RSS magazine article rejects popular legend for Kerala’s Onam festival | india-news | Hindustan Times
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RSS magazine article rejects popular legend for Kerala’s Onam festival

Onam marks the birth of Vamana, who is an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, and not the homecoming of Mahabali, a mythical demon king associated with Dalit identity, says the organisation.

india Updated: Sep 11, 2016 17:55 IST
A floral decoration depicting Mahabali visiting Kerla is seen in a temple in Mayur Vihar, east Delhi.
A floral decoration depicting Mahabali visiting Kerla is seen in a temple in Mayur Vihar, east Delhi.(Sonu Mehta/HT PHOTO)

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has angered its political opponents in Kerala by challenging the legend behind Onam, the state’s main Hindu festival which will be celebrated on September 14 this year.

The RSS argued in its mouthpiece Kesari that Onam marks the birth of Vamana, who is an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, and not the homecoming of Mahabali, a mythical demon king associated with Dalit identity. It said there was no reference in scriptures which supports the popular legend that Vamana had sent Mahabali to the netherworld through deceit.

According to popular belief, Mahabali comes home in the Malayalam month of Chingam to visit his subjects and the occasion is celebrated as Thiru Onam.

However, the RSS article written by K Unnikrishnan Namboothiri argued that Onam was originally celebrated as Vamana’s birthday and not as a festivity to mark Mahabali’s homecoming.

“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?” it said.

The writer also criticised the general picturisation of Mahabali as a man with moustache, pot belly and holding 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,” said Namboothiri, adding that such attempts to destroy Hinduism should be checked.

Kerala minister Shylaja rejected the RSS’s argument. “Perhaps, lower caste or Dalit people were portrayed as demons in our mythical stories. Mahabali is considered to be a demon king. So, he represented the downtrodden,” said Shylaja.

“The present RSS move is to eliminate the achievements of a Dalit ruler and picturise that the upper class is the supreme,” she said.

Historian M G S Narayanan, a former chairman of Historical Research Council, said there are records that Onam was celebrated as Vamana Jayanthi (birthday of Vamana) centuries ago in the state.

“Mahabali is a mythical character and his story has nothing to do with the history. But, there are historical references that Onam was celebrated as Vamana Jayanthi in the state during early periods, especially during 9-11 century AD,” he said.