Onam is when Kerala parties. Boat races, song and dance, lots of good food, and as much exotica as one can take, are there for the asking. Onam is celebrated in gratitude for the bounties of the land, for all that nature provides for the people. On a slightly different level, the festival also keeps alive the legend of a benevolent ancient ruler called Mahabali, who, it is believed, again visits his subjects - the people of Kerala - during Onam Festival.
Onam is celebrated in the beginning of the month of Chingam, the first month of Malayalam Calendar (Kollavarsham). In 2013, the most important day of Onam (known as Thiru Onam) is on Monday September 16. Rituals commence 10 days before Thiru Onam, on Atham. There are actually four days of Onam. First Onam will be on September 15, the day before Thiru Onam, while fourth Onam will be on September 18. Onam festivities continue throughout these days.
The legend of Onam
According to the legend, Kerala was ruled by a demon king Mahabali who otherwise being a good ruler was egoistic. Under his rule Kerala witnessed its golden era as everybody prospered and were happy. Since he was a demon king, Mahabali’s growing popularity made Gods uneasy and hence they used his one shortcoming against him to end his reign. However, Gods granted him a boon that he could visit his people once in a year and it is his visit that is celebrated as Onam every year in Kerala.