Keralites on Monday celebrated Onam, the spring festival commemorating the egalitarian utopia under the reign of mythical King Mahabali during which people lived in plenty, prosperity and equality.

People cutting across caste, class and religion decorated their homes with floral carpets to welcome the annual re-visit of Mahabali.

The legend has it that ‘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.

Before his departure, the King secured an assurance from Lord Vishnu that he would be allowed to visit his subjects on ‘Thiruvonam’ day of Malayalam calendar every year.

The festivities scaled to its crescendo in the last couple of days with towns and villages thronged by men, women and children going out for their festive shopping.

Most items associated with Onam celebrations including flowers are brought from neighbouring States as Kerala’s domestic production is not enough to meet the festive demand.

Bringing relief of the common-man, the State agencies organised hundreds of special fares across Kerala where essentials and vegetables were sold at subsidised rates.

Cultural events, showcasing the best of Kerala’s performing arts, were organised here as well as other cities and towns for a week.

The State officially honoured renowned actor Kamal Hasan, who was the chief guest at the Onam-Tourism Week celebrations here last night. The actor launched a massive eye-donation campaign in the State.

In rural areas, local youth clubs organised art and sports competitions to revive folk arts and rural sporting traditions, many of which are on the verge of extinction.

’Onasadya’ (a sumptuous feast) was another highlight of the day as people assembled for their lunch in their homes after invoking the blessings of King Mahabali.

Kerala Governor R.S. Gavai, Chief Minister V.S. Achtuthanandan and leaders of all political parties greeted Malayalees at home as well as abroad.