For all the non malayalees , who in my opinion are just people on the way to becoming malayalees, let me enlighten you on the origin of this festival.
Long long time ago, Kerala was ruled by an Asura named Mahabali. This was during the times of heavy caste system among the gods. Mahabali was a good king and was so loved by his people that, the gods became jealous since the people were pretty happy with the king and didn't need much from the gods. To make matters worse the guy was an Asura, whose role untill then was to give Brahmins headache, cause trouble to the gods, once in a while meditate and get great powers from the gods, who then gets a chance to come down to earth and kill the said Asura with the same powers that was given to him.
Gods ,when they don't have people clamouring all over them with petty needs and prayers, tend to become pretty cranky and petty. Just read your books.
So one of the big honcho who goes by the name Vishnu, came down to visit the king in the form of a dwarf. Why a dwarf? Beats me. This guy seems to have a major identity crisis and keeps visiting us in various guises. Maybe he just loves the get up. Who can blame him? He spends eternity lying on a snake with his wife at his feet. Enough to drive anybody nuts. I guess this comes under the label of entertainment.
Anyhow, the dwarf reaches the king, while the king is engaged in a yagna. Yagana was what our kings used to do. It basically kept our Brahmins employed and primarily consisted of polluting the air by pouring all sorts of stuff into a fire , while making noises in a supposed language only the brahmins understood. Why? I dont know. It was supposed to appease the gods.
So as was the custom, the king offered the dwarf a wish. The dwarf asked for 3 paces of land. The king was amused but agreed. Immediately the dwarf started growing in size. Somewhat like that Mallu child actress Baby Anju.
With his first step he covered the underworld and earth. That explains this guy's flattened face:
With the next step he covered the heavens. Since everything was kind of covered, Mahabali offered his head for the god to place his last step. Hence the famous mallu come back line when asked 'where?'. Ente thalayil ( On my head) or Ninte Thalayil ( On your head) or Avante thalayil (On his head)
So before stamping him down to the underworld, the god, being very pleased with the king, probably as a PR stunt, gave Mahabali the boon of coming and visiting his kingdom once every year.
So, to add insult to injury, after stomping down a great king who was loved by his people, for being an Asura, the god ensured that he gets to see the steady decline of his country and its people for a day every year.
Talk about a crappy deal.
But it kind of makes up for this:
The second greatest thing to have come out of Kerala.
The greatest is this :
Note : All actress,porn stars and underworld kingpins depicted here are fictionary and any resemblence to any living or dead characters are coincidental.