Being an extremely popular and most remarkable festival of Kerala, Onam is bound to be associated with many legends across the state. Not every legend is widely accepted, though two of them hold significance and the people have tremendous faith in them.
Among the available lot, the legend of King Mahabali is the most popular and enjoys a widespread unanimity. This legend bases its origin on the popularity of the mythological King Mahabali who put Kerala on the path of extreme prosperity. The rising fame of the king became a cause of concern for the Gods who, in turn, decided to make him irrelevant. The king was deliberately packed off to a different world; however, his request to visit the people each year on a specific day was met by the Gods and since then, Onam history has been in existence. It’s assumed by the people that the King visits each year on the day of Onam to bless the masses.
The story related to boat Palliodam is another legend which gets a lot of takers in Kerala. As per the tale, a food-laden boat got stuck in the river, and stopped moving any further. The boat could not even move an inch further until a poor family was fed and from this onward, the tradition of feeding needy and poor came into existence. There are many more, but these two legends of Onam are most accepted ones, as the majority have full trust in both of them.
According to the Hindu mythology, Mahabali was the great great grandson of a Brahmin sage, Kashyapa and grandson of Prahlada. This links it to the Puranic mythology of Prahlada of Holika fame in Hinduism, who is the son of demon dictator Hiranyakashyap. Prahlada, despite being born to a demonic Asura father who hated Vishnu, rebelled against his father’s persecution of people and worshipped Vishnu. Hiranyakashyap tries to kill his son Prahlada, but is slained by Vishnu in his Narasimha avatar, Prahlada is saved.