Thiruvonam: Kerala's festival
Declared as a tourist festival by the Government, Onam or Thiruvonam has been celebrated as the highpoint of the harvesting season. Onam comes during August-September or Chingom, the Malayalam month. For ten days before Thiruvonam, the front yard of homes is decorated with a special carpet-like design of flowers or Athapoovu. The clay idol of Thrikkakkara Appan is placed in the middle of the decorated area.
On Thiruvonam, prayers are offered at temples in the morning. Everyone wears new clothes and presents are distributed to family members. A feast of delicious Kerala food is served on banana leaves for the family. Thiruvonam is also the time for home-coming, community feasting and a host of cultural programmes. Sporting encounters are organized for men and women of all ages on that day and the big attraction in the cities are the boat races, which draws thousands of tourists.
Thiruvonam is held to honour King Mahabali, a mythological king of ancient Kerala, whose reign was considered the golden age in the history of the state. The king had all the virtues and his regime was marked by equality and harmony. However, the golden age ended abruptly ended when Vamana, the dwarf incarnation of Vishnu, unseated Mahabali. Before giving up his throne, Mahabali asked one favour: to visit his people once a year. And the day he comes to Kerala is Thiruvonam, the tenth day in the month of Chingom. Mahabali's visit also coincides with the harvesting season in Kerala.
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