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.
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.