Onam is the principle festival of Kerala and is linked with the legend of the mythological king Mahabali. Lord Vishnu manifested himself in the incarnation of a dwarf Vamana, and requested the powerful king for a grant of land streching three steps. When the grant was made Vishnu assumed the form of a titan and in three giant strides measured the three realms that Mahabali ruled. The generous king was ousted from his kingdom but was permitted to visit his country and subjects once a year. On Onam day the houses are cleaned, decorated and lit to welcome the benevolent ruler of yore. This is the time for the fantastic boat races at Alapuzha. Snake shaped boats rowed by almost a hundred strapping ores-men try to speed past one another egged on by cheering partisan spectators accompanied by a symphony of cymbals and drums. At Thrissur a colourful procession of caparisoned elephants is taken out.