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The legend of Onam

india Updated: Aug 28, 2012 23:33 IST
RL Pathak
RL Pathak
Hindustan Times
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Today is Onam and it symbolises the dawn of a new season of happiness and prosperity. The festival is celebrated in Kerala in a big and special way.

It is the day a grateful people remember their benevolent benefactor, King Mahabali who “visits them every year” on this day to be with them.

It is time for Keralites to be thankful to their king who takes care of them even after his death as per his promise to visit his subjects once a year to reaffirm that he was and is with them.

The people rejoice during this unique festival to perpetuate their love and gratitude for their king till eternity. While they express their unstinted loyalty to Mahabali, the latter showers his blessings on his subjects.

Legend has it that Lord Brahma got happy with King Mahabali over an issue of a piece of land. Lord Brahma asked the king to seek any favour and that would be granted. The king was offered many things, including the right to rule places in addition to his own.

But a grateful Mahabali said he needed nothing but a boon to have the power to visit his people every year so he could be with them to take care of their problems. And that was gladly granted by Brahma.

That’s why on the Onam day, which also happens to be celebrated as farmers’ day, Mahabali keeps his promise and ‘joins’ his subjects to be one with them. People give Mahabali a hero’s welcome and celebrate the occasion in various ways, one of them being the famous boat race.

The festival perpetuates the bonds of love between Mahabali and his subjects. The people get together and enjoy a variety of food. It is their day not only to celebrate their king “being with them” and be grateful to him, but also to celebrate for having received bounties in the form of a bumper crop.