Onam Festival

Onam, the biggest cultural festival of Kerala is a ten-day harvest festival dedicated to the homecoming of King Mahabali. This is the time when the entire state comes together and exhibits its local cultures and traditions. The festival is a spectacle to watch with every corner and street lighting up with vibrant hues of joy. Evoking a feeling of euphoria, this harvest festival marks the annual visit of the mythical king Mahabali, who was the ruler of ancient Kerala. It is said that the soul of Mahabali visits Kerala during the time of Onam Festival and blesses his subjects.

Legends behind Onam Celebration
The festival of Onam depicts the story of the demon King Mahabali. Although a demon, Mahabli was a kind hearted and generous king. People of Kerala used to worship him for his greatness. This in turn instilled insecurity among the heavenly Gods. They prayed to Lord Vishnu to do something about this, who then decended on Earth and took the guise of a dwarf Brahmin (Vamana). He went seeking alms from the mighty Mahabali who was so kind that he never refused anything to anyone.

Vishnu, as the dwarf Brahmin, made an unusual wish to Mahabali. He requested three pieces of land that came under his three steps. King Mahabali granted the same. Lord Vishnu then took a huge form and covered the heavens in one step, all lands and seas with another. He asked Mahabali where to keep his third step. Mahabali understood that he is not a common Brahmin; therefore, he bowed down and asked Vishnu to keep the third step on his head.

Lord Vishnu did the same and Mahabali got pushed in Patal Lok (netherworld) that exists under the ground. Even after being a demon, Mahabali was a great king and his people loved him. So Lord Vishnu granted him a wish to be able to visit his land, Kerala once in a year and see his subjects. Since that day, Onam is celebrated as the homecoming of Mahabali.

Highlights of Onam

Pookkalam is designs made with different types of flowers, in front of the gate of house. An interesting fact about it is that with each passing day of Onam festival, a new layer of flowers is added to the Pookalam.

Onasadya is the grand meal prepared at the day Thiruonam. This exotic meal is served on a Banana Leaf, and is a nine course meal with at least four to five vegetables. The number of vegetables in the meal varies from house to house. But majority of the well off families cooks nine to eleven dishes for the Onasadya.

Onakalikal is referred to all the games played at the festival of Onam. Talappanthukali is a game played with ball, and is a favourite among men. They also indulge in Ambeyyal (archery). Women engage themselves in making delicious dishes and performing several traditional dances.

Vallamkali Boat Race
Also known as the snake boat race, this is one of the most fascinating events of the Onam Festival. Approximately 100 boatmen compete with each other in a boat riding competition. All the boats are decorated in different patterns. Men and women from across the city come to witness this race.

Elephant Procession
This is one of the most awaited events of Onam. During this event, the elephants are decorated with flowers, ornaments in gold and other metals. The elephants are then takes on a tour of whole Thrissur where the procession is held.

Folk dances
Other major attraction of the festival includes the folk dances performed by women. Kaikottikali is a clap dance performed on the occasion of Onam. Women performing the dance sing praises of King Mahabali. Women also perform a dance in a circle. This dance form is called Thumbi Thullal.


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