Onam- the harvest festival of India carries various legends and traditional beliefs like any other festival. But… Do you know what the actual story behind Onam festival is? Well, read on….
A long time ago, a demon king of the name Mahabali ruled Kerala. He was a wise, benevolent and judicious ruler and loved by all his subjects. Everyone lived in peace, harmony and happiness and were treated equally in his reign. Very soon his fame as a highly able king began to spread far and wide, and Mahabali continued to grow in power extending his rule to heavens as well as nether lands, wrongfully occupying his place in the sky by defeating Indra the ruler of heaven. The Devas (divine beings) feeling challenged, began to fear his growing powers, so aditi the mother of the Devas presuming that he might become over-powerful, pleaded with Lord Vishnu to curtail Mahabali's powers. Vishnu accepted her plea and took the incarnation of a Brahmin dwarf called Vamana, which is his fifth incarnation.
Vamana approached Mahabali while he was performing a yajna (a Hindu ritual done in front of a sacred fire) and impressed Mahabali with his wisdom asking for alms. Pleased with the dwarf brahmin's wisdom, Mahabali granted him a wish.
The king’s mentor, Sukracharya warned him against making the gift, realizing that the dwarf brahmin was no ordinary person. But the king who believed that there was no greater sin than going back on one's promise did not deter from his words. The dwarf Brahmin asked for a land measured by the stride of his three steps. The King, thinking that the dwarf Brahmins three steps will be of tiny significance, agreed.
Vamana then increased his size to gigantic proportions covering the entire heaven with the first step, the nether lands with the second step and last step remaining for the earth. King Mahabali, to protect his people of the Earth, offered his head for the third and final step.
Vishnu's fatal third step pushed him underground to the netherworld. However, the God was immensely impressed by the humility and love of Mahabali towards his subjects, granting him a boon to return once in a year to meet his people as requested by the king.
Onam celebrates this homecoming of the beloved King Mahabali, where people pay their tribute by making elaborate preparations to welcome their King whom they affectionately call Onathappan, who sacrificed his life to protect his people. Onam is also celebrated to remember the peaceful times and the golden era of the reign of king Mahabali.