ONAM The Festival of Kerala The Websters Dictionary defines a festival as a time or day of feasting and celebration. Every one of us has experienced that feeling or atmosphere at some point in our lives. Onam, the festival of King Mahabali, is one such experience. Schools, banks, government offices are all closed during this period. It is a time when families get together in one household. At a time in India when the joint family system is breaking up, everyone comes together, in a way, as a single entity. Children look forward to these ten days of celebration, and the expression of joy on their faces is difficult to describe in just words. I never remember having had a sad moment during Onam. Onam celebrates the mythical King Mahabali and his golden rule. It welcomes the spirit of King Mahabali, and assures him that his people or subjects are happy and wish him well. The story says that the gods feared the wise and good rule of Mahabali, the asura (demon) king, thinking that he might become too powerful. In many ways, he is compared to King Solomon of the Bible. The gods took the help of Lord Vishnu, the preserver in the Hindu Trinity. In the Hindu Trinity, Lord Brahma is the creator, Lord Vishnu the preserver, and Lord Shiva the destroyer. Lord Vishnu pushed King Mahabali to the nether world, that is neither heaven nor hell. Since King Mahabali was attached to his kingdom and loved by his subjects, he was allowed by the gods to return once a year. Onam is celebrated on the day when King Mahabali comes from exile to visit his kingdom and his people. Onam is celebrated in the month of September, though in some years based on the lunar calendar it takes place in August. The festivities take place for ten days. Ten days of feasting, boat races, songs and dance, and this is just part of the festival. The Snake Boat Race is my personal favorite. They dont take place everywhere in the state, only in desig…

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