A Blog on Mythology and occasionally on Reality.

This is a Blog on Mythology, both Indian and World and especially the analysis of the myths.

In effect, the interpretation of the inherent Symbolism.


Monday, August 23, 2010


Onam, a harvest festival of Kerala has its own mythology.

The main myth is that of King Mahabali. But before we get into the myth, let us know the king a little better. King Mahabali was the son of Veerochana and the grandson of Prahlad (Bhakt Prahlad is better known as the son of Hiranyakashyap who was killed by the Narasimha avatar of Lord Vishnu). Mahabali, though an asura was an ardent worshipper of Lord Vishnu.

His popularity amongst the masses made the gods feel insecure, and so Lord Vishnu took the Vamana (dwarf) avatar and landed at the venue where Mahabali was conducting the Ashwamedha Yagya, to proclaim himself as the most powerful king of the three worlds. As part of protocol when Mahabali asked Vishnu if he required anything, Vishnu asked for three paces of land as measured by his own foot. Mahabali accepted and soon the dwarf grew in a size, big enough to take the earth in one step and the heavens in the second step. To live up to his word, Mahabali gave his head as there was no other place for Vishnu’s third step, which sent him to patala, the nether world.

Mahabali’s love for his subjects was so strong that he requested that he be allowed to visit his subjects once every year and that day is celebrated as Onam.

According to another legend, once a boat laden with food got stuck in the bend of a river. It took a wise man to feed a poor and famished family living in the bank of the river to get the boat back on its course. Since then, many feed the poor on the day of Onam.

Food is a very important aspect of the celebrations. There is a saying in Malayalam that "Kandam Vittu Onam Unnanam" which means, "One should have the Onam lunch even if one has to sell all his property to arrange for it.” That is the significance of the food as part of the celebrations!

Many see the myth as a classic conflict between the Arayans and Dravidians. Many versions have tried to bestow negative qualities on Mahabali, but the people were just not interested in the myths, and thus they died a natural death. Today, irrespective of religious allegiance, all of Kerala celebrates Onam. With all due respect to a just ruler and the infamous insecurity of the gods, Vishnu’s vamana avatar is known more for the great King Mahabali and for the first time, an asura is the hero of a myth!

1 comment:

  1. and i always thought it is just an harvest festival. But any ways, there is not pooja happning on that day right! why?