The Story Behind Onam
Aug 23, 2021

Onam festival is celebrated to honour the kind-hearted and much-beloved demon King Mahabali, who is believed to return to Kerala during this festival. Watch our latest video to learn all about its ric

Onam, a harvest festival that falls in the months of August/September annually, is celebrated across India and the world, and is the main festival among Keralites. It is a 10 day festival. Here’s the story behind it. 


Once upon a time, the demon king Mahabali ruled Kerala. He was a wise and fair king. Mahabali worshipped Lord Vishnu. His power extended to Patal lok, and the heavens. The gods grew jealous of Mahabali. They asked Lord Vishnu for help. Lord Vishnu took the avatar of Vamana, a brahmin dwarf. He approached Mahabali for alms. He only wanted the land that he could cover in his three steps. Mahabali agreed as he thought that since Vamana is a dwarf, his steps would hardly take any land and he did not know that Vamana was actually Vishnu. However, Vamana began to grow in size. With one step, he covered the sky. With his second step, he covered the netherworld. Mahabali realised that Vamana’s third step would destroy the earth. So, he offered his head for Vamana’s last step.


When Vamana placed his foot on Maha Bali’s head, it pushed him to the netherworld. However, before taking the third step though, Lord Vishnu granted Mahabali a boon. In his boon Maha Bali asked Vamana to allow him to visit Kerala once in a year. Onam is the day when Maha bali returns to Kerala. During the ten-day festivities, devotees bathe, offer prayers, wear traditional clothes -- women of the household wear a white and gold saree, participate in dance performances, and draw flower rangolis. People also participate in boat races, Tiger dances, Tug of War, women’s dance ritual, Mask dance, martial arts, music, costumes, folk songs among other fun activities.The traditional Onam feast is called Sadya. It is a 9-course meal that consists of 26 dishes. It is served on a banana leaf.  


Happy Onam!