History and Rituals behind the Celebration of Onam Festival
According to the legend, in the ancient times, Kerala was ruled by the demon King Mahabali. During his rule, everybody in his kingdom lived happier with zero feeling of hatred and there was people complete harmony. However, the Gods feared the wise king, thinking that he might become dominant and all-powerful one day. They decided to seek the help of the Lord Vishnu to suppress the powers of the king. Lord Vishnu took the form of dwarf Brahmin (also known as the Vamana avatar of the Lord). Impressed with the knowledge and intelligence of the Brahmin, the king asked him to make a wish and he will fulfill it any cost.
The Vamana asked for the three foot of land and the king agreed to give the same. At that time, the body size of the Brahmin grew larger and large. By one foot step, he measured the whole sky, in his second step, he covered the entire earth. The king at once understood that the Brahmin was not an ordinary person and was Lord Vishnu himself. The third step of the Lord could have gone on to damage the whole earth. To avert the grave danger or save the earth, the king offered his head to the Lord to measure. As soon as the Lord placed his foot over the King's head he was pushed into the underworld (pataal). However, the king loved his people and was very much attached to his kingdom. He was allowed by the Gods to visit his favorite kingdom once in a year. Onam is the day, when the king is believed to return and visit the houses of the people.
Onam Celebrations – Reflections of Vivid Indian Culture
The celebrations of Onam last for the period of ten days, which are known as - Atham, Chithira, Chodhi, Vishakam, Anizham, Thriketa, Moolam, Pooradam, Uthradom and Thiruvonam. It is a tradition to place a flower carpet known as the 'Pookalam' in the doorway of every home to welcome the king. The houses are cleaned, beautiful rangoli and lavish food is made. Special pujas are organized in the temples and the younger members of the family seek the blessings of the elder ones.
It is a ritual to prepare the delicious twenty one homemade curries and sweet payasam. The food is served on the banana plant or plantain leaves. An unforgettable parade of the magnificently decorated elephants is held. The bright fireworks and famous Kathkali dance captivates the attention of the spectators. However, the main attraction of the festival is the grand boat race, 'Vallamkali'. The long splendid snake shaped boats called the 'Chundans' test the rowing skills and stamina of the contestants participating in the race. The cheers and loud noises of the spectators constantly encourage the contestants to win the race and get handsome rewards.