HomeUncategorizedThe Legend of King Bali and the Timeless Festival of Onam

The Legend of King Bali and the Timeless Festival of Onam

Onam is one of the most celebrated festivals in the southern Indian state of Kerala. It is a harvest festival that marks the homecoming of the legendary King Mahabali, or King Bali, as he is popularly known. The festival typically falls in the Hindu month of Chingam (August to September) and lasts for ten days. Onam is a time of joy, cultural performances, elaborate feasts, and colorful decorations.

The Legend of King Bali

The story of Onam is intricately linked with the virtuous and generous King Bali. According to Hindu mythology, Bali was a powerful demon king who ruled over Kerala and several other regions. He was known for his wisdom, bravery, and benevolence. Under his rule, the kingdom of Kerala prospered, and his subjects were content and happy.

However, King Bali’s growing power and influence began to worry the gods in heaven, particularly Lord Indra. They feared that Bali would become too powerful and challenge their supremacy. In response, Lord Vishnu, one of the principal deities of Hinduism, decided to test Bali’s generosity and devotion.

Vamana Avatar

To test King Bali, Lord Vishnu took the form of a dwarf Brahmin named Vamana. He approached Bali during a great yagna (sacrifice) organized by the king and asked for a simple boon: three paces of land measured by his own three steps.

King Bali, known for his generosity, agreed without hesitation. However, as soon as King Bali granted this wish, Vamana began to grow in size. With one step, he covered the earth, and with the second step, he covered the heavens. When Vamana asked Bali where he should place his third step, Bali offered his own head, as he realized that Vamana was none other than Lord Vishnu himself.

Banishment to the Netherworld

Pleased with Bali’s humility and devotion, Lord Vishnu spared his life. Instead, he decided to send King Bali to the netherworld, a place known as Sutala, where Bali could continue to rule. Lord Vishnu granted Bali the boon of visiting his kingdom and people once a year, during the harvest festival of Onam.

Significance of Onam

Onam celebrates the return of King Bali to Kerala. It is a time when people express their gratitude to the king for his benevolent rule and seek his blessings for a bountiful harvest. The festival is marked by elaborate floral decorations called “Pookalam,” traditional dance performances such as Kathakali, boat races known as “Vallam Kali,” and a grand feast known as the “Onasadya.”


The Onam feast, or Onasadya, is a grand vegetarian meal consisting of numerous dishes served on a banana leaf. It typically includes rice, sambar, avial, thoran, olan, pachadi, payasam, and many more delicious items. The meal is an essential part of Onam celebrations, and families and communities come together to enjoy this sumptuous feast.


Onam is not just a festival but a reflection of Kerala’s rich culture, traditions, and the enduring legacy of King Bali’s generosity and devotion. It is a time when people of all backgrounds come together to celebrate unity, love, and the spirit of giving. The legend of King Bali and the festival of Onam continue to be cherished by the people of Kerala and serve as a reminder of the importance of humility and compassion in our lives.

Also Read: The Benevolent King Bali: A Tale of Vamana Avatar and the Sacred Mantra

Manish Singh
Manish Singhhttps://infojankari.com/
Manish Singh is a digital marketer by profession and have worked in health industry for more than 5 years. He is a certified Naturopathist and a yoga and meditation practioner for over 6 years. He is also a writer and editor in various content types and topics.


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