World Malayalee Council

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Festivals of Kerala

ONAM

As per Vaishnava mythology, King Mahabali ruled vast area including Kerala. King Mahabali was a demon king who belonged to the Asura tribe. The kind-hearted king was much-loved by the people, because, there was no poverty in his kingdom; food was in plenty, no sorrow, no disease or no untimely death. The Gods got insecure of King Mahabali’s popularity and Lord Vishnu to step in and help contain Mahabali. Lord Vishnu took on his fifth avatar, in the form of the Brahmin dwarf Vamana, and visited King Mahabali. King Mahabali asked Vamana what he wished for, to which Vamana responded, “three pieces of land”. When Vamana was granted his wish, he grew in size and in his first and second pace respectively, he covered the sky, and then the netherworld. King Mahabali realised that Lord Vishnu’s third step would destroy the earth. When Lord Vishnu was about to take his third pace, King Mahabali offered his own head to the God. This act impressed Lord Vishnu so much that he granted Mahabali the right to visit his kingdom and people every year during Onam festivities. Onam is celebrated in the month of September annually, and is the main festival among Keralites. According to the Malayali calendar month of Chingam, the festival falls on the 22nd Nakshatra Thiruvonam, and marks the beginning of the Malayalam year, called Kolla Varsham. The festival begins on the day known as Atham, and ends on the tenth day, known as Thiruvonam. How People Celebrate ONAM People wear “onakkodi” and decorate homes with “Pookkalam” to Thiruonam to welcome King Mahabali who is believed to visit kerala to see his people on the auspicious Thiruonam day. People prepare special feast of more than 25 items popularly known as “sadya”and served on plantain leaves.

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