Onam is a traditional festival of Kerala. It reminds every Keralite on those days of plenty, equality, and honesty when King Mahabali ruled the Kingdom of Kerala.
The legend says there was a war between the Devas (saintly people) and the Asuras (wicked people). The Asuras won the war. This had upset Aditi, mother of Devas, and so she approached Lord Mahavishnu for help. Lord Mahavishnu promised her that he would slay the Asura King, Mahabali, to regain power. So to do this he had to disguise himself as 'Vamanan', a brahim boy. He knew that Mahabali was a generous and honest man and would fulfill anyones wishes, so he asked the King for three steps of land. The wish was granted. Vamanan covered the whole land with his two steps and then he came back to the King asking him where can he place the third step, since there wasn't anymore land left. So the King, whose honour was at stake, offered his head as the third step. Vamanan pushed Mahabali deep down into the earth. Lord Mahavishnu was so pleased with the noble King that he in turn granted him a wish. The wish that the King asked for was, to visit his kingdom and people on a particular day once a year. This day is known as Onam and falls in the month of August or September according to the moon calender, which works on the basis of stars.
As a symbolic gesture to welcome ' King Mahabali' a flower carpet is laid in front of every house. The head of the family distributes new cloths to all the family members and their dependants. A sumptious meal on plantain leaf and the traditional sweet dish of Kerala 'Payasam' etc are served in every house.
The children are thrilled at the new swing tied between trees and many traditional games they play during this season. Music, traditional dances, boat races and carnivals also enrich the festival.
Many people including foreigners visit Kerala during the season and the Government of Kerala has decalred this period as a Tourisum Week. Elaborate programmes are organised in the capital city, Thiruvananthapuram..
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