Onam Festival is one of the most important festivals of South India and is celebrated with fanfare and excitement in Kerala. Onam is a bright and colourful festival that celebrates the bounties of nature and a year of good harvest. The Onam festival in India stretches on for ten days - days filled with feasting, boat racing, singing and dancing. Rituals along with new clothes, traditional cuisine, dance, and music mark this harvest festival.
According to the legends, Kerala was ruled by King Mahabali. Mahabali was such a great ruler that his rule was known as the "golden rule of Mahabali". His fame spread far and wide that the Gods feared that he might become too powerful. So they approached Lord Vishnu, to curb Mahabali's power.
Lord Vishnu took the form of Vaamana, the dwarf and approached Mahabali. He asked the good King for three paces of land. King Mahabali was so kind that he looked at the small person and advised him to ask something bigger. But the guru of the demons, Guru Sukracharya, realised this was no ordinary brahmin and told the king to refuse any boons. But King Mahabali refused and granted three paces of land to Vaamana.
At that, the dwarf grew in height till he almost touched the sky. With his first step, he measured the heavens, with his second, the nether world. For his third step, there was no place left and Kign Mahabali offered his head. So he did and Mahabali was pushed into the nether world. But Lord Vishnu was so pleased with this great King that he showed him his viswarupa and gave him a boon. Then the good king Mahabali requested that he should visit his people once a year and see his beloved subjects. Lord Vishnu granted him his boon and on the day "Onam Festival" or "Harvest Festival" of kerala King Mahabali visits the earth is only celebrated as Onam.
River Pamba comes alive with decorated floats and water sports on the eve of onam festival in kerala. In Trichur, an elaborate procession of artistically decorated and caparisoned elephants is taken out. A huge crowd gathers to watch the procession. Singing and merry-making mark the Occasions. Women wear new saris and make elaborate rangolis, pookkalam, in front of their homes. The celebrations begin 10 days before Thiruonam. The festivities end in a spectacular display of fireworks.
Onam is one of the most anticipated festivals of Kerala. One of the highlights of the Onam festival is the 'Onam Sadya' which means a grand feast. The Onam feast is one of the most attractive features of the Onam festival. Traditional Kerala Recipes are prepared in every Kerala household and served on banana leaves. Common recipes included in the Onam feast are: Avial, Kalan, Olan, Thoran and Semiya Payasam
The jubilant celebrations of Onam festival in India are marked by special boat races. The bank of river Pamba at Aranmulla attracts large crowds for the annual snake boat races. The precincts of the Krishna temple on the river bank reverberate with the shouts of the cheering crowd. Every village along the river owns a boat and has a specialised crew to steer it. Dressed in white dhotis and turbans, they participate in the boat race. The boatmen row their boats with rhythmic movements to the accompaniment of drum beats and special boat songs.