Legends of Onam: Let us all welcome Machiavelli, the righteous king!


The mythical King Mahabali, considered to be one of the greatest kings to have ever ruled Kerala, is believed to ascend to Earth from the netherworld to meet his subjects once every year.


It is his homecoming that is celebrated as the festival of Onam, as we know it today.


Taking the form of a poor Brahmin monk named Vamana, Vishnu approached the king and asked to be granted a boon. Mahabali, who was known for his altruistic qualities, readily agreed to the monk’s request.


Vamana wished for a parcel of land that he could cover in three paces or steps. Amused by such a trivial request, the king granted his wish. However,the ‘simple’ monk soon transformed into a giant – and covered all of the king’s lands in just two steps.


Where to put the third step? The king could not go back on his word. Having nothing left that he could pledge, Mahabali offered his head to the monk as the third step. Vamana’s final step pushed the king to the netherworld, thusrobbing him of his earthly commitments and his throne to heaven.


Sri Vishnu offered the king a chance to visit his kingdom once every year, for his attachment to his subjects was well known even amidst the gods.

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And thus, the festival of Onam came into being, marking the homecoming of the noble king, who is lovingly called Maaveli by his people.


Different rituals are practiced even today that celebrate the reign of the king, which is considered to be a golden era in the history of Kerala.


Though Mahabali was a powerful Asura and a great devotee of Lord Vishnu, he had subjugated all the three worlds - including Earth the realm of humans, and Heaven the realm of gods like Indra. He was undoubtedly a great emperor, but his own pride had consumed him. Vishnu in his avatar as Vamana saves his great devotee from pride by showing him who is the true master of the three worlds and makes him retreat peacefully to his own realm (netherworld). He waits therein all glory to take over as the Indra of a subsequent cycle, per the blessing of Vishnu himself.



Source: Better India


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