Onam is the favourite festival of Keralites. This year, the State is facing massive floods with lakhs of homeless people in relief camps showing the spirit to rise above this calamity by celebrating Onam with limited resources.

Onam is an annual festival celebrated by the people of Kerala and Malayalees living across the globe. It is arguably the biggest festival of Kerala and falls in the Malayalam month of Chingam.

Onam also marks the summer harvest. Though it is a Hindu festival, most non-Hindu communities in Kerala too participate in the celebrations as it is considered a cultural feast, than a religious one.

Scriptural significance
Onam festival is held in memory of king Mahabali and Vamana, who is an avatar of Vishnu. According to mythology, king Mahabali - an asura - ruled over Kerala and was loved by his people as he was just and kept the land prosperous. Mahabali's popularity had made humans and gods tensed. They asked Lord Vishnu to eliminate the king. Vishnu took his fifth avatar as a brahmin, called Vamana, and visited Mahabali.

Like an ideal host, Mahabali asked if Vamana had any wishes, to which the latter said that he just wanted enough place to keep three steps, and the king instantly agreed. Vamana then started growing in stature. With the first step he covered the sky, with the second step, he covered the land. When he did not have any place to keep the third step, Mahabali asked him to place it on his head, to keep the promise he had made and Mahabali was pushed under the ground to a place called 'pathaal'. But this action also made Vishnu grant him a boon, that Mahabali can visit his land and people once a year. Onam is this day, when people welcome Mahabali to his land.

To mark Onam, people offer prayers and arrange designs in flower on floor which is called Pookkalam. The festivities include Onasadya (feast), Pulikali (tiger dances), tug of war, Thumbi Thullal (women's dance), Kummatikali (mask dance), Onathallu (martial arts), Onavillu (music), Onaputhan (wearing new clothes), Atthachamayam (folk songs and dance), Vallamkali (boat races) among other celebrations.

What is Onasadya?
The renowned Onasadya or the traditional feast has dishes made from seasonal vegetables like yam, cucumber and ash gourd. The feast is served on a banana leaf, coated with jaggery, vegetable dishes like Thoran, Mezhukkupuratti, Kaalan, Olan, Avial, Sambhar, Dal and Payasam (sweet).
Happy Onam to MyNation readers.