|Posted by Jeevan ॐ Mirthu Gupt on September 9, 2011 at 12:45 AM|
Onam is the biggest and the most important festival in the Indian state of Kerala. It is a harvest festival and is celebrated with joy and enthusiasm all over the state by people of all communities.
Onam is celebrated in the beginning of the month of Chingam, the first month of Malayalam Calendar (Kollavarsham). This corresponds with the month of August-September according to Gregorian Calendar.
Carnival of Onam lasts from four to ten days. First day, Atham and tenth day, Thiruonam are most important of all. Popularity and presentation of rich culture of the state during the carnival made Onam the National Festival of Kerala in 1961. Elaborate feasts, folk songs, elegant dances, energetic games, elephants, boats and flowers all are a part of the dynamic festival of Onam.
According to the popular legend, the festival is celebrated to welcome King Mahabali, whose spirit is said to visit Kerala at the time of Onam. Story goes that , a long long time ago, the Asura (demon) king called Mahabali ruled Kerala. He was a wise, benevolent and judicious ruler and beloved by his subjects. Soon his fame as an able king began to spread far and wide, but when he extended his rule to the heavens and the netherworld, the Gods felt challenged and began to fear his growing powers.
Presuming that he might become over-powerful, Aditi, the mother of Devas, pleaded with Lord Vishnu to curtail Mahabali's powers. Vishnu transformed himself into a dwarf called Vamana and approached Mahabali while he was performing a yajna(prayer) and asked for alms(favor). Pleased with the dwarf brahmin's wisdom, Mahabali granted him a wish. The Emperor's preceptor, Sukracharya warned him against making the gift, for he realized that the seeker was no ordinary person. But the Emperor's kingly ego was boosted to think that God had asked him for a favor. So he firmly declared that there is no greater sin than going back on one's promise.
Mahabali kept his word & Vamana asked for a simple gift — three paces of land — and the king agreed to it. Vishnu in the guise of Vamana then increased his stature and with the first step covered the sky, blotting out the stars, and with the second, straddled the netherworld. Realising that Vamana's third step will destroy the earth, Mahabali offered his head as the last step.
Vamana's fatal third step pushed him to the netherworld, but before banishing him to the underworld, he granted Mahabali a boon. Since he was attached to his kingdom and his people, he was allowed to return once a year from exile. Onam is the celebration that marks the homecoming of King Mahabali. It is the day when a grateful Kerala pays a glorious tribute to the memory of this benign king who gave his all for his subjects.
It is this visit of Mahabali that is celebrated as Onam every year. People make all efforts to celebrate the festival in a grand way and impress upon their dear King that they are happy and wish him well.
Government of India has taken due notice of this vibrant and colorful festival. So, the Indian Government promotes Onam internationally in a big way and celebrates 'Tourist Week' for Kerala during Onam celebrations. Thousands of domestic and foreign tourists visit Kerala to be a part of Onam.
P.S. I would like to thank my friend, Sivasankari, for this well written summary on the festival of Onam & I have also borrowed some lines from the below source....