For 1-Page format of all 5-parts story, click: http://nmsresolution.blogspot.ca/2014/05/onam-maha-bali-vaman-vaman-jayanti-1.html
Thursday, May 22, 2014
ONAM STORY: Part 2: Onam story, its currently popular common narration
Onam is a Puraanic story of Mahaa Bali and Vaaman taken from Bhaagavat Puraan[i]. It is a history from early ‘Treta-Yug’, much before the Ramaayan[ii] times.
King Mahaa Bali was a devotee of Bhagavaan Vishnu. His country was peaceful and subjects were happy. He ruled with fairness and kindness. Mahaa Bali was brave, generous and a man of character. He had performed Aswamedha[iii]-Yagna. Indra was jealous of him due to his superior abilities and virtues. He was scared that Bali might stake claim on Indraasan. Indra pleaded with Bhagavan Vishnu for help to save his Indraasan. To help Indra, Bhagavaan Vishnu takes inconspicuous form of an innocent smallish looking Brahmin going by the name Vaaman. He goes to Mahaa Bali and asks for land large enough for placing his 3 steps. Mentor, Guru, Shukra-Acharya forewarns Mahaa Bali about possible dangers from Vaaman. However, Bali agrees to 3-steps land. Vaaman, then expands his form into a super-giant and covers Bali’s entire kingdom in two pace. Vaaman wonders where he should place third step. Honorable Bali recognizes Vaaman as Bhagavaan Almighty and bows to Him. As there was no other place left, Bali offers his head to Vaaman, requesting Him to place His foot on it for third step. God is pleased with Bali’s gesture and gives him boons and then placing his foot on Bali’ head, pushes him down to Paataal-Loka. Driven by love for his subjects, Mahaa Bali requests that he, be allowed to visit his country once every year. Vaaman agrees. In addition, He vows to protect him and gives him the ruler-ship of the Paataal-Loka. With these boons, Mahaa Bali is still alive and visits his subjects every year. His boon of yearly-once visit inadvertently becomes a boon of long life, making him ‘Chiranjeev’[iv] (चिरंजीव having a long life just short of immortality).
Importance of Mahaa Bali in the Sanskriti: It is interesting to know that the all-important festival of Dipaavali is the last day of the Vikram Samvat year, but the Bali-Pratipadaa day is the first day of the New Year, 1st Kaartik. King Mahaa Bali has a special place in the hearts of people from Kerala. Malayalees[v] consider Mahaa Bali as their ‘king’ from time immemorial. Therefore, in Kerala, the festival of Onam, marking ‘annual-one-day-home-coming’ of Mahaa Bali, is celebrated by everyone, Hindu or otherwise. Government of Kerala celebrates Onam as ‘state festival’ (generally, secular Indian governments do not celebrate religious festivals). People of Gujarat not only honor Mahaa Bali but also his wife Vidyaavati on Gujarati New Year day, the Bali-Pratipadaa.
Importance of Vaaman in the Sanskriti: Vaaman Jayanti is an important festival for all Hindus, all over the world, as birthday of an Avataar of Vishnu. In Kerala, however, as compared to Onam, the celebration of Vaaman Jayanti is not very noticeable except among Hindu Malayalees.
Festival of Oman/Waaman Jayanti occurs in the month of Bhaadrapada on 12th Suda (Bright-half-month), which roughly translates as month of ‘Chingum’ in Kerala or Aug/Sept. The day, Mahaa Bali’s homecoming is celebrated with appropriate Pooja, preparation of sweets, feasts, new clothes, Rangoli designs and decorating homes welcoming the king.
[i] Puraan is a class of ancient holy literature. They are historic accounts stated in story form. There are tens of diferrent Puraans. The Bhaagavat Puraan covers life and times of Avataars of Bhagavaan Vishnu.
[ii] Ramaayan timeline: Late Tretaa-Yug
[iii] Ashvamedh Yagna is a sustained campaign that involves unifying all kingdoms ruled by various different kings under one ‘federation’ with the most powerful king as its head. At the end of the successful campaign, a monarch performs Ashvamedh Yagna. Only an extraordinarily brave king can accomplish this Yagna.
[iv] अश्वत्थामा बलिर्व्यासो हनूमांश्च विभिषणः। कृपः परशुरामश्च सप्तैते चिरजीविनः।। Seven persons having very long life, still said to be alive from times immemorial, Ashwathamaa, Mahaa Bali, Vyaas, Hanumaan, Vibhishana, Krupa and Parashuraam
[v] Because Keralites speak Malayaalam language, they are known also as Malayaalee.