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Onam, Kerala
28th August 2015

According to a legend Kerala was once ruled by the kind, generous and valiant demon-king Mahabali, who had won over the kingdom of heaven rightfully. However, as always Lord Indra and other Gods approached Lord Vishnu to enlist his help and Vishnu promised them the kingdom of Heaven back once again. Knowing about his generous and charitable nature, Lord Vishnu went to the king in form of a Brahmin child called 'Vaman' and asked for three steps of land. Mahabali readily granted it to the child. However, Lord Vishnu then kept on increasing in size till he measured all of the Earth in one step and all of the Heaven with another. When he asked Mahabali, where to keep his third foot, the humbled king offered his head to him. Touched by the devotion and humility of the King, Lord Vishnu made him the King and granted him a request that he may visit his kingdom every year for four days.

Onam Festival - The harvest festival of Kerala, Onam is a time for sports, festivities and ritual celebrations in Kerala.

Keralites celebrate Onam to welcome their benevolent king and organize colourful aquatic festivals on the sacred Pampa River as part of the celebrations. A time to reap the harvest, to celebrate and to rejoice, Onam is usually held at the end of August or beginning of September, less than a fortnight after the Malayalam New Year begins. It is the biggest festival of Kerala. The 10-day long festival features rituals like buying new clothes, delicious traditional cuisines, dance and music. The last day called the Thiruonam is the most important. The elephant processions of Trichur and the Kathakali performances of Cheruthuruthy are some of the most reputed events during the festival. Pulikali or Kaduvakali, the rhythmic dance by the performers painted like tigers in bright yellow, red and black moving with the beats of instruments like 'udukku' and 'thakil' is one of the highlights of the festival.

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. Onam Festival - The harvest festival of Kerala, Onam is a time for sports, festivities and ritual celebrations in Kerala. The carnival lasts up to ten days, wherein the first day, Atham and tenth day, Thiruonam are most important of all. Elaborate feasts, folk songs, elegant dances, energetic games, elephants, boats and flowers all are a part of the dynamic festival called Onam.

One of the most impressive episodes of Onam is the grand feast called Onasadya, prepared on Thiruonam. It is a nine course meal consisting of 11 to 13 essential dishes. Onasadya is served on banana leaves and people sit on a mat laid on the floor to have the meal.

Another enchanting feature of Onam is Vallamkali, the Snake Boat Race, held on the river Pampa. It is a colourful sight to watch the decorated boat oared by hundreds of boatmen amidst chanting of songs and cheering by spectators.

The Government of India has taken due notice of this vibrant and colourful festival. Popularity and presentation of rich culture of the state during the carnival made Onam the National Festival of Kerala in 1961. It 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.

Onam also projects the age old tradition to play games, collectively called Onakalikal. Men go in for rigorous sports like Talappanthukali (played with ball), Ambeyyal (Archery), Kutukutu and combats called Kayyankali and Attakalam. The women however indulge in cultural activities which include Kaikotti kali and ThumbiThullal the two graceful dances. Also one gets to see folk performances like Kummatti kali and Pulikali which add to the overall zeal and zest of the celebrations.

Rich cultural heritage of Kerala comes out in its best form and spirit during the ten day long festival. It is indeed a treat to be a part of the grand carnival. People of Kerala make elaborate preparations to celebrate it in the best possible manner.