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Onam, a high spirited festival of Kerala

Sep 12 (): Onam is a festival celebrated by the people of Kerala in India. The state holidays for Onam starts from Onam Eve (Uthradom) to the fourth Onam Day.

Keralites go crazy over Onam festival. They celebrate the festival for ten days with lots of feasting, boat races, song, dance and merriment.

Onam or Thiruonam originated as joyous annual memories of the golden rule of King Mahabali, a mythical king, who ruled Kerala a very long time ago. The festival recalls the sacrifice of the great king, his true devotion to God, his human pride and his ultimate redemption.

Mahabali was a capable and ambitious king. He wanted to be the emperor of all the three realms of the Universe – the Earth, the Heavens and the Underworld. He defeated Devas and captured the heavens from them. He also waged war against the King of the Devas, Indra and became the Lord of all the three worlds.

Mahabali observed Ashwamedha yagna (horse ritual) to maintain his rule over all the three realms of Universe. Meantime, Devas pleaded Lord Vishnu to help them regain heaven.

So, Lord Vishnu took the form of a tiny Brahmin boy and appeared in front of Mahabali. This was Lord Vishnu’s Vamana avatar. He asked the Great King for 3 feet of land. Mahabali gave him the land due to his generosity.

Lord Vishnu grew enormously. He placed one feet on the Earth, the other on the Heavens and asked Mahabali where he should place this third feet. The pious Mahabali bowed his head and Lord Vishnu placed his feet on Bali’s head. Thus, King Mahabali was pushed into the Underworld or Pataal.

Before going into the underworld, King Mahabali asked Lord Vishnu for one last wish. He asked that he should be allowed to visit Kerala once in a year so that he can ensure that his people are happy and prosperous.

Lord Vishnu granted his wish. So Onam is the time when Mahabali visits his people, and that is why Onam is celebrated with such pomp and splendour in Kerala.

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