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Onam

Onam
Place : Kerala
Month : August- September
Significance : Celebration of the golden age of Mahabali, the mythical ruler of Kerala
Date: 25.8.2018

Onam, Kerala's most important festival is celebrated in honour of the ancient asura king Mahabali. The occasion also heralds the harvest season. It falls in the month of 'Chingam' or Bhadrapada usually in August or September.

Onam which last ten days welcomes King Mahabali's spirit which is believed to visit his kingdom every year with a colourful reception starting on 'Atham'. Main celebrations are held for four days of which 'Tiruvonam' is the most important as Mahabali is supposed to visit his kingdom on this day. People decorate their front yards with 'onapookalam' a flower carpet of gathered blossoms for ten days starting from the 'Atham' day. On 'Thiruvonam' people wear new clothes, visit temples and offer prayers. Conical mounds made of clay adorned with lines tastefully drawn with rice flour mixed with water representing Mahabali and Vishnu called ' Trikkakara Appan' are placed in the dung-plastered courtyards and beautifully decorated with flowers. A sumptuous lunch- 'Onasadhya' is prepared and served in plantain leaves. Girls perform the Kaikottikkali (Thiruvathirakkali) in the open, dancing around the traditional brass lamp.

Legend behind Onam

In ancient times Kerala was ruled by an asura King Mahabali who was very wise and greatly loved by the people. Because of jealousy, the king of gods, Indra, hatched a plot to oust Mahabali. The gods sought the help of Vishnu to curb Mahabali's power. To execute the scheme Vishnu disguised himself as a Brahmin boy, Vamana, and went to the asura King. He asked as much land as he could cover in three steps and King Mahabali agreed to the request. Vamana immediately began to grow as big as the universe and with two steps, he covered the earth, the heavens and the nether world. He looked at Mahabali to place his third step and the King offered his head for Vamana to place his foot. Vamana pushed Mahabali down to the ground and before he disappeared Mahabali asked Vishnu for a boon to come to the earth once a year to see his people and the request was granted. This event is celebrated as Onam.

A major attraction of the onam celebrations are the famed snake boat races along the backwaters at Champakulam, Aranmula and Kottayam.  About a hundred oarsmen in each boat row huge and graceful odee (snake boats) to the rhythm of drums and cymbals and songs praising Mahabalis reign. Cultural festivities are held throughout the state at different venues with displays of the famed Kathakali , kaikottikali, Mohiniyattom dances etc. 

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