Onam is the state festival of Kerala. It occurs during the first month of the Malayalam calendar which is Chingam (August- September) and it marks the return of the legendary King Maveli.
It is said that the occasion is to welcome their Great king Mahabali a great devotee of Lord Vishnu. He was the last demon kings left. He was very ambitious and was aiming to capture the celestial Kingdom.
The angels in Heaven were upset and in answer to their prayers Lord Vishnu came down to the earth to punish Mahabali. Mahabali is known for his charity and people never heard ‘no’ from his mouth. Vishnu came in human form as vamana (dwarf) and approached the King for land that he would take measuring with his foot.
Mahabali was very happy and requested vamana to measure and take the land. Vamana placed the first step and it measured the entire earth, another he placed it on space. When there was nothing left, Mahabali offered his head. The force of the step pushed him to the Pathala where he remained the rest of his life. Later he was liberated.
He took a promise from Lord Vishnu that once he should be allowed to visit his kingdom and was granted. It is during this period Onam is celebrated to welcome their King.
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 . During these days foreign tourists come to watch Onam celebrations and they take keen interest in the boat races and other sports and games. . Onam is reminiscent of Kerala's agrarian past, as it is considered to be a harvest festival
The beauty of the festival lies in it's secular fabric. People of all religions, castes and communities celebrate the festival with equal joy and verve. Onam also helps to create an atmosphere Spirit of this great carnival of peace and brotherhood by way of various team sports organised on the day.
One needs to experience its magnificence in person. Reading books, watching pictures or trawling net simply cannot present Onam in its entire splendor and breathtaking vistas. Right from day one of the festival, called Atham colours begin to emanate from this ebullient festival. Making of Pookalam, the exquisite flower mat starts from this very day and continues till Thiruvonam when the Aththa Poo reaches an overwhelming size and most elegant design. It's a brilliant feeling to walk in the streets of Kerala at this time. Meticulous Pookalam adorn the courtyards of every house and its fragrance wraps the very air. Well, there is lot more to Onam than word can describe. can only be felt. And, if experienced once...it is cherished for a lifetime.