Thiruvananthapuram: As Keralites gear up to celebrate Onam, RSS has triggered a controversy by questioning the legend behind the festival, arguing that it marks the celebration of birth of ‘Vamana’ (incarnation of Lord Vishnu) and not the homecoming of demon king Mahabali.
An article published in the Onam special edition of RSS mouthpiece ‘Kesari’ claimed there was no reference in any mythological scriptures which supports the popular and widely circulated legend that ‘Vamana’ had sent Mahabali to the netherworld through deceit and the king visits the land annually to meet his subjects.
Countering the argument, senior CPI(M) leader and state Health Minister K K Shylaja said Onam was celebrated by all irrespective of caste, creed and religion and the attempt of the RSS was to bring back the bygone “upper class hegemony”. It was also a part of RSS’s agenda to “hijack the festival”, the minister alleged.
According to the popular belief in the state, Mahabali’s homecoming in the Malayalam month of Chingam to see his subjects is celebrated as ‘Thiru Onam’ annually, which falls on September 14 this year.
However, the article written by K Unnikrishnan Namboothiri in the RSS magazine argued that Onam was originally celebrated as the birthday of Vamana and not a festivity to mark the homecoming of the demon king.
“There is no such reference or explanation anywhere in mythology or epics to support the story that Mahabali was pushed to the netherworld by Vamana and he visits the land every year to meet his subjects. Then, how did such a false story become prevalent in Kerala?” the article stated.
The write-up claimed that Lord Vishnu had actually “blessed” the demon king and not “punished” him by pushing into ‘pathala’ (netherworld).
“There is no indication in spiritual texts like ‘Bhagavatham’ or ‘Narayaneeyam’ or such other authentic books that Bali was pushed to the netherworld. Instead, such texts say that the noble king had emerged victorious in the trial by Vamana and he was blessed by the God,” it said.
The writer also criticised the general picturisation of Mahabali as a man with moustache, potbelly and wearing an ‘olakkuda’ (traditional palm leaf umbrella).
“It is an attempt by some vested interest to distort the mythical stories and paint in poor light the characters of Hindu Puranas,” the writer said, adding that such attempts to destroy Hinduism should be checked.
According to mythology, Onam is connected with Asura (demon) king Mahabali, under whose reign everyone lived in happiness and equality.
Envious by his popularity, ‘Devas’ (Gods) sought the help of Lord Vishnu to get him banished into the netherworld.
But before going down, Mahabali secured a boon from Lord Vishnu to visit his subjects every year on the ‘Thiru Onam’ day.
The demon king’s annual visit is celebrated by Keralites, who lay by their front yards with floral carpets, wear new clothes and prepare a sumptuous feast.