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Onam Festival
Month of Celebration:
August - September (the month of Chingam according to Malayali calender).
About the Festival
The legend of Onam first - Lord Kashyap had two sons from his two wives, Diti and Aditi. The former was the mother of demons while the latter was the mother of demi gods. It so happened that in an attempt to increase their individual powers, the demons led by Mahabali and demigods spearheaded by Indra clashed with each other. The resultant defeat of Indra saddened his mother, Aditi to a such an extent that Kashyapa himself asked her to pray to Lord Narayana. Aditi heeded his advice and prayed to Lord Narayana with complete devotion who in turn promised her to take birth from her womb and eliminate all her griefs.
Accordingly, Aditi gave birth to Vamana murti who exuded brightness at a very young age itself. He visited Mahabali while he was performing a yagna as a young Brahmin lad and seeked a portion of land covered by his three foot steps. Mahabali was warned by his guru that the brahmin was no ordinary person and hence he should not promise him anything in haste. However, Bali was an honoured person and hence did not wish to retreat from his words. Knowing very well that he could loose everything, he gave a go ahead to the Brahmin lad to take three foot steps. It was during this time that Vamana grew to huge size and covered earth in his first step and heaven in his second. The devout king Bali offered him his head to take the third step. Pleased by his devotion and sincerity, Lord Narayana allowed him to visit his people once every year before pushing him down the earth into the infernal regions (patala).
Therefore, the Keralites celebrate the Onam festival every year to mark the arrival of Lord MahaVishnu as well as the great Emperor Mahabali. Historically, the celebration of Onam festival finds first mention in the Sangam age.
The timing of the festival coincides with the harvest season of Kerala. Celebrations begin ten days before, beginning from Atham and culminating on Thiru Onam. The two days hold utmost importance in the entire festival. It is on Thiru Onam that the people get ready to welcome their benevolent king on his annual visit.
The people of Kerala celebrate this festival with all fanfare. The grandeur of Onam is so huge that it was declared a National Festival by the Government of India in the year 1961. The Government has also been promoting Onam on an International basis to make people aware of the cultural richness of the country.
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