ONAM – The Rituals, Legends and the Nonsense.

The Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal has drawn flak for extending “Vamana Jayanti” greetings on Onam’s occasion. For a change, Kejriwal was right for the first time. The regionalists, Marxists, and also the pseudo bigots, in their collective attempt, declared that Onam has nothing to do with Vamana Jayanti, and it has offended Keralites.


So why do people celebrate Onam at all?

The Legend Of Vamana And Mahabali:

As per the Skanda Purana, Bali was Prahlada’s grandson, the foremost of Vishnu Bhakts, an Asura and a Brahman. So too was the Asura king of kings Bali Raja. Mahabali, who ruled Kerala, was a wise and fair king, who loved his people very much. It was a perfect Utopian society. His power extended from Patala (netherworld) to Swarg (heavens). King Bali performed austerity and became powerful than Devas. He will soon be able to conquer heaven in this battle after completing 100 Yagnas.

Hence, Indra went to Lord Vishnu and asked for his help. Bali Raja was powerful and egoistic, but a devout worshiper of Lord Vishnu and the Lord wanted to redeem his devotee of the sin. Bhagwan Vishnu accepted the plea and decided to incarnate as a Brahmin dwarf called Vamana. He took the birth from Aditi’s womb, wife of Sage Kashyap, on the Shukla Paksha of Bhadrapad. It was the fifth incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Shrimudagvad Purana and Vishnu Purana have described the Vamana incarnation of Lord Vishnu in great detail, describing the glory of Lord Vamana.

When Vamana grew up, he went to King Bali. Bali was doing the 100th Vedic Yagna called Vishwajit with his priest and preceptor, Shukracharya. King Bali wanted to give Dakshina to Brahmin Vamana. Bali’s preceptor, Shukracharya, warned him that Vamana was not any ordinary person and God himself. Vamana only wanted the land that he could cover in three steps. Mahabali agreed to fulfill his wish.

The Vamana began to grow in size and encompassed heaven and netherworld (Patala) in two steps and looked for his third step. The benign King offers his head, and the Brahmin pushed him to the ground sending him to Sutala.

mahabaliPleased with his humility, Lord Vishnu granted Mahabali a boon. Bali asked Lord Vishnu to be present with him so that he can worship him. Lord Vishnu gave moksha to the king and allowed him to return to visit his kingdom and its people every year. As per Srimad Bhagavatam, Lord Vamana served as Bali’s gatekeeper in Sutala, which is grander than Svarga. [Photo Credit @TIinExile Twitter handle] Such beautiful, absorbing relation between the Bhagavan and Bhakta is challenging to comprehend for the hateful commies.

As per Bhagavat Puran, Bhagwan Vishnu took birth as Vamana on Shravana Dvadashi. This is precisely the time of Onam Eve. The Onam festival is celebrated for four days until Purnima. Even South Indian tradition agrees that Onam is the celebration of “Asura destroying Lord Vamana” and returning his devotee King Mahabali to meet his people. Mahabali comes back every year from Sutala to see his land and people and celebrate Lord Vamana’s birth at Vamana temple in Thrikkakara, the “place of holy foot” in Kochi.

Thrikkakkara Vamana Moorthy Temple
Thrikkakkara Vamana Moorthy Temple

The earliest record of Onam in Kerala comes from the 5000-year-old Thirikkara Vamana temple where the processions of Vamana Murti are carried out. The Onam celebrations across the state start off with a grand spectacular caravan at Thrippunithura, the town of Vedas, near Kochi called “Athachamayam,” a cultural fiesta.



The devotees keep a fast, worship the Vamana’s image/idol, and stay awake the entire night to recite the Vishnu Sahasranama. Several delicious foods are prepared and offered to Lord Vishnu. The most important part of the Onam celebrations is Thrikkakara Appan. Earthen mounds, which look somewhat like square pyramids, representing Mahabali and Vamana, are placed in the dung-plastered courtyards in front of the house and beautifully decorated with flowers. Young boys are invited, and umbrella and other small gift articles are offered to them. The traditional Onam celebrates this aspect even today.

The nonsense:

ThomasKerala’s Finance Minister Thomas Isaac greeted people of Kerala on Onam by talking about “Vamana who cheated” the narrow mindedness of communists. This communist bigot thinks all Malayalis are all also bigots. These evangelists who cheat masses by copying the Vishnu Suprabhatam, by modifying and selling it as Jesus Suprabhatam, may soon sell Onam as a festival for Dalit Christians. In a few years, they may come up with legends of Mahabali being the elder brother of Saint Teresa or a disciple of Carl Marx. Hallelujah!

DravidaThere is another nonsense spread about ‘Aryan’ Vamana and ‘Dravidian’ Mahabali. The legend @TIinExile on his Twitter handle debunked this also in seconds posting this pre-modern painting from Mankot (c.1700), in which Vamana is depicted as a dark-skinned dwarf, and Mahabali, the descendant of Rishi Kashyapa, as a Brahmin with a Choti.

Since Hindus do not follow one centralizing authority, the mode of celebration of Onam festival has also diversified among various communities, and they celebrate the festival in different ways. The communists and evangelists take advantage of this phenomenon and have systematically attempted to divorce Onam from its Hindu roots.


3 responses to “ONAM – The Rituals, Legends and the Nonsense.”

  1. Thanks for such an informative article. I enjoyed the legend part as well as the nonsense 🙂
    Very nicely written. Will wait for more and more..


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