I worked in Palakkad for two and a half years.The onam celebrations captured my heart very much. The malayalis celebrate this festival for 10 days.
The Vamana avathara of Vishnu is being worshipped during this festival. The king Mahabali is revered by the people of Kerala, as there was prosperity and happiness prevailed during his period. The festival rituals, cuisine, dance and music are seen everywhere in Kerala during this period.
Mahabali was the grandson of Prahalatha. Mahabali was very generous and charitable. If anybody approached him with any wish, he fulfilled the wish, whatever it was. The Gods feared about his supremacy and approached Lord Vishnu asking for a solution to get rid of the dilemma. Lord Vishnu agreed to their wish and went in front of King Mahabali disguised as Vamana. Seeing His appearance, Mahabali thought that He was a poor brahmin. Vamana asked for a piece of land. Mahabali’s guru Shukracharya tried to prevent Mahabali from giving a promise. But, Mahabali ignoring his guru’s words, agreed to give land to Vamana. Vamana told that it was enough to grant land that could be covered by His three steps. Mahabali said OK happily. Vamana increased Himself to the size of cosmic proportions. With the first step He covered the whole earth and with the next step the whole sky. He asked raja Mahabali where to keep the third step? King Mahabali with folded hands bowed in front of Lord Vishnu. He kept the third step on Mahabali’s head and pushed him to pathala world. Before going, King Mahabali made a request to Lord that he wanted to visit his people once in a year to make them happy and prosperous.
People of Kerala sing songs in praise of Lord Vamana and king Mahabali on these 10 days. Pookkalam(floral rangoli), Sadya (Onam feast) and boat race are other attractions. I had a happy time on seeing the Onam celebrations.