For entire 5-Part story in 1-Page Format, click here: http://nmsresolution.blogspot.ca/2014/05/onam-maha-bali-vaman-vaman-jayanti-1.html
Thursday, May 22, 2014
ONAM STORY: Part 1: Benevolent king cheated and tricked by jealous gods. Is anything amiss in the currently popularized version of the story?
The popular story, current today, leads us to believe that God became partisan and cheated a benevolent king, Mahaa[i] Bali.
In this story of distant past, there are three main players. Mahaa Bali, Bhagavaan Vaaman, (the fifth[ii] Avaatar of Vishnu) and Indra[iii] (King of Devas who rules over the Swarga[iv]-Loka). Let us see what seems to be unexplained or amiss from the narrations surrounding them:
1) If Mahaa Bali was a good king, exiling him does not make sense. 2) If Mahaa Bali was a bad king, giving him boons does not make sense. 3) If Mahaa Bali was good and bad at the same time does not make sense because his subjects loved him unreservedly and no one shunned him including God the Almighty. In fact, Mahaa Bali has a pride of place among foremost Vishnu-Bhaktas. 4) Irrespective of Mahaa Bali being good or evil, why that land possessed by new owner, Vaaman, was re-transferred with political powers to Mahaa Bali’s son prince Baanaasur[v]? 5) Why did Vaaman not retain control over the legendarily happy land? 6) Was it not a mistake to trust and transfer the land and political power to son of adversary? 6) Episode of abdication by Mahaa Bali and Power transfer to Banaasur is very different from other historical[vi] transfers of power. In here, very strangely, the loser is happy, gainer is happy, subjects are happy and the agency, which forced the change, is happy. Mahaa Bali, goes off willingly, retains full respect, given ruler-ship of another kingdom (Paataal[vii]-Loka पाताल-लोक), enjoys full protection (from God), visits his ex-kingdom, is welcomed by everyone and even his adversary, the instrument of change, Vaaman is also respected by all. 7) Is it not unusual that Bhagavaan Vishnu took form of, nothing colorful but just a simple Brahmin to entice Mahaa Bali? Remember, Vishnu had disguised himself as a beautiful maiden during ‘samudra-manthan’ as an entrapment. 8) Was Bhagavaan Vishnu a deputy of Indra or an accomplice in the crime that he decided to act upon Indra’s pleading? God who takes care of everybody and everything is always fair. Is it therefore not injustice to Him, if anyone was to assume that He got into action to rid Mahaa Bali just due to unfair pleading by Indra? Surely, there could have been another independent reason that prompted Vishnu to take action. It does not make sense to believe that anyone, including Indra, could manipulate and rope in Bhagavaan Vishnu.
Above eight points suggest that there is something more to the story and that the take away message is different from what the popular tale compels us to believe. There is always more than what meets the eyes.
Take contemporary history of recent wars, it is not easy to pinpoint one single or one definite reason for the war, be it WW1, WW2 or even as latest as Iraq War. Why did allied forces, led by US attacked Iraq? Official version at one time said that it was because of stockpile of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Iraq. However, that reason proved to be false and political analysts forwarded many alternative theories. It could have been that the West wanted to exercise control over Iraq’s petroleum assets or that they wanted to help Saudi Arabia, who feared from increased military power of Iraq. May be, West feared Iraq may go beyond after annexation of Kuwait and then the possibility of Iraq’s control over Gulf waters (the main waterways that carry petroleum to the world). It could also be that US feared marginalizing their greenback due to Saddam’s insistence on selling petroleum to the world in non-dollar currency such as Euro (thereby reducing Iraq’s dependence on USD and US). This shows us that one or more than one or none of the known reason can be the real reason.
Similarly, Indra’s fear of losing Indra-Aasan[viii] (Indraasan) may not be the reason or may not be the only reason, why was Mahaa Bali exiled by Vaaman and why was he replaced by Banaasur.
From our experience with Hindu texts, we know that none of the writers of Hindu texts has ever done injustice to the characters involved. When they praise Raam, good qualities of Raavan are not forgotten and when narrating Krishna, good qualities of Kamsa and Jaraasangh are not overlooked. When praising Mahaa Bali, would they not describe his vanquisher, Vaaman? Hinduism encourages its followers to be logical, to have no inhibition in investigating until truth emerges. Hinduism does not oppose scientific enquiry.
If a good king is exiled instead of rewarded and if his detractor is not condemned but deified, an intelligent person would investigate. Especially because, those knowledgeable in Hinduism studies tell us that every element, every process and every narration in Hinduism is for the sole purpose of guiding humans to a ‘higher’ or ‘elevated’ life based on human dignity, gratefulness, selfless service and freedom from wants. Conversely, therefore, every process that has a potential of steering humans towards ignominy, ungratefulness or selfishness is unmeritorious. Its torchbearers, especially, Avataars have to set an example and cannot be cheats, jealous, partisan or unjust.
[i] King Bali is addressed as Mahaa Bali. ‘Mahaa’ is an adjective. It means ‘Great’ or ‘Big’. Adding ‘Mahaa’ to any word or noun signifies importance. Viz. Mahaa-Raaja=Great King, Mahaa-Bali=Great Bali, Mahaa-Yogi=Great Yogi
[ii] Bhagavaan Vishnu has taken nine Avataars as of now and tenth expected in future. They are, in the chronological order: Matsya, Kurma, Varaaha, Nara-simha, Vaamana, Parasuraam, Raam, Krishna, Buddha and Kalki.
[iii] ‘Indra’ is not a name of an individual but it denotes a position, a post. A king of all the Devas is known as ‘Indra’. He rules the ‘Swarga-Loka’ (heaven). From time to time various individuals have occupied the chair of Indra, known as ‘Indraasan’. The post of ‘Indra’ is given to fearless and fair administrator who has performed a thousand Ashwamedha Yagnas (Even one single ashwamedha Yagna is not easy for an extraordinarily brave man) and possessor of divine virtues and intelligence. Name of the current ‘Indra’ is Purandhar.
[iv] ‘Swarga-Loka’ means Heaven. However, the Heaven of Hinduism is completely different entity than Abrahamic Heaven.
[v] Baanaasur ruled for several years on the guidelines of good governance he learnt from Waaman. He is said to have ruled for several thousand years. Pleased with his Tapasyaa, (तपस्या), Bhagavaan Shiva was very impressed and gave him enormous powers and promised to help him every time he thought he needed His help. He became invincible. His power eventually went to his head. That proverbial truth ‘Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely’ became true and in his later life, he became such a nuisance to his own people that he had to be disciplined by divine intervention. (The word, Tapasyaa, has no exact equivalent English term, hence it is recommended to use the same Sanskrit term. However, following partial definition provides somewhat acceptable meaning as applicable to above article is: ‘Hard work dedicated to a worthy cause’)
[vi] The manner of transfer of power in case of Mahaa Bali was unusual when compared with what is known to us from History. Most transfers of power have happened only after some bloodshed; blood-less transfer-of-power in itself is uncommon. British government did exile and placed many kings, sultans and sheikhs under ‘house-arrest’ but it was done at gun point and had placed their sons/brothers as new rulers in last century or two in India and in Arabia. The outgoing rulers never relinquished their power willingly. In contrast to the ‘under duress’ and unwilling transfer of reigns, Mahaa Bali handed over reigns willingly. In the last century, in Iran, the Shah of Iran was exiled but he could never return to Iran due to hostile new government very unlike Mahaa Bali, who is welcomed back every year. In the USSR, Gorbachev relinquished his powers but broke his country in several pieces before going out, unlike Mahaa Bali whose country remained intact in the hands of his successor. Another striking difference is that the rulers who are exiled invariably end up despising those who were instrumental in pressurizing transfer of power but the history of Mahaa Bali tells us that Vaaman, who engineered the abdication, is looked at with tremendous respect. Last, but important difference between Vaaman’s legacy and that of others discussed above lies in the fact that those agencies that forced changes had always a selfish purpose of achieving political or commercial advantage whereas Vaaman did not have any personal selfish motive behind exiling Mahaa Bali.
[vii] ‘Paataal-Loka’ means, a world that is under the earth. It is also said as netherworld
[viii] Indra-Aasan or Indraasan means, ‘Seat of Indra’ or ‘Indra’s throne’