It’s that time of the year again when Malayalis all over the world set aside their differences, forget their religions and come together to celebrate the harvest festival of Onam. But if you’re a Malayali, you know that Onam isn’t just another harvest festival. 

It’s the time when every Malayali prides themselves in belonging to such a rich culture. On Onam, everyone strives to uphold tradition in the most authentic way. From gathering flowers for the pookalam to washing the banana leafs to serve the food in, Onam brings together far-flung families and connects them like never before. 


But did you know there’s an interesting mythical tale behind this festival? Well, here you go… 

Back in the day, there was a king who ruled over parts of Kerala. His name was Mahabali and his generosity knew no bounds. But he was also an asura (demon), though that was not of consequence for his subjects because they couldn’t have asked for a better ruler. He was generous, he was kind and he was extremely loved by his people. 

But the gods did not approve of him at all. After all, he was an asura. With his popularity at an all-time high, they were getting jealous. So they decided to approach Lord Vishnu for help because they knew King Mahabali was his ardent worshipper.


Lord Vishnu took the form of a poor Brahmin dwarf called Vamanan and visited Mahabali for help. Mahabali told Vamanan that he could ask for whatever he wants. Shukracharya, Mahabali’s learned advisor, sensed that Vamanan was not an ordinary man. But Mahabali wasn’t one to back on his word. 

Vamanan asked Mahabali to give him the land that he could cover with three of his three steps. King Mahabali, being his generous self, agreed. 

As soon as the king agreed, Vamanan transformed into a massive giant. With one step, he covered the whole of the earth. With his second step, he covered the sky. Mahabali realised that with his third step this giant could destroy everything. So Mahabali asked Vamanan to put his feet on his head for the third step. 

And this, with his third step, he cast King Mahabali to the nether world. 


But Lord Vishnu was very impressed with Mahabali’s sacrifice, so he granted him a boon. Since he was very attached to his kingdom and his people, Mahabali asked Vishnu for the opportunity to come back to earth and visit his people once every year. Lord Vishnu granted him the boon and told Mahabali that he would be forever loved by his people and by Vishnu himself for his sacrifice. 

Thanks to the boon, it is believed that King Mahabali visits his people every year on the day of Onam. The festival of Onam is a tribute to King Mahabali’s selflessness and sacrifice. 

Temple Purohit

And that, my folks, is the beautiful story behind Onam. Interesting, isn’t it?