Onam is the most important festival for Malayalees

It cuts across caste, religion and region and is celebrated with much vigour, enthusiasm and spirit

The story is that Onam celebrates the return of a legendary king Mahabali to check on how his subjects are doing.

Mahabali, a demon, is vanquished by Vamana, an avatar of Vishnu

Onam has been the subject of political controversy too. The BJP wants to celebrate it as Vamana Jayanthi but Keralites have resisted it

But what are the origins of Onam, really?

Sangam literature in Tamil composed some 2,000 years ago talks about Onam being celebrated in Madurai, the Pandya kingdom

The word Onam and the festival is described in Madurai Kanchi, one of ten song books or Pathu Pattu, among the earliest of Sangam works

In Madurai Kanchi written by poet Mangudi Marudhanar, Onam marks the birthday celebration of Mayone, a Tamil diety

What is now Kerala was a Tamil kingdom ruled by Chera kings – one of three Tamil dynasties described in Sangam.

The others are Pandyas and Cholas. There is no reference to boats, flowers and so on

But Onam in Madurai Kanchi is marked by a elephant fight contest

Onam was celebrated 2,000 years ago by Tamils in Madurai