THE FESTIVAL OF ONAM
Rishimukh|September 2020
THE FESTIVAL OF ONAM
Feasts, dances, colorful masks, boat races flower rangolis, and more…
Hema Rajaraman

At the time of the year, when the monsoon season bids farewell from Southern India, the atmosphere is charged in celebration with the advent of ONAM. Marking the end of monsoons and welcoming the harvest season, the Kerala festival, Onam (22nd August - 2nd September 2020), is a significant festival of Malayalees. Onam is celebrated for 10 days during the first month of Chingam in the Malayalam Solar Calendar.

The origin of Onam dates back to the Sangam period when it was a month-long celebration. This festival of rain flowers was celebrated to commemorate the annual visit of King Mahabali from Patala (the underworld). The story dates back to the time when the demon King Mahabali (grandson of Prahalad), ruled Kerala. His generosity had become increasingly popular and caused alarm and concern to the Devas. They appealed to Lord Vishnu to help them in vanquishing the King’s arrogance. Sensing their concern, Lord Vishnu, disguising himself as a Brahmin dwarf appeared before the King and requested him to grant him land that would measure His three strides. Being the generous King that he was, Mahabali readily agreed, little expecting the Brahmin dwarf to grow bigger and bigger, towering and covering the earth and the sky with his first two strides. When there was no more land for his third stride, Mahabali offered his head, asking the Brahmin to place his foot upon his head. This plunged him into the Patala forever. Lord Vishnu, for all the King’s meritorious acts, granted him the boon that he could visit his people in Kerala once a year. Thus culminated the Onam festival in Kerala.

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September 2020