Onam is the biggest and the most important festival of the state of Kerala, and is its national festival since 1960. It is a harvest festival and is celebrated with joy and enthusiasm all over the state by people of all communities. According to a popular legend, the festival is celebrated to welcome King Mahabali, whose spirit is said to visit Kerala at the time of Onam.
Onam is celebrated in the beginning of the month of Chingam, the first month of the Malayalam Calendar (Kollavarsham). This corresponds with the month of August to September according to the Gregorian Calendar. The carnival of Onam lasts from four to ten days. First day, Atham and tenth day, Thiruvonam are most important of all. Thanks
The story is of King Mahabali (popularly known as Maveli), a mythical king who ruled over Kerala. He was greatly respected in his kingdom and was considered to be wise, and extremely generous. Everybody was happy in the kingdom, there was no discrimination on the basis of caste or class. Rich and poor were treated equally. There was neither crime, nor corruption. Due to his popularity, the Gods became extremely concerned and jealous. They felt threatened and to end his reign. They sent Lord Vishnu to earth in the form of a dwarf Brahmin. Disguised as Vamana, Vishnu requested Mahabali for 3 feet of land. Kind Mahabali granted him the land, Vamana began to expand and eventually increased himself to the size of cosmic proportions. With his first step, the Brahmin boy covered the whole of earth and with the other step he covered the whole of the skies. He then asked the King where is the space for him to keep the third foot. King Mahabali with folded hands bowed before Vamana and asked him to place his last step on his head so that he could keep the promise. The brahmin placed his foot on the head of the King and trampled Mahabali to the netherworld. There, the King requested Lord Vishnu to be allowed to visit his land and people once in a year, and Vishnu granted him his wish. It is the day of the visit of King Mahabali to Kerala that is celebrated as Onam every year.
Elaborate feasts, folk songs, elegant dances, energetic games, elephants, boat race and flowers (athapoovu) all are a part of this dynamic festival. The Kerala population make all efforts to celebrate the festival in a grand way and impress upon their beloved King that they are happy and wish him well. People buy new clothes and sweets during the celebration of Onam. Popularity and presentation of rich culture of the state during the carnival made Onam the National Festival of Kerala in 1961.
The government promotes Onam internationally in a big way and celebrates 'Tourist Week' for Kerala during Onam celebrations. Thousands of domestic and foreign tourists visit Kerala to be a part of Onam.