Keralites on Friday celebrated Onam, their most important and colourful festival, with traditional gaiety and fervour commemorating a mythical past of plenty, peace and equality.
Homes and temples were decorated with floral decks to welcome the mythical King Mahabali, who is believed to visit his subjects on the ‘Thiruvonam’ day of the Malayalam month of Chingam (first month of the Malayalam calendar).
Cutting across class, caste and religious barriers, all sections of people joined the harvest festival. Legend has it that Kerala was once ruled by the ‘Asura’ king Mahabali, under whose reign everyone were happy and lived in an Utopia where falsehood and deception were unknown.The ‘Devas’, however, grew jealous of the popular king and had him banished down to the netherworld by Lord Vishnu, who incarnated as Vamana, the dwarf, for the purpose.
Before going down, Mahabali secured a boon from Vishnu that he would visit his subjects on ‘Thiruvonam’ day every year.
Over the centuries, Onam has assumed a secular dimension and state-sponsored cultural programmes and public festivities have become an integral part of the festival.