Kerala, an Indian state, holds a large celebration for the Onam festival. It all began with a legend involving a king named Mahabali. They adored King Mahabali because he treated them with such kindness and justice. But because he was growing too powerful, the gods in heaven were concerned. As a result, the god Vishnu paid him a visit one day in the guise of a young kid. King Mahabali offered to give the youngster anything he want because he was so kind. The young boy then experienced a miraculous growth spurt and traversed the entire landscape in just three steps. King Mahabali became aware that he was a god and was unable to maintai
Table of Contents
Legend of King Mahabali:
- King Mahabali was a legendary and virtuous ruler of the Asura (demon) kingdom of Kerala.
- His reign was marked by prosperity, equality, and the well-being of his subjects, making him immensely popular and beloved.
- Concerned about Mahabali’s growing power and popularity, Lord Vishnu took the avatar of Vamana, a dwarf Brahmin.
- Vamana approached Mahabali and asked for three paces of land as a donation.
- Known for his benevolence, King Mahabali readily agreed to Vamana’s request
- To everyone’s astonishment, Vamana grew into a gigantic figure, covering the earth and heaven in just three steps.
King Mahabali’s Virtue:
- Before being banished to the netherworld, Mahabali asked for one special boon – to visit his beloved subjects once a year.
- This boon was granted, and it is believed that Mahabali returns to Kerala during the time of Onam.
Kerala people celebrate the Onam festival with great enthusiasm and elaborate rituals. Here’s a brief overview of how the people of Kerala celebrate Onam:
Athapookalam (Floral Rangoli):
The ten-day celebration begins with the creation of Athapookalam, intricate floral rangoli designs, typically in the shape of a circle.Each day, the design becomes more complex, incorporating different flowers and patterns.
Onam Sadhya (Grand Feast):
On the main day of Thiru Onam, families prepare and serve a grand vegetarian feast known as Onam Sadhya.This meal features a variety of dishes, typically served on a banana leaf, and includes staples like rice, sambar, avial, and payasam.
People dress in their traditional attire, with women wearing white sarees with golden borders, and men wearing mundu and kasavu shirts.The new clothes worn on Onam are known as Onakkodi and hold cultural significance.
Kerala’s rich cultural heritage is showcased through various art forms during Onam.Kathakali, a traditional dance-drama, and Ottamthullal, a solo dance performance, are common during the festival.Traditional music and percussion ensembles like Chenda Melam add to the cultural extravaganza.
Vallamkali (Snake Boat Race):
One of the most thrilling aspects of Onam is Vallamkali, the snake boat race.Teams of rowers participate in these races, with beautifully decorated snake boats, to compete for honor and glory.
Pulikali (Tiger Dance):
In some regions of Kerala, people engage in the playful and colorful Pulikali, or Tiger Dance.Dancers paint themselves as tigers and perform on the streets, adding a lively and festive atmosphere.
Traditional games and sports, collectively known as Onakalikal, are organized during the festival.These include tug-of-war, coconut tree climbing, and various indigenous sports.
Onam Shopping and Decorations:
Weeks before Onam, people engage in extensive shopping for new clothes, household items, and decorations.Homes are adorned with colorful flower carpets, known as Pookalam, and colorful decorations.
Onam is a time for families and communities to come together.- People visit each other’s homes, exchange gifts, and partake in the festive spirit.
Exchange of Onam Gifts:
Many temples in Kerala have special Onam celebrations, with processions, music, and cultural events.
Charity and Giving:
Onam encourages acts of charity and giving to the less fortunate.- Many people donate to charities and help those in need during this time.