One of the biggest festival of Kerala is Onam. It is also known as harvest festival. Onam Festival falls during the first Malayali month of Chingam (Aug – Sep) and marks the homecoming of legendary King Mahabali. This festival is celebrated for ten days from Astham to Thiruonam. This year Onam falls on 28th August 2015.
According to the legend Kerala was once ruled by the kind, generous and valiant demon-king Mahabali, who had won over the kingdom of heaven rightfully. However, as always Indra and other gods ran to Lord Vishnu to enlist his help and He promised them the kingdom of Heaven once again. Knowing about his generous and charitable nature, he went to the king in form of a Brahmin child called ‘Vaman’ and asked for three steps of land. Mahabali readily granted it to the child. However, Lord Vishnu then kept on increasing in size till he measured all of the Earth in one step and all of the Heaven with another. When he asked Mahabali, where to keep his third foot, the humbled king offered his head to him. Touched by the devotion and humility of the kind, Vishnu made him the King of the nether world and granted him the request that he may visit his kingdom every year.
During this time, they put flower (athapoo) kolams in front of their house to welcome Mahabali. On the first day, they use single type of flower. On the second day, they use, two types of flower and on the tenth day, they use ten types of flower and the kolam size also increases accordingly. The elephant processions of Trichur and the Kathakali performances of Cheruthuruthy are some of the most reputed events during the festival. Pulikali or Kaduvakali, the rhythmic dance by the performers painted like tigers in bright yellow, red and black moving with the beats of instruments like ‘udukku’ and ‘thakil’ is one of the highlights of the festival.
Grand feasts are prepared on this occasion. This is known as onam ‘sadya’. Usually around 13 dishes are prepared for this. The food is served on banana leaves and commonly consists of rice along with different dishes like avial, ishtu , ingipuli, Mor kuzhambu, Ada pradhaman (payasam) and papads.
This time of the year is declared as the Tourism week in Kerala as this is the best time to visit the state.
Onam is of special importance as it unites people of all religions residing in the state. It spreads the message of unity and peace in society.