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Onam is a very important festival in Kerala. This falls on the month of Malayali month of Chingam, (between August and September in the Gregorian calendar). Onam celebrations are observed for ten days and commemorate the homecoming of legendary King Mahabali. Onam is also regarded as the harvest festival of Kerala. King Mahabali is a descendant of King Prahalad, for whom the Lord Vishnu himself incarnated as Lord Narashima. Cities like Kochi, Thrissur, Trivandrum, and Kottayam are the important venues for the celebrations. Various places across the globe where the Keralites are in huge numbers celebrate Onam.
The legend behind Onam has to do with the incarnation of Lord Vishnu as Vamana, a young child who is just two feet and regarded as Thrikkakara Appan or Onathappan by Keralites. Kerala was then, ruled by Mahabali, who was a Demon King. During the reign of King Mahabali, Kerala witnessed its golden era. People were happy and prosperous and his subjects had high regard for the king. Despite all the positive qualities, he had one weakness – he was egoistic. Lord Vishnu wanted to teach king Mahabali a lesson, and in the disguise of a young boy, he met King Mahabali.
King Mahabali, on seeing the child, granted him a wish without knowing that the child was Lord Vishnu. The wish for “three feet of land” seemed like an ordinary wish at first but the child massively grew in size and covered the world and “Patalaloka’, the land below the Earth, with his two feet. To measure the third foot of land, the Lord placed his leg on King Mahabali. Lord Vishnu then granted him “Moksha,” and once a year he is allowed to visit his people. Even now, people grandly celebrate the festival to impress their dear king. Another interesting legend has it that Parasurama, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, created the land of Kerala, thus gaining the name “God’s Own Country.”
Onam brings a mix of culture, celebration, and happiness in Kerala. It is one of the grand South Indian celebrations. This is also considered as the New Year for Malayalis. Grand celebration of Onam attracts the attention of various tourists across the globe. Kerala Government arranges for a week’s festivities. The elephants are decorated nicely and are taken on a procession. Onam connects people with its history and gains enormous importance.
Onam Carnival represents the intricate culture of Kerala. The iconic, decorated Pookalam or the floral decorations made of flowers, ambrosial Onasadya (the traditional platter served with several delicacies) a breathtaking Snake Boat Race and exotic Kaikottikali dance are some of the most remarkable features of Onam.
Onam is a colorful event, marked by feasts, folk songs and dances, games, caparisoned elephants, boats and beautiful floral arrangements. Onakodi is the tradition of wearing a new dress. The ladies of Kerala wear the traditional off-white saree with zari border. Every house is decorated, and sumptuous feasts are cooked and shared with neighbors.
Onam is not only a festival of rich heritage but also the icon of Kerala. It is a symbol of long traditions, which fills India, and proclaims the great flavors through various celebrations.