The story behind the Onam: Legendary King Mahabali, also known as Maveli

The story behind the Onam festival is deeply rooted in Hindu mythology and revolves around the legendary King Mahabali, also known as Maveli. The tale goes as follows:


King Mahabali was an Asura (demon) king who ruled the kingdom of Kerala with exceptional wisdom and benevolence. Under his rule, Kerala experienced a period of unparalleled prosperity, happiness, and equality. The kingdom flourished, and Mahabali's reign came to be known as the golden era in Kerala's history.


Mahabali's virtues and generosity earned him immense respect and love from his subjects, and he became highly popular among both humans and gods. However, this popularity became a cause of concern for the gods, especially Lord Indra, the king of the heavenly gods, who feared that Mahabali's power and influence would surpass theirs.


To address this situation, the gods sought the help of Lord Vishnu, the preserver in the Hindu trinity. Vishnu agreed to assist them and decided to test Mahabali's devotion and virtue. Taking the form of a dwarf Brahmin named Vamana, Lord Vishnu arrived at Mahabali's court during one of his grand sacrificial ceremonies.


Impressed by the young Brahmin's humility and appearance, Mahabali asked Vamana what he wished for as a gift. Vamana replied that he only desired three steps of land. Curiously, Mahabali granted his wish without hesitation.


To everyone's astonishment, the dwarf Brahmin Vamana transformed into a colossal cosmic form and covered the entire earth with his first step. With the second step, he enveloped the skies and all of existence. With no place left for his third step, Mahabali, true to his word and devotion, offered his head for Vamana to place his foot.


Lord Vishnu was deeply moved by Mahabali's selflessness and loyalty to his word, and he granted him a boon. Since Mahabali's wish was to see his kingdom and people once every year, Vishnu allowed him to return to Kerala once a year during the harvest season to ensure the prosperity and well-being of his beloved subjects.


It is this annual homecoming of King Mahabali that is celebrated as the Onam festival in Kerala. Onam is a time of joy, thanksgiving, and cultural festivities as people welcome their beloved king and relish the memories of his benevolent reign. The ten-day festival is filled with traditional rituals, colorful decorations, grand feasts, folk dances, and various social events, making it one of the most cherished and significant festivals in Kerala's cultural calendar.