It is the homecoming of the King Mahabali to his kingdom when people adorn their houses laying out flower carpets known as ‘Pookalam’ in front of their homes to welcome back the illustrious King Mahabali. People wear new clothes and special prayers are offered early in the morning when the youngsters receive blessings and gifts from the elder members of the family.
It is during this festival period that traditional rituals are performed that are followed by a sumptuous feast with the sweet payasam and at least twenty one home made curries served on a plantain leaf.
There are extravagant pageants held comprising of fireworks, elephants, boat races and the world famous Kathakali dance which is traditionally related to this festival is performed in accompaniment to time-honored music. There is an atmosphere of rejoicing and happiness all around throughout the Onam festival.
The state government of Kerala organizes tourism week celebrations for tourists visiting Kerala showcasing the exquisiteness and ethnicity of Kerala.
There is also a tradition to play games, collectively called Onakalikal, on Onam. Men go in for rigorous sports like Talappanthukali (played with ball), Ambeyyal (Archery), Kutukutu and combats called Kayyankali and Attakalam. Women indulge in cultural activities. They make intricately designed flower mats called, Pookalam in the front courtyard of house to welcome King Mahabali.
Kaikotti kali and Thumbi Thullal are two graceful dances performed by women on Onam. Folk performances like Kummatti kali and Pulikali add to the zest of celebrations.