Onam is thus the national festival of Kerala since 1961. This festival is celebrated for ten days and it marks the homecoming of the legendary King Mahabali. It is believed that the spirit of King Mahabali visits Kerala at the time of Onam. As per the English calendar it falls on the month of either August or September. Some of the most remarkable features of Onam are the breathtaking snake boat race, the elegant dances, folk songs, elaborate feasts etc. Onam, the harvest festival is thus celebrated in an elaborate manner in Kerala. Lord Vishnu puja is done on this day.
Due to the popularity of the festival the Government of India promotes Onam internationally. And during the time of Onam. Tourist Week is celebrated in the state. Endless number of foreign and domestic tourists visit Kerala during Onam and thus the economy receives a huge boost.
The Story behind Onam
It is believed that during the reign of the King Mahabali, Kerala had it golden era. There was prosperity everywhere and the subjects were happy and content. Thus, Mahabali was highly regarded by his subjects. But Mahabali had one shortcoming which was his ego and this weakness of his was used by the Gods against him and they therefore put an end to his reign as his popularity was challenging the Gods gradually. But because of all the good deeds done by Mahabali the Gods granted him one boon and that was he could annually visit the people of his kingdom with whom he was hugely attached. Henceforth, from then on Onam is celebrated which is considered as the visit of King Mahabali.
The ten day long festival brings out the best of Kerala rich cultural heritage. People make elaborate arrangements to celebrate Onam in the grandest manner possible. One of the most impressive part of Onam is the grand feast which is called Onasadya. It is a nine course meal and consists of eleven to thirteen essential dishes. This Onasadya is served on banana leaves. People sit on mat in the floor to have the meal. Another spectacular feature is the boat race. It is amazing to see hundreds of boatmen oaring the decorated boats amidst the cheering by spectators and singing of songs. Also there is the tradition of collective playing of games. Women indulges in the cultural activities. They make beautifully designed flower mats and place it in the front of the house to welcome King Mahabali. Also there are graceful dances performed by women. Thus, Onam is celebrated with huge merry making and pomp and show in Kerala, in which people from all walks of life take part.