Thiruvonam, popularly known as Onam, a ten-day long festival of Kerala honors the homecoming of legendary emperor King Mahabali. The king is believed to have steered the golden age of the state whereby he was able to satisfy Vamana (Lord Vishnu’s avatar) with his generosity and ingenuity and was granted the wish to come home every year to his people. Celebrated in the month of Chingam (the first month of the Malayalam calendar, Kollavarsham), Onam is also touted as one of the most significant harvest festivals of the state, when its people unite to celebrate Nature’s rewards achieved through days of toil and resolve. Song, dance, boat races, feasts, parades are important elements of the carnival. The Government of India has also taken due care to promote the carnival (both nationally and globally) as the “Tourist Week” in Kerala. As a result, many local and international tourists throng the state during this time.
Atham is the first day of the fiesta while Thiruvonam marks the culmination of the celebrations. During these days people wear new clothes and put a flower carpet, Pookalam, to welcome King Mahabali into their well decorated homes. The younger members of the family receive gifts from their elders and pujas are offered in the temples.
Special attractions include Valamkalli, a snake boat race in the River Pampa, Ambeyyal (Archery), Kathakali dance among others. Thumbi Thullal and Kaikotti are two elegant dance forms brought to life by women. The grand feast features twenty homemade curries, and sweet payasam served on plaintiff leaves.