Onam is a Hindu festival celebrated by the people of Kerala. Onam is Malayali festival which is celebrated by native speakers of Malayalam. Onam is the National festival of Kerala and it is celebrated by the people of the State with great enthusiasm and happiness. Onam day is decided based on Solar Calendar. Onam is celebrated in Chingam month (August – September) on Malayalam Solar Calendar. Chingam month is known as Simha month in other solar calendars and Avani month in Tamil Calendar. The day when Nakshatra Thiruvonam prevails in month of Chingam is considered for Onam celebrations. Thiruvonam Nakshatra is known as Shravana in other Hindu Calendars. It is the biggest festival celebrated with joy and enthusiasm by people of all communities in Kerala, with four days of State holiday.
During the reign of mighty asura (demon) king, Mahabali, Kerala witnessed its golden era. Every body in the state was happy and prosperous and king was highly regarded by his subjects. Apart from all his virtues, Mahabali had one shortcoming. He was egoistic. This weakness in Mahabali’s character was utilized by Gods to bring an end to his reign as they felt challenged by Mahabali’s growing popularity. However, for all the good deed done by Mahabali, God granted him a boon that he could annually visit his people with whom he was so attached. The festival commemorates the appearance of Vamana avatar of Vishnu and the subsequent home coming of the legendary Emperor Mahabali. Onam celebrates the Asura King Mahabali’s annual visit from Patala (the underworld). On Thiruvonam day, Asura King Mahabali is believed to visit every Malayali home and meet his people.
The celebrations of Onam start on Atham day (the day when Atham Nakshatra prevails) and continue for 10 days till Thiruvonam day. Atham Nakshatra is known as Hasta Nakshatra in other Hindu Calendars.
Rich cultural heritage of Kerala comes out in its best form and spirit during the ten day long festival. It is indeed a treat to be a part of the grand carnival. People of Kerala make elaborate preparations to celebrate it in the best possible manner. Another enchanting feature of Onam is Vallamkali,the Snake Boat Race, held on the river Pampa. It is a colourful sight to watch the decorated boat oared by hundreds of boatmen amidst chanting of songs and cheering by spectators.