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RSS article questions Onam legend, triggers row

nationpaper Updated: Sep 12, 2016 07:42 IST

THIRUVANATHAPURAM: Even as Kerala prepares to celebrate Onam, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has triggered a controversy by questioning the very legend behind the festival.

An article published in the Onam special edition of RSS mouthpiece Kesari has claimed that the festival celebrates the birth of Vamana, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, and not the annual homecoming of demon king Mahabali. Neither mythology nor scripture say that Vamana had sent Mahabali to the netherworld through deceit, granting him permission to visit his subjects once a year, it added.

Discarding the popular belief that Vamana had punished Mahabali by relegating him to ‘pathalam’ (the netherworld), writer K Unnikrishnan Namboodiri said Vishnu — in his fifth incarnation as a Brahmin dwarf — had actually blessed him. He also criticised the general picturisation of the demon king as a man with thick moustache, potbelly and an umbrella made of palm leaves. “It is an attempt to show Hindu characters in poor light,” he said.

The Left was quick to target the RSS. “They want to eliminate the achievements of a Dalit ruler and glorify the upper castes,” said state health minister KK Shylaja.

Legend describes the reign of Mahabali as a prosperous one. In an attempt to end the demon king’s reign, Vishnu approaches him in the guise of Vamana and seeks three strides worth of land. Mahabali agrees. To his surprise, the dwarf grows to gigantic proportions, covering heaven and hell in two strides. The king offers his head for the third.

The RSS, however, said the writer’s views were “personal”.

First Published: Sep 12, 2016 07:41 IST