Onam games and sports: Boosting physical and mental wellbeing

Sports are an integral part of the vibrant Onam celebrations. These traditional games and activities not only showcase physical prowess but also promote unity, mental agility and overall wellbeing.

Gathered around a table laden with traditional dishes from Kerala, my friends and I excitedly discussed our plans for the upcoming Onam celebrations. The idea of experiencing the vibrant festival in the heart of Kerala ignited our spirits and a unique plan emerged. We decided to step away from the ordinary and embark on a journey to celebrate Onam in the most authentic way possible—by immersing ourselves in its rich culture. We planned to engage in the exuberant Onam games and sports.

With the warm invitation of a dear friend from Kerala, we set out on a memorable adventure to discover the joys hidden within the heart of Onam’s games and sports. Little did we know, this journey would not only offer us a glimpse into traditional Kerala festivities but also provide us with insights into the remarkable ways in which these activities contribute to our wellbeing. 

Join us as we delve into the world of Onam games and sports and learn how they can boost our physical and mental health.

Vadam vali (tug of war)

Standing on lush green ground, we formed two teams, each gripping a really thick rope with determination. This was the exhilarating game of Vadam Vali, commonly known as tug of war and symbolising powerful concepts of unity and teamwork in the name of a simple game.

As we pulled with all our might, the game tested our physical strength and reinforced the importance of collaboration. This age-old tradition encourages camaraderie and bonding among participants, reminding us that working together can lead to success.

Uri adi (Pole climbing)

With curious eyes, we watched as local participants attempted to scale a greased pole to claim the prize tied to its top. The Uri Adi game demands not only physical prowess but also strategic thinking.

As the participants strategised their ascent, we realised the game’s challenge  was to balance strength with careful planning. The determination and focus displayed by the participants taught us the importance of perseverance and resourcefulness in overcoming obstacles.

Kayyankali (Traditional martial arts)

Amidst the crowd’s cheers and hurrahs, we observed the captivating display of Kayyankali, a traditional form of martial arts. The rhythmic movements and coordinated strikes of the participants showcased the significance of discipline and self-control in life. 

The practice of Kayyankali indeed teaches us how to harness our physical energy while maintaining mental composure. This harmony between body and mind is a valuable lesson in maintaining wellbeing through balance.

Ambeyyal (Archery competition)

As arrows whizzed through the air on the other side of the field, our attention was drawn to the intense Ambeyyal competition. Participants showcased their archery skills with precision and focus, demonstrating, to novices like us, the need for concentration and accuracy. 

The game helped us understand the connection between mental concentration and physical execution, reinforcing the idea that a sharp mind contributes to improved performance. We discovered that cultivating mental acuity is essential for overall success in life.

Pulikali (Tiger dance)

Later, we were intrigued by the vibrant display of Pulikali or the Tiger Dance, especially by the performers’ colourful attires and lively movements. The dance, traditionally performed during Onam, is not only a visual spectacle but also a celebration of creativity and expression. 

Through Pulikali, one learns that engaging in creative activities can have a positive impact on one’s mental health. It allows individuals to channel their emotions correctly thereby boosting their overall wellbeing.

Our journey to celebrate Onam through games and sports became a transformative experience. Beyond the cultural immersion, we uncovered the profound connection between physical and mental wellbeing that Onam’s sports and games offers. From the unity of tug of war to the disciplined movements of Kayyankali, each activity showcases a unique aspect of holistic wellbeing. 

So we carried with us the valuable lessons learned from these traditional games—a reminder that physical and mental health are intricately linked and embracing cultural traditions can provide a holistic approach to a person’s wellness.


What are some traditional Onam games and sports?

Onam games and sports include tug of war, coconut shell races, and boat races. These activities not only promote physical fitness but also enhance mental well-being as well.

How do Onam games and sports contribute to overall fitness and health?

Onam games and sports encourage participants to engage in physical activities that improve cardiovascular health, stamina, and muscle strength. These activities help individuals stay active and fit, contributing to their overall well-being.

Are Onam games and sports suitable for people of all ages and fitness levels?

Yes, many Onam games and sports are suitable for people of all ages and fitness levels. From children to seniors, everyone can participate and enjoy these activities.




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