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Do you know that there is a legend behind the annual harvest festival of happiness and joy, Onam? Yes, this traditional festival, which is also known as the official state festival of Kerala, falls on the 22nd Nakshatra Thiruvonam of the Malayalam calendar of Chingam. 

According to popular beliefs and legends, this auspicious festival is celebrated in Kerala to commemorate the spirit of King Mahabali. The celebrations of Onam include various activities and festivities such as tiger dance, Pookkalam and Vallam Kali boat races, the amalgamation of which makes this festival truly awesome. And perhaps it is owing to these factors that this festival is celebrated with great fervour among the masses. Coming back to the part of beliefs and legends, let’s discover what they are all about?

History Behind Onam

It is believed that the spirit of King Mahabali visits Kerala during this auspicious time of the year. King Mahabali was the great-great-grandson of the Brahmin sage Kashyapa who was, in turn, the great-grandson of demonic dictator Hiranyakashipu. 

The reason to mention this is the fact that all of this further links this festival to Puranic mythology of Prahlada - the Lord Vishnu devotee son of Hiranyakashipu.  

Also Read: Aurobathimoovar Festival

As per the legend, Prahlada, despite being born to an Asura, was an ardent devotee of Lord Vishu, whom his father hated to the core. Due to this, his father even tried to kill him multiple times but eventually lost his own life, as Lord Vishnu’s Narsimha Avatar killed him.  

Then according to the story, it was Prahlada’s grandson King Mahabali who later on became a great king who defeated the Gods and took over the three worlds. As a result of this, the devas had to approach Vishnu for helping them out but were refused as Mahabali had proved to be a good ruler and was also a great devotee of Vishnu himself. 

After his conquest, when Mahabali came home, he decided to perform a Yajna and declared that everyone will be given whatever they desired. Seeing this as an opportune moment, Lord Vishnu decided to take his test. 

He took the form of a young boy called Vamana and approached Mahabali on the day of Yajana. Although he was offered just about everything ranging from food to clothing; Vamana told him that one should not seek more than one’s needs and just demanded three steps of land from him.

But something unusual happened when he was granted this wish! 

Yes, now this dwarf boy had suddenly become giant in size and so big that he covered everything which Mahabli owned with just two steps of his. Now, after knowing Vishnu’s true identity and for the third step, Mahabali offered him his own head as a sign of true and pure devotion to Lord Vishnu. 

This impressed the God so much so that Mahabali was granted a boon by the supreme being.

As per this boon, Mahabali could visit his kingdom once every year even after passing away and it is this revisiting time which is marked as the festival of Onam.

Indeed, it is a beautiful festival full of colours, decorations, rituals and happy faces. Celebrated as one of the happiest times in the state, this festival is celebrated all around India and has a very similar significance everywhere. People can be seen dressing up beautifully and greeting their friends and family. 

How to Celebrate Onam 

The festival of Onam falls in the month of Chingam which marks the Malayalam New Year. This festival is celebrated over a period of 10 days. These are their names in chronological order - Atham, Chithira, Chodhi, Vishakam, Anizham, Thriketa, Moolam, Pooradam, Uthradam and Thiruvonam.

Onam is celebrated by Christians and Muslims of Kerala. These traditions are inclusive of lightning of Nilavi Lakku, eating meals together as a form of communion between brothers and sisters who belong to different faiths. 

The celebrations start from Atthachamayam which features elephant marching, drum beats along with many other activities as well. People wearing colourful dresses can be seen with masks. There are processions, parades that depict traditional scenes from epics like Mahabharata. 

The harvest festival is marked and celebrated with some beautiful and influencing customs like cleaning the house, decorating them with flowers. People also indulge in a wide variety of celebrations such as boat races, cultural programs, floral designs and much more. 

Evenings are enlightened with oil lamps and women perform folk dances which is a delightful sight altogether. The charm of this fiesta of Kerala cannot be beaten anyhow.

How to reach Kerala to celebrate Onam

Popularly known as “God’s own country” Kerala is a place which has substantiated its aura as a domestic as well as an international travel getaway. So, if you are looking to visit this amazing getaway then there are three ways to visit this place. 

By Air. Kerala has quite a good connectivity via some of the major cities like Delhi, Pune, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Pune, Ahmedabad, etc. All of these cities have a good network to the Cochin International Airport in Kerala which also happens to be the nearest airport to travel to this state. For tourists, who don’t have any relatives here can choose to stay in a hotel or govt stays. To reach your hotel you will need to get a cab or some other means of transportation like perhaps a bus or an auto-rickshaw. 

By Road. Kerala also has good connectivity via road network with some of the major metropolitan cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, etc. Kerala is very well connected with National Highways 17, 47 and 49. However, if you are traveling via bike or scooter then it won’t be suitable to travel long distances. Moreover, bus services are also available via the Kerala State Transport Corporation at fairly cheap prices.

By Train. Kerala has an overall good train network. It is very well connected with some of the major cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, and Pune, etc. To avail a train from all these major cities to Kerala won’t be a problem. However, a few major and famous train stations of Kerala are Alleppey railway station, Kannur railway station and Ernakulam Junction.

You can plan your trip and create your own route to the city with Adotrip’s technically driven circuit planner. Click here


  • 1 Day

  • Traditional

  • Kerala
  • Festival Date

    10 September 2019 - 13 September 2019

  • Venue

    thiruvananthapuram

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