New Delhi: Onam or Thiruonam, usually held in August and September for 10 days, originated in Kerala as a celebration to remember the golden rule of King Mahabali, a mythical king who ruled over Kerala. The legend holds that jealous of King Mahabali's popularity and his power, the Gods conspired to end his reign. They sent Lord Vishnu to earth in the form of a dwarf Brahmin who trampled Mahabali to the netherworld. But Lord Vishnu granted the king's sole wish i.e. to visit his land and people once every year.
However, there is an alternate legend which talks of founding of Kerala by Parasurama, again an incarnation of Vishnu. It holds Onam as the day on which Parasurama created Kerala from the sea-bed by throwing his battle-axe into the waters.
People lay a flower carpet, traditionally called 'Pookalam', in front of their house to welcome the King and mounds representing Mahabali and Vishnu are placed in the courtyards. Snake boat races, Onappottan, Kaazhchakkula, Puli Kali, Kaikottikkali and other traditional rituals are performed followed by a lavish feast called 'Sadhya'. Onam also means new clothes for the whole family, sumptuous home-cooked delicacies on banana leaves rounded off by a cup of sweet Payasam.
The ten days of Onam are called Atham, Chithira, Chodi, Vishakam, Anizham, Thriketa, Moolam, Pooradam, Uthradom and Thiruvonam.