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Onam - Festival of Kerala
Onam - the festival
Late August or early September marks some vivacious and lively celebrations down south. People in the southern Indian coastal state of Kerala get fanatical over the state festival of Onam, with ten days of boat races, song and dance, lot of good cuisine and exuberance. The harvest festival of Kerala, Onam is a time for sports, festivities and ritual celebrations in Kerala. Onam is a traditional ten day harvest festival of Hindus that marks the homecoming of the mythical King Mahabali who ruled Kerala in ancient times. The festival is rich in culture and has profound heritage. It is also one of the most popular festivals of India.
The Legend –
According to the legend, Kerala was ruled by a demon king Mahabali who was very egocentric but otherwise was a good ruler. During the time he ruled, Kerala observed its golden days as the place was flourished with happiness and people out there were very contented. Since he was a demon king, Mahabali’s growing fame made Gods perturbed and therefore he used his shortcoming against him to put his reign to an end. However, Gods granted him a boon that he could visit his people once in a year and it is his visit that is celebrated every year as Onam in Kerala.
Rituals & Celebrations –
Onam is celebrated for ten days - Atham is the first day and Thiruvonam is the final day of the celebration. People wear new clothes, decorate their houses and put flower carpet called 'Pookalam' in front of their houses, to welcome the King Mahabali. Special pujas are offered in the temples in early morning and younger members take blessings and gifts from the elder members of the family. During Onam traditional rituals are performed followed by a grand feast with twenty-one homemade delicious curries and sweet payasam on plantain leaf.
Astounding Carnivals of elephants, attractive fireworks, boat races, soothing music and the famous Kathakalli dance are associated with this festival traditionally. Tourism Week celebrations in connection with Onam, showcasing Kerala's scenic beauty Kerala, its civilization, art forms, beliefs and culture is conducted by the state government of Kerala.