HOMECOMING OF DEMON KING OR THE BIRTHDAY OF VAMANA? The Contradicting Mythology Behind Onam

onam or vamana jayanti

It is another Onam in Kerala, a day Keralites across the world celebrate with merry. Kerala during Onam is marked by happiness, excitement and enjoyment among all sections of people. Onam is celebrated as an outcome of reasons that have to do with mythology as well as old agrarian practices.

The practice of celebrating Onam has often evoked curiosity among historians. While in some parts of the country, especially in the South India, when it is celebrated in the name of demon king Mahabali, in the Northern part, it is celebrated as the birthday of Vamana an incarnation of Lord Vishnu who incarnated to end the reign of Mahabali.

Onam is celebrated primarily to honour the homecoming of a mythical-demon king by the name of Mahabali. Though a demon, he was known for being generous and kind-hearted among the masses. When the gods very insecure and jealous of his popularity, they asked Lord Vishnu to help contain the demon king.

Lord Vishnu disguised himself as a dwarf and a poor Brahmin called Vamana to visit the kingdom of Mahabali. When inquired about his wishes, Vamana asked the king to grant him land covered by his three feet. Mahabali agreed to fulfill Vamana’s desire without a second thought.

But, Vamana started to grow in size and his first feet covered the earth and with the second he covered the sky. With no place for the third feet, Mahabali requested Vamana to place the third feet on his head, thus, burying himself into Pathala. An impressed Vishnu granted Mahabali the right to visit his people and his kingdom every year during Onam.

While the demon king Malabali is remembered during Onam in Kerala, in various other parts of India the day is celebrated as Vamana Jyanti to mark the birthday of Vamana the fifth avatar of Hindu god Vishnu. Mythology says that he was incarnated in a time of crisis to restore cosmic balance by creatively defeating the Asura king Mahabali, who had acquired disproportionate power over the universe.

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