onam festival.