The legend of Onam comes alive in the Thrikkakara temple. According to the legends, the mythical king Mahabali used to worship at the Siva temple here.
The legend of Onam and Thrikkakara's role
The name Thrikkakara, they say, has its origins in the word 'Thiru Kaal Karai' or the land where the lord kept his feet. Asura King Mahabali, was a just ruler and he ruled over the world and nether-world. Indra, the lord of the heavens felt challenged by his popularity and pleaded to the gods to end Mahabali's rule.
Lord Vishnu agreed to take on the avatar of a dwarf - Vamana - and met the king. He begged for as much land as would be covered by three paces of his feet. Despite his guru Shukracharya's advice, the just ruler, agreed to the dwarf's request. Vamana grew in size, covered earth and sky and did not have a place for his third foot, Mahabali, offered him his head and Vamana sent him to the nether-worlds with the agreement that he could visit his kingdom once a year - on Onam day. This incident, it is believed happened at Thrikkakara.
After the purpose of the avatar was met, Sage Kapila installed Vamanamoorthy as the presiding deity of the temple. Over the years, the Lord Siva installation here was transformed to 'Mathevar' and the Vamanamoorthy is called 'Thrikkakaraappan' or 'Onathapan'. The temple is one of the 108 Divya Desam temples in India. Divya desam temples in Kerala
Onam - then and now
During the good old days, Onam used to be a one month long festival at Thrikkakara. The Zamorin of Kozhikode used to be the presiding ruler and the 64 local chieftains used to conduct the festival. Later, it got cut short to just 10 days. The king of Kochi used to travel to Thrikkakara with the Athachamayam procession, offer his prayers here before heading back to his palace.
Everyone across the state was supposed to come to the temple and offer prayers during Onam season. Allowances were made for people who could visit the temple. Conical mud idols were expected to be consecrated at each of the 'athapookalams' across the state and worshiped.
The festival at Thrikkakara lasts 10 days now, starting on the Atham day. The main observance is the 'charthu' or decking up the god in keeping with the 10 incarnations of Lord Vishnu. The last two days are very special with people from all walks of life taking part in the Onam feast or Onasadya. The Pakalpooram is held on Uthradam day, which is the day before Onam.