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Malayalis on Monday celebrated Onam, their spring festival commemorating the egalitarian Utopia under the reign of King Mahabali when people lived in plenty, prosperity and equality.
Cutting across caste, class and religious barriers homes were decorated with floral carpets to welcome the annual re-visit of Mahabali. The legend has it that the 'Asura' king Mahabali was banished to the netherworld by Lord Vishnu, who took the incarnation of Vamana the dwarf, under pressure from 'Devas', who were jealous of the King's popularity.
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Before going down, the King secured an assurance from Vishnu that he would be allowed to visit his subjects on the 'Thiruvonam' day of the month of Malayalam calendar every year.
Regardless of the soaring prices, the festivities scaled to its crescendo in the last couple of days with towns and villages thronged by men, women and children doing their festival shopping.
Bringing relief of the common man, the state agencies organised hundreds of special fares across the state where essentials and vegetables at subsidised rates were made available.
Thousands of devotees also greeted the decorated Garuda-faced temple boat, carrying special provisions for Onam sadhya (feast) at the famous Parthasarathy temple on the banks of river Pampa in Aranmula.
The boat, Thiruvonathoni, escorted by palliyodams (snake boats) started its ceremonial ride from Maha Vishnu temple ghats at Kattoor near Cherukol, upstream of Kozhencherry on Sunday.
The temple head priest handed over an oil lamp from the sanctum sanctorum to Narayanan Bhattathiri, eldest member of Mangattu Illom at Kumaranalloor here, who has the customary right to ride on the boat.
Legend has it that the head of the Brahmin household of Kattoor Madhom at Cherukol used to feed a Brahmin every day as part of offering food in the name of Lord Krishna. One day none turned up to accept the offering.
He prayed to the Lord and a few minutes later, a Brahmin boy appeared there seeking food. The Bhattathiri served him with a sumptuous Onasadya (feast), after which his family had food.
The boy before returning, told the Bhattathiri to take the feast to the temple at Aranmula from next year. The Bhattathiri later realised that the boy was Lord Krishna and decided to take the feast to the temple on the eve of every Onam.
Though the Bhattathiri had migrated to Kumaranallore, the centuries old custom continues without fail.
Cultural events, showcasing the best of Kerala's performing arts were orgnised in the state capital Thiruvanthapuram as well as other cities and towns across the state for a week.
The state officially honoured thespian Kamal Hasan, who was the chief guest at the Onam-Tourism Week celebrations in Thiruvanthapuram on Sunday night. The actor launched a massive eye-donation campaign in the state.
In rural areas, local youth clubs organised art and sports competitions, as part of revival of folk arts and rural sporting traditions, many of which are on the verge of extinction.
Kerala Governor R S Gavai, Chief Minister V S Achtuthanandan and leaders of all political parties greeted Malayalis at home as well as abroad.