“Mahabali lived and ruled in the Narmada area”: Union Minister’s Onam statement draws ire in Kerala

“Mahabali is known to be a benevolent king and Vamanan is considered as a villain”, Mr. Muraleedharan added.

September 19, 2022 01:47 pm | Updated 01:56 pm IST - Thiruvananthapuram

Union Minister V. Muraleedharan

Union Minister V. Muraleedharan | Photo Credit: SANDEEP SAXENA

Union Minister V. Muraleedharan's statement questioning Mahabali's association with Onam celebrations in Kerala has kicked up a row with the CPI(M) leader and Tourism Minister P.A. Mohammed Riyas alleging that the remark was not an innocent one and was aimed at creating division in society.

A week after Keralites celebrated Onam with fervour, Mr. Muraleedharan claimed that there was no known history of Mahabali ruling Kerala and termed it as a myth.

Onam folklore
It is celebrated to mark the annual visit of the Asura (demon) King Mahabali, under whose rein everyone is believed to have lived with equality and happiness. The popular story is that envious Devas (Gods) who wanted to end his rule got the help of Lord Vishnu, who took the form of a brahmin, Vamana, to trick Mahabali into donating him three steps of land. As soon as Mahabali agreed to it, Vamana grew to the size of the universe and then conquered both earth and heaven with his first two steps. The story goes that Mahabali, being the charitable and honest King he was, asked Vamana to place the third foot on his head and push him down into the netherworld, thus securing the land he had promised. However, before it happened, he received a boon from Vishnu to visit his subjects once every year, which is celebrated as Thiruvonam day in Kerala.

Controversial remarks

At an Onam celebration that took place recently at the Indian Consulate in Dubai, Mr. Muraleedharan said nobody knows how legendary king Mahabali got linked with the celebrations.

Mr. Muraleedharan, who was seen speaking in a viral video, pointed out that the anchor of that function had mentioned Mahabali as a king who ruled Kerala, and said, "In fact, that is a myth." The Minister also said that Onam has been there in Kerala for the last so many centuries and there are references of celebrations of Onam in Kerala for the last three-four centuries.

"But, how it got linked with Mahabali, nobody is able to find out. Because Mahabali, as per any known history, lived and ruled in the Narmada area. Narmada would be somewhere near Madhya Pradesh," Mr. Muraleedharan said. He added that there is no known history of Mahbali having ruled Kerala.

He said many aspects of the history might have got "distorted" during the four or five centuries of colonial rule.

"Mahabali is known to be a benevolent king and Vamanan is considered as a villain. In fact what Bhagavatam says is Vamanan gave moksha to Mahabali. That's what the original story Bhagavatam says," the Minister said.

He added that the sum and substance of Onam was that Keralites are fond of celebrations and have no issues in adapting celebrations and cultures from other parts of the country.

LDF hits back

Meanwhile, LDF convenor E P Jayarajan hit out against Mr. Muraleedharan on Saturday and ridiculed the comments made by the Union Minister. "Since when did he become such an expert in Mahabali? Was he born along with Mahabali...," Jayarajan asked.

Riyas said the RSS was disturbed with the unity of Keralites during the Onam celebrations.

"This statement is not an innocent one. They are disturbed with the unity seen among Keralites during the Onam celebrations. Their political agenda was not working here and hence they are coming up with such statements," Riyas told the reporters in the State capital.

Not the first time

The BJP had earlier courted controversy when they claimed that the Onam celebration was 'Vamana Jayanthi' and not the homecoming of demon king Mahabali, which is the popular legend behind the festival.

In 2016, the then BJP chief Amit Shah greeted the people of Kerala on Vamana jayanthi, closely after RSS in Kerala began describing Onam celebrations as Vamana Jayanthi in contrary to the popular legend.

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had asked Shah to withdraw the statement and accused him of trying to misinterpret the festival.

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