Onam is the biggest festival in the Indian state of Kerala. This festival is celebrated in the Malayalam month Chingam ending of August and beginning of September and marks the homecoming of legendary King Mahabali. Carnival of Onam lasts for ten days and brings out the best of Kerala culture and tradition. Intricately decorated Pookalam, ambrosial Onasadya, breathtaking Snake Boat Race and exotic Kaikottikali dance are some of the most remarkable features of Onam – the harvest festival in Kerala. The merry making of the festival includes an elaborate procession of Trichur and amusing boat races on River Pampa.
Onam shows the blissful rule of the King and the freedom, which the people enjoyed under his rule. The people also believe that during Onam, the King returns to Kerala to pay a visit to his people. The people in Kerala arrange for this festival by cleaning up their houses and decorating them. On the occasion of Onam, everybody in the family wears new clothes. Delicious sweets and dishes are prepared and served on the banana leaves. “Pookalam” a flower mat is visible outside every house. This mat is a symbol of welcoming King Mahabali. On the eve of Onam, traditional rituals are performed and the people celebrate the occasion with a grand feast. “Payasam” a sweet and tempting porridge is one of the favorite dessert served on the eve of Onam.
“Vallamkali” or a great boat race is an attractive feature of this festival. In this game hundreds of men row the boats to the beat of drums and cymbals. An interesting thing to note is that above each boat there is a scarlet silk umbrella and gold coins are hung from the umbrella. This event is extremely popular with various boats competing with each other in order to win the race. Onam is celebrated not only by Hindus but also by Christians and Muslims. It is one such festival that unites all the people regardless of race and religion.
King Mahabali had conquered all the land and sea and the heavens, making the Gods even more disturbed. They requested Vishnu, the Preserver, in the Hindu trinity to act. Vishnu descended on earth in the form of a dwarf Brahmin, called Vamana. He went to King Mahabali’s palace and found the good King distributing alms. When Mahabali asked Vamana what alms he sought, Vamana replied he would like as much ground as he could cover with three footsteps. Mahabali looked at the tiny feet of the dwarf and agreed to his wish. Lord Vishnu covered the land and seas with one step and the heavens with the second.
Mahabali recognized the presence of the Lord and offered his head as the ground for Vishnu/Vamana’s third step.Mahabali was thus subjugated and sent to the underworld. However because he was a good and just king who loved his subjects, he could return once a year to check on the welfare of his people. Thus Onam is celebrated every year to welcome Mahabali, the good Demon King of Kerala. Join in the grand Onam celebration on Kerala tours with Kerala Backwater.
Onam Festival is celebrated with great joy and gaiety across Kerala, India on a particular day in August or September. People buy new clothes and exchange gifts. Houses are cleaned and beautiful flower carpets and decorations are made at the entrances of houses and in courtyards. Traditional oil lamps are lit in the courtyard and women dressed in traditional Kerala sarees dance around the lamp, performing a dance called Thiruvathirakali. The main event on Onam day is a grand feast at lunchtime. Many cultural events are also held on the occasion of Onam. Snake Boat races, Kathakali and Mohiniattam dance recitals and musical performances are organized to celebrate Onam in Kerala.