Onam, the harvest festival, is probably the most significant festival celebrated in Kerala. It allures people from all throughout the country and it is because during the festivities, boat races, dances, pookalams (made of flowers), music, scrumptious feats, and various sports are organised on a grand carnival level. This festival is rejoiced in the Malayalam month of Chingam (end of August and start of September). This auspicious occasion includes a grand procession in Trichur and attractive and exciting snake boat races held on River Pampa. Similar to the other festivals, there are several legends related to the celebration of this festival, in which the story related to the King Mahabali is the most remarkable one. Thus, according to the people of Kerala Onam is celebrated in the memory of King Mahabali. Also, it is believed that every year during this festive time, he come to visit his state and his subjects from Patala (underworld). Read to know more about the different legends of Onam.
Legend Of King Mahabali
Mahabali was the grandson of Prahlada and son of Kashyapa and Aditi. They were blessed by a son by the grace of Lord Vishnu as she worshipped Lord Vishnu and performed Payovrata, a ritual that has to be observed from the 12th day of the bright half of Kartika. After this, Lord Vishnu was pleased and then Kashyapa and Aditi became the parents to Mahabali. The devas (demi gods) were annoyed because Mahabali became the king of all the three worlds after defeating them. Then, devas went to Lord Vishnu and told him about their problems. Lord Vishnu explained to them that Mahabali was very kind hearted and was doing good things for his subjects. After this, Lord Vishnu decided to test Mahabali. At that time Mahabali was performing the sacrificial rite of the Viswajith Yagam or Ashwamedha Yagam on the banks of the Narmada River. He announced that he would give anything to anyone who asked from him during the course of the Yagam. To test Mahabali, Lord Vishnu, disguised as a Brahmin named Vamana, went to the Yaga-shala.
Upon seeing him, Mahabali went to welcome the Brahmin boy with all the traditional regards and gave him a seat and then the King told that it was his honour that Vamana came there and honoured him with his presence. Hearing this, Vamana smiled and said, "You need not give me anything great. It is enough if you give me that extend of land covered by three footsteps of mine". Listening this, Shukracharya, the preceptor of the king who had visions of the future said to Mahabali that this young Brahmin boy was no other than the Lord Vishnu and asked him not to promise anything to Vamana. On the other hand, Mahabali was a king who would never go back on his words. Soon after this, Vamana raised his size and with his one step covered the complete sky, the entire earth with the another step and then he asked where to keep his third step then, the king realised that Vamana was not an ordinary boy. Mahabali, then asked Vamana to put the third step on his head, he did so and Mahabali was sent to the Patala. Lord Vishnu was contended to see the kindness of Mahabali and granted him a boon. King Mahabali then told Lord Vishnu that he would like to visit Kerala, his state and his subjects every year and thus Lord Vishnu fulfilled his wish. Therefore, it is said that Onam is celebrated every year to welcome King Mahabali in his state.
Legend Of A Vanishing Boy
In ancient time, Katoor Mana was the Nambudiri Brahmin family and one day the head of the family was taking bath near Aranmula in the River Pampa. After offering prayers to the gods, he was waiting for a poor man to feed as it was one of his religious duties. In the meanwhile, he started praying to Lord Krishna and after some time he found a poor boy in rags standing in front of him. The head happily gave him a bath, dressed him properly and also gave him food to eat. It is said that the boy suddenly disappeared after eating and was seen nowhere. Afterwards, the head saw the boy near the Aranmula Temple and then, he realised that the boy was no other than god himself. Since that time, the Nambudiri Brahmins offer food to the deity in Aranmula Temple on the occasion of Onam every year.
Legend Of Boat Palliodam
It is believed that once upon a time, some people were travelling in the boat known as Palliodam which was loaded with the food. It got stuck in the bend in the river; the oarsmen tried their best to make it move but failed. Then, they asked 'Bhattathiripad' (the spiritual head) to go out to find some help from the hut close to the river. When he went close to the hut, he found that a poor widow and her children were crying due to hunger and poverty. He became very sad to see all this and then went back to the boat and brought food for them. The time it was done, the boat very easily manoeuvred to the main course of river again. Hence, from that day it became a tradition to feed a poor and needy person on the auspicious occasion of Onam.