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What Is The History Behind The Celebration Of Onam Festival

By: Ajanta Sen

Onam is considered to be the most popular festival of Kerala, where people of all ages participate with equal joy and excitement. Onam is celebrated in the month of August or September, depending upon the Malayalam Calendar, also known as the Kolla Varsham.

It is celebrated during the Chingam month of the Kolla Varsham. The Onam carnival lasts from four to ten days, and within these few days, the people of Kerala bring the culture, tradition, and rituals together in the best possible form.

The beautifully decorated Pookalam, the ambrosial Onasadya, the exciting boat race and the gorgeous and elegant dance form - Kaikottikali - are the best features of Onam.

History Behind Celebrating Onam Festival

Onam is also famous for the variety of games that include the Onakalikal, the Ayyankali, the Attakalam, etc. Onam is celebrated in Kerala to rejoice the return of their beloved King Mahabali. The people of Kerala put in all their efforts to make the celebration a grand success to impress King Mahabali.

The History

According to legends, Kerala was ruled by a very powerful and virtuous demon King, King Mahabali. It is believed that when King Mahabali ruled Kerala, there was hardly anyone in the State who was unhappy or stressed.

Almost everyone was prosperous and joyful, and they loved and respected their great King. The festival of Onam is celebrated with joy and splendor, as King Mahabali was not only loved by his subjects but they respected him a lot. King Mahabali had two other names - Onathappan and Maveli.

Reign Of The Great King

According to the story, Kerala was ruled by the demon King, Mahabali. Though a demon, he was extremely just and virtuous. His kindness was known by the people of the entire state and he was loved and respected by all of his subjects.

 

History Behind Celebrating Onam Festival

Kerala witnessed the peak of glory and success when it was ruled by King Mahabali. Nobody was sad, and there was no division of classes, no rich or poor. Everyone was treated equally during his reign. Nobody committed any crime and there was no corruption.

It was not necessary to lock the doors at night because there were absolutely no signs of theft. Poverty, diseases or sorrow were things that this state did not know during his rule, and all his subjects were content.

Challenge For The Gods

King Mahabali was very popular among his subjects and there was not a single person who would disrespect him. The fame and popularity of King Mahabali had started making the Gods jealous and very concerned.

They started feeling threatened and felt that their supremacy was in danger. They wanted to get rid of the great King in order to keep their supremacy intact. They turned to Lord Vishnu for help. Lord Vishnu knew that King Mahabali was very kind and loving, and he readily helped the poor and needy people. Lord Vishnu wanted to test this for himself.

History Behind Celebrating Onam Festival

The Vamana Avatar Of Lord Vishnu

Lord Vishnu disguised himself as a poor and helpless Brahmin and requested the King to grant him a piece of land. King Mahabali was generous enough to grant the Brahmin the land that he wanted.

The Brahmin told the King that he would take the land that would be covered by three steps. As soon as the King granted the land, the Brahmin started expanding himself until he covered the whole of the earth. The first step that he took covered the entire earth and the second step covered the skies.

The third step was placed on the King's head and he was pushed down to the underworld. King Mahabali was a devotee of Lord Vishnu and he was pleased to see him. Vishnu granted a boon to the King and he was allowed to come to his state every year to see his subjects.

The day when the great King visits Kerala every year is celebrated as Onam. This harvest festival is celebrated mainly to pay respect and show love to King Mahabali. This legend has been depicted artistically in Tamil Nadu in the Suchindram Temple.

Read more about: onam, festival, onam spirituality
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