Originally a Hindu festival, Onam is now celebrated by everyone in Kerala.  It occurs every year in the month of August or September after the harvest and lasts for three days.  The most important day is known as Thiruvonam and will be on August 23rd this year. 

The story of how Onam was started:

Kerala was ruled by a very good ruler called Mahabali. Kerala was very prosperous during his reign.  There was no poverty and the people were happy.  Once he performed a big yagna, or sacrificial ritual, to show his authority over the empire and show the path of truth to his subjects.  As his power grew, the gods became concerned that he was gathering too much power and thought had to be limited. 

As legend has it, Lord Vishnu was sent by the gods to destroy the ego of the king and curtail his power.  Vishnu appeared in the form of a Brahmin boy called Vamana (in this form he was called Vamanavatharam).  The king was very pleased to see the boy and asked him what he wanted as a gift.  The king’s ministers warned him to be careful as they thought there might be a trick.  The boy Vamana replied that he wanted only the land that he could cover in three steps.  The king was surprised and agreed to give the three steps of land. 

Vamana suddenly became huge and acquired the whole earth in the first step and the whole sky in the second step. As there was no place for the third step, the king asked Vamana to put the third step on his head.  The king kneeled down and Vamana put his foot on the king’s head. He pushed the king to the nether world. 

The people were very saddened with the loss of their king so Vamana promised that King Mahabali could visit Kerala once a year.  Onam is the day when King Mahabali visits Kerala. 

For the seven days preceding plus the three days of Onam, people decorate their courtyards each day with flowers. To welcome King Mahabali, everyone wears new clothes. 

The recipes this month will be selections of my favorites that are served at Onam.


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