|Pookolam, with flowers. patrikai.com|
Mahabali, though charitable, was egotistical on account of powerful boons he received from the God. To subdue his arrogance and ego, Vishnu in the guise of a dwarf saint ''Vamana'', approached the king for charity and asked him to grant him a small piece of land equal to his three strides. Thinking it was a simple grant, the king agreed. Now Vamana turned into a giant and measured the earth and the sky with two strides. As there was no place for the third stride, King Mahabali stuck to his word and offered his head. Vishnu put his foot on him and pushed him into the underworld.
In reality, God was quite pleased with his integrity and offered
him salvation by keeping him close to his place. The king requested
the lord to allow him to visit his land Kerala once a year on Thiruvonam (the second day of Onam) to visit his people to make sure they were doing well, to which the lord agreed.
|Vallam Kulangara - Snake boats wikipedia.|
With a view to giving King Bali warm and impressive reception, for his annual visit, the people of Kerala clean and decorate their homes with floral displays. Besides, ladies make Pookkalam - rangoli on the ground in front of their homes. The kolams made of flowers of various colors are attractive, as they have mind-boggling geometric patterns. Yet another interesting feature is before most of the well-decorated Hindu temples, one can see many caparisoned elephants. During the festival time lasting 10 days, particularly after evening performing artists, well trained under prominent Gururs, perform state's traditional dances such as Kathakali, Mohiniyattam. Part of Onam festival includes impressive Ona Thallu, a martial art native to Kerala, Puli Kali (tiger dance),Thambi Thullal (women's dance) Vallam kali snake-boat races that are held at Champakulam. The boat race in Aranmula is yet another major attraction of the festival. Children get attracted by the procession of well-decorated and caparisoned elephants during this festival time. Away from mundane stuff, giving a rhythmic touch to the religious procession, percussionists perform Chendamelam and panchavadyam (local percussion instruments)in a grand way, exhibiting their talents.
People of other religions participate in this popular festival and partake of sumptuous food specially prepared for the festivals. Private banks and institutions in the state give following month's salary in advance so that employees can celebrate the festival with joy. During this period Hindu temples are crowded with devotees and at famous temples traditional dance performances can be seen in the Koothambalam (Natya mandapa) - space for dance on the temple premises.