India is famous for its varied culture and diversity. India is a land of festivals and colours. One such festival celebrated in the south of India is Onam. It is celebrated in the southernmost state of Kerala. Kerala is also called “Gods own country” because of its natural beauty. The rivers, lakes, mountains, backwaters all add to the beauty of Kerala. Onam is a harvest festival which is celebrated with much pomp and pleasure in Kerala or wherever there are Keralites.
There is a saying back in Kerala that, we may find a Malayalee in Mars also, as we can see Keralites are there everywhere in the world. So Onam is also known to everyone in the world. The language spoken in Kerala is Malayalam, hence the people there are also called Malayalees. Onam is celebrated in a unique way, all the dishes served are vegetarian. It is served on the big banana leaf that is cleaned and wiped. Most of these dishes are made with the favourite fruit kera or coconut, as it is commonly called. Kerala derives its name form kera, it means land of coconuts and Kerala is truly a land of coconuts. The swaying of the coconut leaves beside the riverbanks are a sight to be seen! There is a story behind the celebration of Onam. Long time ago Kerala was ruled by a pious and noble king Mahabali. It is said that during his rule, no one knew even the meaning of the word poverty! People were self sufficient and so everyone was happy. They were so happy that they never even had the need to pray. The Gods were displeased and were scared, so they went and complained to Lord Vishnu, a Hindu God. As a solution he was born in the form of Vamana, which is the fifth avatar or form of Lord Vishnu. He came as a small boy to King Mahabali’s court and asked him some land. The measure of the land was three feet. King Mahabali readily agreed to this small child’s demand. It is said that Vamana grew gigantic in size. He took his foot up to measure the first foot of land and when he kept his feet down, it covered the whole of the heaven and earth, and with his second step he covered the nether world. Finally Vamana did not know where to keep his third foot, as there was no land left. As a reply King Mahabali bowed his head and Vamana kept his foot on his head, thus the earth broke and he was taken below the earth. Vamana or Lord Vishnu was pleased with the king’s sincerity, and hence granted a boon to the king- he was allowed to visit his subjects once a year.
So Onam is the day that was granted by Vamana to King Mahabali to visit his subjects. The people still welcome him as a mark of love and respect by celebrating it as Onam. Schools and colleges have ten days holiday during Onam. Various games, dances, dramas are organized. During Onam we can find many people dressed as King Mahabali, especially in shops, malls, amusement parks etc. I would advice one and all to visit the land of Kerala during Onam and thus be a part of the festivities.