Onam is the most biggest festival in Kerala. It is the National Festival of Kerala with State holidays on 4 days starting from Onam Eve (Uthardom) to the 4rd Onam Day. Its also one of the most secular festival. Onam Festival falls during the Malayalam month of Chingam (Aug - Sep) and marks the homecoming of mythical King Mahabali who Malayalees consider as their King. Onam is a reminiscent of Kerala's agrarian past, as its considered to be harvest festival. Onam festivities last for ten days and brings out the best of Kerala culture and tradition. Intricately decorated Pookalam (floral carpets), the mammoth Onasadya (the festival feast), breathtaking Snake Boat Race and the exotic Kaikottikali dance are some of the most remarkable features of Onam, Kerala's harvest festival. Though the festive mood is spread everywhere in Kerala, the focal point of Onam celebrations happens in Kochi. The 10 day festival starts off with Aathachamayam (The Royal Parade on Aatham Day) in Thripunithara (a suburb of Kochi City). The Parade is extremely colour and depicts all the elements of Kerala culture with more than 50 floats and 100 tableaux. The main center of festival is at Thrikakkara temple within Kochi City, believed to be the ancient capital of King Mahabali. The Temple festival also marks the start of Onam The festival is celebrated in memory of the mythical King Mahabali and his reign, during which perfect harmony and prosperity prevailed. The King Mahabali's popularity was at its height and led to the envy of the Gods. This golden age ended when Vamana, the dwarf incarnation of the Hindu god Vishnu, expelled him from his throne to the netherworld. On account of his virtue, Mahabali was allowed to visit his subjects once a year, during Onam. Though the myth behind Onam is a Hindu tradition, the festival is equally celebrated in all its zest and glitz by all communities like Christians, Muslims etc. There are special Masses for Onam day in churches and get-together among Muslim families Onam today is considered to the biggest Shopping festival in urban areas, particularly Kochi, Thiruvananthapuram, Kozhikode etc. Most of the shops give Mega discounts and special promotions happen for White goods as well as electronic items, making an ideal time for shopping. Dress and fabrics get a special attention during this season and make any shoppers crazy to shop with they die with fatigue. Onam's Eve called as Uthradom is the biggest day for shopping, when its a day for heavy rush for final Onam Shopping, thus calling it as Uthradom Pachil (Uthradom Rush) in almost every part of the state. Onam day (Thiruvonam) is a silent day, with most of the festivities limiting to homes. In major metros, Onam Special Sadhya (Onam Buffet) are arranged in almost all hotels. Onam feast is the largest of all Feasts in Kerala where minimum 25 to 30 Curries and 4 to 5 Desserts are served. Normally Onam is a pure Veg festival and people of all religions do adopt Veg Foods on Thiruvonam day considering its traditional Hindu origin. However in Malabar side, its complusory to have Non-Veg along with Onam Sadhya. Onam evening is marked with village games and cultural programs, mainly limited to rural areas. Thiruvanathapuram city has the biggest official celebrations with 10 day and night long dance, music and various events along with heavy illumination and fireworks. Recently official celebrations are extended to Kochi and Kozhikode, though not of the scale as in Thiruvanathapuram. However many private functions and events mark on these Onam Days

Myth behind Onam Festival :

An Asura king Mahabali rules in Kerala. Though he is a demon king yet he is a benevolent and a wise ruler. All the people live harmoniously in his kingdom. One day Lord Vishnu in the pseudo of a dwarf comes to test King Mahabali. He asks three feet of land and Mahabali laughs at this little wish of the dwarf and tells him to take it according to his wish. Suddenly Vamana takes a huge shape and covers the whole earth by one foot and the sky with another foot. Then he asks for the third feet of land for his third feet. Mahabali comes to know that Vamana is not an ordinary person, so he shows his head for the third foot. Keeping his third feet on the head of Mahabali, Vamana pushes down the king under the earth. The king then asks Vamana his true identity. When Maha Vishnu unveils him, Mahabali is overjoyed. Then Vishnu asks him if he asks for any boon. Mahabali tells him that he wants to visit Kerala once in a year. And Onam is celebrated when Mahabali visits Kerala once in a year.

Onam, a Festival of Love and Unity :

Onam festival has been celebrated in Kerala for last several centuries and this is the only festival which appeals all the people of the state.

The festival of Onam lasts for ten days. To welcome King Mahabali people decorate their houses. Colorful Flower mats are placed in front of the houses. People wear new dress, visit the temples. Dances like Thiruvathirakali, Thumbi Tullal, etc are performed at the temples. On the Thiuruvonam day they all have great lunch.