Onam is celebrated in the Malayalam month of Chingam. It is a ten day festival that is celebrated with great pomp and grandeur in Kerala. The starting day of Onam is known as the Atham and the last day is known as the Thiruvonam. There are some legendary stories about Onam. It is primarily a harvest festival and a festival of rain flowers. It is a great time of celebration among the Keralites.
Let us explore the stories behind Onam.
- In spite of being a demon, King Mahabali was an ideal King. The people in his kingdom of Kerala were very happy. The people loved King Bali greatly and hailed him as great. He rose to be so great a ruler that even the Gods were jealous of him.
- King Indra found his rule to be in turmoil. Bali became the most powerful and efficient ruler of all the three worlds.
- The people in his kingdom lived in great peace and prosperity. King Bali was also a very pious man and great worshipper of Lord Vishnu.
- Upon seeing the concern of all Gods Lord Vishnu decided to find a way out of it. Once Bali was performing a yagya on the banks of river Narmada. He had promised to give anyone anything that they demanded from him that day. Lord Vishnu took advantage of the situation and went to the place in the guise of a poor Brahmin. All he asked for was three steps of land. Guru Shukracharya warned King Bali that the man was no ordinary Brahmin but Lord Vishnu himself. But, Bali bound by his promise decided to give him whatever he had asked for.
- Vishnu with one footstep measured all the earth and with one all the heavens. Bali was still to give him one foot of territory. As there was no more place where Vishnu could take the third measurement of foot, Bali offered his head for it. Vishnu kept his foot on his head and sent him to the underworld.
- But due to the great devotion of King Bali he was also blessed by Vishnu that he would get to rule the underworld. He would also take Lord Indra's place in another Manvantara. As he was a great king, Bali got the blessing to visit his land and people once a year. This very time of the year when King Mahabali visits his people is the time for Onam celebrations.
- Onam celebrations are held so that King Mahabali may continue to see his people in happiness and prosperity.
- People decorate their houses and get dressed in their best clothes for Onam.
All the stories about Onam fascinate us and will continue to do so forever.