Dwarfing an entire culture on Onam

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It is true, Onam and Vamana Jayanti share the same roots in the interwoven tale of Mahabali and Vamana. But, Amit Shah's countrywide greeting for the obscure Vamana Jayanti reveals misplaced, if not dubious, intent

>It began with the September issue of Kesari. The Malayalam mouthpiece of the RSS, published an article about how Onam ought not to be celebrated as a festival to welcome the much beloved King Mahabali, rather, it should celebrate Vamana, the fifth avatar of Lord Vishnu, who was the reason Mahabali was put away in the first place. The article did provoke a fair amount of noise, but things really blew up when, on the day before Onam, Amit Shah, the current president of the BJP, tweeted out ‘heartfelt’ wishes for ‘Vamana Jayanti’.









Social media erupted with criticism, accusing Shah of painting Onam, a festival that is celebrated by all of Kerala irrespective of religion, with a communal brush. Even the Chief Minister of Kerala, Pinarayi Vijayan, slammed Shah for his tweet, calling it ‘humiliating’ to the people of his State, and demanded that the senior BJP leader apologise for trying to defame not only Kerala, but also Keralites.









Although the other leaders in the BJP were quick to do some >damage control by saying that the tweet was not meant for the people of Kerala, but for those in the other States who actually did celebrate Vamana Jayanti, and that Shah would wish the people of Kerala on Onam day, it was too late. The damage had already been done.



Opinions and ‘think-pieces’ burst forth on the internet, >some pillorying both party and secretary for trying to damage the secular fabric of Kerala, and some others >criticising these critical opinions for being ignorant of alternate retellings. Even the narrative that believed >Onam being a day of mourning for Dalits, as it signified the return of the caste system in Kerala, was brought to light.



As I write this, the festival is over, the Sadyas and the inevitable afternoon naps that follow have been had, and King Mahabali has presumably returned to his realm, but questions with regard to the myth continue to be raised. Was Vamana a trickster? Why was Mahabali punished?



The story of Vamana and Mahabali (per >The Bhagavatam which chronicles the avatars of Vishnu), begins at Paataala, the underworld realm of the Asuras, which was ruled by Mahabali. His rule was peaceful, but his subjects’ morale was low, for they were still affected by their loss in the battle that took place while churning the ocean. Mahabali rounded up the wise sages in his kingdom, and asked for a solution. They told him to perform the Vishwajit Yagna, which he did. As the Yagna came to a close, a great golden chariot with a lion’s flag, yoked by beautiful white horses, and a majestic bow accompanied by a never-ending quiver of powerful arrows came out of the sacrificial pyre. As the sages and the king watched in awe, a voice boomed across the heavens, proclaiming that Mahabali that he would be the ruler of the three worlds — the netherworld, the earth, and the heavens.



Mahabali and the Asuras, invigorated by the yagna, set forth to conquer. It wasn’t long before Indra heard the news. He ran to Shiva, asking for a solution, only to be told that he couldn’t do anything to prevent Mahabali’s rule, and that Vishnu, in time, would help. Indra and the Devas knew they would be on the losing side, and so, ran away from the war. Mahabali took over the three realms, and was a wise and just ruler who ensured that everyone thrived in his kingdom. His subjects lavished praise on him and went to the extent of saying his rule was on a par with Indra’s, if not better. Everyone was happy.



Everyone, except Indra’s mother, Aditi.



Vishnu, it is said, had become so fond of Mahabali, that not only did he make Mahabali’s rule in the netherworld more prosperous than Indra’s, but he also decided to stay with the king in the Sutala , as the guard of his kingdom. At the end of it all, Mahabali considers himself the real victor, and not Indra, for he had achieved everlasting fame, a beautiful, bounteous kingdom and the lord he worshipped by his side.



Aditi was the wife of one of the Saptarishis, Kashyapa. Aditi couldn’t bear the thought of her son, Indra, in hiding while Mahabali ruled his kingdom. This, despite Mahabali being Kashyapa’s great-grandson from her own sister, Diti (Indian mythological families are on a whole other plane of complicated).



Aditi asked her husband for a solution, and he pointed her to Vishnu. And so, she meditated and observed penance to seek an audience with Vishnu, and when she succeeded, begged him to help Indra take back his kingdom. And so, the god of preservation reincarnated on earth as Aditi and Kashyapa’s son, Vamana. As soon as Vamana was born, he grew from baby, to a fully formed dwarf. It was at this time that Mahabali decided that he had to perform an Ashwamedha Yagna to cement his status as the undisputed ruler of all worlds.



One of the rituals during the yagna, was to give gifts to the Brahmins who at that time, survived only on the alms or bhikshaa that was given to them. Mahabali was so generous during that yagna, that he decided that he would give his guests whatever they wished for. When Vamana stepped forward, Mahabali’s guru, Shukracharya, recognised the dwarf for what he truly was, and tried to warn Mahabali, but his pleas fell on deaf ears, for Mahabali wasn’t one to insult his guests by declining them. Shukracharya, in his frustration, cursed Mahabali that his insolence would be the end of him, but Mahabali didn’t care. He asked Vamana to tell him what he wished for and Vamana replied that he would be content with three paces of land, as measured by his feet. Mahabali was greatly amused, and told Vamana to go ahead and measure — which was when Vamana began growing.





Vamana grew, and grew and grew. He became so large that only his feet were visible on the ground. He took one step, and claimed the mortal realms of earth. He took another step and claimed the cosmos. There was no place left for the third step. Mahabali, who had now understood who this dwarf was, told him to place it on his head, for Mahabali wasn’t one to insult his guests by declining them. Thus Vamana, now the giant, placed his foot on Mahabali’s head, and gently pushed him into the netherworld, the original kingdom of the Asuras. It is said that Vamana was so moved by the king’s generosity and his unwavering allegiance to dharma that he made Mahabali the king of the underworld.



The tale of Vamana Avatar in Kerala, as it has been passed down through the oral storytelling traditions, additionally believes that Vamana also granted the Mahabali an annual visit to his erstwhile kingdom, to revisit his subjects. This annual visit, is Onam. Houses are decorated to welcome Mahabali, and a feast prepared to celebrate his return. All of Kerala is decked up, there is a great deal of cheer, and it’s easy to see why — a great king returns, what is there to not celebrate?

CHENNAI, 14/09/2016 : A man dressed as 'King Mahabali' being welcomed as part of the Onam celebrations during the AIADMK party new member joining ceremony organised at YMCA, Royapettah in Chennai on Wednesday. Photo: G_Sribharath



^ A man dressed as 'King Mahabali' being welcomed as part of the Onam celebrations during the AIADMK party new member joining ceremony organised at YMCA, Royapettah, in Chennai on Wednesday.



It’s just as easy to see why so many sides have problems with the story. To begin with, Vamana didn’t fight Mahabali fairly to take away his kingdom. Many believe that he was tricked into giving his kingdom away, and fooling someone to get their way isn’t honourable of anyone, let alone the preserver of the universe. Let’s not forget the part where Indra got his way, without much merit to his claim, just because his mother had begged Vishnu. Was Mahabali not powerful? Was Mahabali not just? Was Mahabali not loved? Why amuse a Deva king simply because he wasn’t competent enough to hold on to his kingdom? Why is it that the Asura had to go down to the netherworld? Surely we’re missing something here.



We are.



While much has been said about Mahabali’s benevolence and power, the detail that he is Prahlada’s grandson isn’t. Prahlada, is an important character in Vishnu mythology, for his devotion to Vishnu was singlehandedly responsible for the god’s fourth avatar — Narasimha. When Prahlada was a little boy, he demonstrated a great deal of faith to Vishnu, something that angered his father, the Asura king Hiranyakashipu, immensely. Hiranyakashipu believed himself to be the most powerful, more powerful than any god, for he had received a boon from Brahma that he could not be killed during the morning, afternoon or night, that he could not be killed by man or animal or Deva or Asura, he could not be killed inside or outside his palace, and that no weapon could damage him.



And yet, his own flesh and blood believed otherwise.



Hiranyakashipu asked Prahlada if this god would do anything for him, a question which Prahlada answered without doubt — Yes. Enraged, Hiranyakashipu smacked a pillar and asked Prahlada if Vishnu would come out of that pillar that very instant — and Vishnu did. The time was twilight. Vishnu came out as half-lion, half-man, dragged Hiranyakashipu to the doorstep, and dug his fingernails into the Asura’s stomach, killing him instantly.



Prahlada, both overjoyed at the fact that his lord came to his beckoning, and also somewhat horrified at the brutal killing, bowed down to the beast in a bid to calm him down. Narasimha did, and gently picked the little Asura boy up, and told him to ask for anything that he wished for, and that it would be granted. All I want is to serve you, Prahlada said. But promise me, that no more of my family dies in your hands.



The Bhagavatam describes Vamana the dwarf to be “Shyaama Avadaatah”, or of dark complexion, which has always been Vishnu’s preferred skin tone every time he makes an appearance on earth. However, years of colonial influences on our mythology (white is always superior) combined with a caste system gone wild, ensured that the little, but significant nuances of our myths, went out the window.



And so, Vishnu, the preserver of the universe and the discoverer of divine loopholes, promised Prahlada that he would never kill any of his successors. It was this promise that led to his birth as a dwarf, instead of a many-toothed warrior. He could not kill Mahabali, for that would be dishonouring the promise he made to one of his greatest devotees. While this explains the reason why Vishnu came in a form that would not engage in a fair fight — the question still remains over why Indra got his way.



Swami Vedanta Desika, whose importance as a poet, philosopher and teacher of Vaishnavism is second only to the poet-saint Ramanuja, refers to the fifth avatar of Vishnu as “ >Raksha Vamana” — the one who protects all those who surrender to him. Indra’s mother, Aditi, surrendered to Vishnu, and so, Vishnu was obliged to protect her, and her interests — and when Mahabali surrendered to Vamana, Vishnu was obliged to protect him as well, by making Mahabali the ruler of the netherworlds. >There is a post-script story which follows the story of the Vamana avatar, that is narrated in the Bhagavatam. Vishnu, it is said, had become so fond of Mahabali, that not only did he make Mahabali’s rule in the netherworld more prosperous than Indra’s, but he also decided to stay with the king in the Sutala, as the guard of his kingdom. At the end of it all, Mahabali considers himself the real victor, and not Indra, for he had achieved everlasting fame, a beautiful, bounteous kingdom and the lord he worshipped by his side.



^ A 10-ft-tall ‘Thrikkakarappan’ made by artisans in Arimbur near Thrissur. Thrikkakarappan, a clay pyramid structure used during Onam celebrations, represents Vamana, the incarnation of Lord Vishnu. | K.C. Sowmish





The most popular, and the most significant criticism of Amit Shah’s tweet (as well as the Kesari article), was that it promoted caste superiority by celebrating Vamana, and that it undermined Mahabali, who was celebrated in Kerala as the ruler who didn’t discriminate.



The truth is, that when Amit Shah wished “Vamana Jayanti”, he wasn’t off the mark — Vamana’s birth did take place the day before Onam festival. There are temples in Tamil Nadu and some in Gujarat (his constituency), and Madhya Pradesh, which celebrate it, but the festivities are far less remarkable than Onam, which explains the furore. The only popular Indian festival involving Vamana, wasn’t even about him — it was about Mahabali’s return. Vamana Jayanti is so obscure that most of the country wasn’t even aware of it. It isn’t even a ‘festival’ — the way Janmashtami or Rama Navami is, which is why Amit Shah wishing the entire country for Vamana Jayanti is dubious and, at best, misplaced.



It was doubly unfortunate the iconography used in his tweet (and many other publications) was that of a fair Brahmin dwarf with his feet on the head on the dark Asura king. Vamana is hardly worshipped as a dwarf. The most prominent Vamana temples in Kanchipuram and Thirukoyilur, are of Vamana in his giant cosmic form as Trivikrama, or Ulagalandaar with one leg on the ground, and the other raised high, waiting to take his third step. Additionally, The Bhagavatam describes Vamana the dwarf to be “ > Shyaama Avadaatah”, or of dark complexion, which has always been Vishnu’s preferred skin tone every time he makes an appearance on earth. However, years of colonial influences on our mythology (white is always superior) combined with a caste system gone wild, ensured that the little, but significant nuances of our myths, went out the window.



Vamana does not ask to be celebrated, the same way Mahabali does not believe himself to have been oppressed by Vamana. The Vishnu who came as a Brahmin-Dwarf to take on an Asura king, is the same Vishnu who came ripped out a wall as an intestine eating Lion-Man to uphold the belief that an Asura child had. It might be convenient to believe otherwise, but to force our gloriously grey mythology, with its flawed Devas, benevolent Asuras and gods who make mistakes, into rigid frames of black and white and right and wrong wouldn’t just be doing a disservice to our ancient folklore, but also to ourselves.

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It is true, Onam and Vamana Jayanti share the same roots in the interwoven tale of Mahabali and Vamana. But, Amit Shah's countrywide greeting for the obscure Vamana Jayanti reveals misplaced, if not dubious, intent

>It began with the September issue of Kesari. The Malayalam mouthpiece of the RSS, published an article about how Onam ought not to be celebrated as a festival to welcome the much beloved King Mahabali, rather, it should celebrate Vamana, the fifth avatar of Lord Vishnu, who was the reason Mahabali was put away in the first place. The article did provoke a fair amount of noise, but things really blew up when, on the day before Onam, Amit Shah, the current president of the BJP, tweeted out ‘heartfelt’ wishes for ‘Vamana Jayanti’.









Social media erupted with criticism, accusing Shah of painting Onam, a festival that is celebrated by all of Kerala irrespective of religion, with a communal brush. Even the Chief Minister of Kerala, Pinarayi Vijayan, slammed Shah for his tweet, calling it ‘humiliating’ to the people of his State, and demanded that the senior BJP leader apologise for trying to defame not only Kerala, but also Keralites.









Although the other leaders in the BJP were quick to do some >damage control by saying that the tweet was not meant for the people of Kerala, but for those in the other States who actually did celebrate Vamana Jayanti, and that Shah would wish the people of Kerala on Onam day, it was too late. The damage had already been done.



Opinions and ‘think-pieces’ burst forth on the internet, >some pillorying both party and secretary for trying to damage the secular fabric of Kerala, and some others >criticising these critical opinions for being ignorant of alternate retellings. Even the narrative that believed >Onam being a day of mourning for Dalits, as it signified the return of the caste system in Kerala, was brought to light.



As I write this, the festival is over, the Sadyas and the inevitable afternoon naps that follow have been had, and King Mahabali has presumably returned to his realm, but questions with regard to the myth continue to be raised. Was Vamana a trickster? Why was Mahabali punished?



The story of Vamana and Mahabali (per >The Bhagavatam which chronicles the avatars of Vishnu), begins at Paataala, the underworld realm of the Asuras, which was ruled by Mahabali. His rule was peaceful, but his subjects’ morale was low, for they were still affected by their loss in the battle that took place while churning the ocean. Mahabali rounded up the wise sages in his kingdom, and asked for a solution. They told him to perform the Vishwajit Yagna, which he did. As the Yagna came to a close, a great golden chariot with a lion’s flag, yoked by beautiful white horses, and a majestic bow accompanied by a never-ending quiver of powerful arrows came out of the sacrificial pyre. As the sages and the king watched in awe, a voice boomed across the heavens, proclaiming that Mahabali that he would be the ruler of the three worlds — the netherworld, the earth, and the heavens.



Mahabali and the Asuras, invigorated by the yagna, set forth to conquer. It wasn’t long before Indra heard the news. He ran to Shiva, asking for a solution, only to be told that he couldn’t do anything to prevent Mahabali’s rule, and that Vishnu, in time, would help. Indra and the Devas knew they would be on the losing side, and so, ran away from the war. Mahabali took over the three realms, and was a wise and just ruler who ensured that everyone thrived in his kingdom. His subjects lavished praise on him and went to the extent of saying his rule was on a par with Indra’s, if not better. Everyone was happy.



Everyone, except Indra’s mother, Aditi.



Vishnu, it is said, had become so fond of Mahabali, that not only did he make Mahabali’s rule in the netherworld more prosperous than Indra’s, but he also decided to stay with the king in the Sutala , as the guard of his kingdom. At the end of it all, Mahabali considers himself the real victor, and not Indra, for he had achieved everlasting fame, a beautiful, bounteous kingdom and the lord he worshipped by his side.



Aditi was the wife of one of the Saptarishis, Kashyapa. Aditi couldn’t bear the thought of her son, Indra, in hiding while Mahabali ruled his kingdom. This, despite Mahabali being Kashyapa’s great-grandson from her own sister, Diti (Indian mythological families are on a whole other plane of complicated).



Aditi asked her husband for a solution, and he pointed her to Vishnu. And so, she meditated and observed penance to seek an audience with Vishnu, and when she succeeded, begged him to help Indra take back his kingdom. And so, the god of preservation reincarnated on earth as Aditi and Kashyapa’s son, Vamana. As soon as Vamana was born, he grew from baby, to a fully formed dwarf. It was at this time that Mahabali decided that he had to perform an Ashwamedha Yagna to cement his status as the undisputed ruler of all worlds.



One of the rituals during the yagna, was to give gifts to the Brahmins who at that time, survived only on the alms or bhikshaa that was given to them. Mahabali was so generous during that yagna, that he decided that he would give his guests whatever they wished for. When Vamana stepped forward, Mahabali’s guru, Shukracharya, recognised the dwarf for what he truly was, and tried to warn Mahabali, but his pleas fell on deaf ears, for Mahabali wasn’t one to insult his guests by declining them. Shukracharya, in his frustration, cursed Mahabali that his insolence would be the end of him, but Mahabali didn’t care. He asked Vamana to tell him what he wished for and Vamana replied that he would be content with three paces of land, as measured by his feet. Mahabali was greatly amused, and told Vamana to go ahead and measure — which was when Vamana began growing.





Vamana grew, and grew and grew. He became so large that only his feet were visible on the ground. He took one step, and claimed the mortal realms of earth. He took another step and claimed the cosmos. There was no place left for the third step. Mahabali, who had now understood who this dwarf was, told him to place it on his head, for Mahabali wasn’t one to insult his guests by declining them. Thus Vamana, now the giant, placed his foot on Mahabali’s head, and gently pushed him into the netherworld, the original kingdom of the Asuras. It is said that Vamana was so moved by the king’s generosity and his unwavering allegiance to dharma that he made Mahabali the king of the underworld.



The tale of Vamana Avatar in Kerala, as it has been passed down through the oral storytelling traditions, additionally believes that Vamana also granted the Mahabali an annual visit to his erstwhile kingdom, to revisit his subjects. This annual visit, is Onam. Houses are decorated to welcome Mahabali, and a feast prepared to celebrate his return. All of Kerala is decked up, there is a great deal of cheer, and it’s easy to see why — a great king returns, what is there to not celebrate?

CHENNAI, 14/09/2016 : A man dressed as 'King Mahabali' being welcomed as part of the Onam celebrations during the AIADMK party new member joining ceremony organised at YMCA, Royapettah in Chennai on Wednesday. Photo: G_Sribharath

CHENNAI, 14/09/2016 : A man dressed as 'King Mahabali' being welcomed as part of the Onam celebrations during the AIADMK party new member joining ceremony organised at YMCA, Royapettah in Chennai on Wednesday. Photo: G_Sribharath   | Photo Credit: G_SRIBHARATH



^ A man dressed as 'King Mahabali' being welcomed as part of the Onam celebrations during the AIADMK party new member joining ceremony organised at YMCA, Royapettah, in Chennai on Wednesday.



It’s just as easy to see why so many sides have problems with the story. To begin with, Vamana didn’t fight Mahabali fairly to take away his kingdom. Many believe that he was tricked into giving his kingdom away, and fooling someone to get their way isn’t honourable of anyone, let alone the preserver of the universe. Let’s not forget the part where Indra got his way, without much merit to his claim, just because his mother had begged Vishnu. Was Mahabali not powerful? Was Mahabali not just? Was Mahabali not loved? Why amuse a Deva king simply because he wasn’t competent enough to hold on to his kingdom? Why is it that the Asura had to go down to the netherworld? Surely we’re missing something here.



We are.



While much has been said about Mahabali’s benevolence and power, the detail that he is Prahlada’s grandson isn’t. Prahlada, is an important character in Vishnu mythology, for his devotion to Vishnu was singlehandedly responsible for the god’s fourth avatar — Narasimha. When Prahlada was a little boy, he demonstrated a great deal of faith to Vishnu, something that angered his father, the Asura king Hiranyakashipu, immensely. Hiranyakashipu believed himself to be the most powerful, more powerful than any god, for he had received a boon from Brahma that he could not be killed during the morning, afternoon or night, that he could not be killed by man or animal or Deva or Asura, he could not be killed inside or outside his palace, and that no weapon could damage him.



And yet, his own flesh and blood believed otherwise.



Hiranyakashipu asked Prahlada if this god would do anything for him, a question which Prahlada answered without doubt — Yes. Enraged, Hiranyakashipu smacked a pillar and asked Prahlada if Vishnu would come out of that pillar that very instant — and Vishnu did. The time was twilight. Vishnu came out as half-lion, half-man, dragged Hiranyakashipu to the doorstep, and dug his fingernails into the Asura’s stomach, killing him instantly.



Prahlada, both overjoyed at the fact that his lord came to his beckoning, and also somewhat horrified at the brutal killing, bowed down to the beast in a bid to calm him down. Narasimha did, and gently picked the little Asura boy up, and told him to ask for anything that he wished for, and that it would be granted. All I want is to serve you, Prahlada said. But promise me, that no more of my family dies in your hands.



The Bhagavatam describes Vamana the dwarf to be “Shyaama Avadaatah”, or of dark complexion, which has always been Vishnu’s preferred skin tone every time he makes an appearance on earth. However, years of colonial influences on our mythology (white is always superior) combined with a caste system gone wild, ensured that the little, but significant nuances of our myths, went out the window.



And so, Vishnu, the preserver of the universe and the discoverer of divine loopholes, promised Prahlada that he would never kill any of his successors. It was this promise that led to his birth as a dwarf, instead of a many-toothed warrior. He could not kill Mahabali, for that would be dishonouring the promise he made to one of his greatest devotees. While this explains the reason why Vishnu came in a form that would not engage in a fair fight — the question still remains over why Indra got his way.



Swami Vedanta Desika, whose importance as a poet, philosopher and teacher of Vaishnavism is second only to the poet-saint Ramanuja, refers to the fifth avatar of Vishnu as “ >Raksha Vamana” — the one who protects all those who surrender to him. Indra’s mother, Aditi, surrendered to Vishnu, and so, Vishnu was obliged to protect her, and her interests — and when Mahabali surrendered to Vamana, Vishnu was obliged to protect him as well, by making Mahabali the ruler of the netherworlds. >There is a post-script story which follows the story of the Vamana avatar, that is narrated in the Bhagavatam. Vishnu, it is said, had become so fond of Mahabali, that not only did he make Mahabali’s rule in the netherworld more prosperous than Indra’s, but he also decided to stay with the king in the Sutala, as the guard of his kingdom. At the end of it all, Mahabali considers himself the real victor, and not Indra, for he had achieved everlasting fame, a beautiful, bounteous kingdom and the lord he worshipped by his side.

Dwarfing an entire culture on Onam



^ A 10-ft-tall ‘Thrikkakarappan’ made by artisans in Arimbur near Thrissur. Thrikkakarappan, a clay pyramid structure used during Onam celebrations, represents Vamana, the incarnation of Lord Vishnu. | K.C. Sowmish





The most popular, and the most significant criticism of Amit Shah’s tweet (as well as the Kesari article), was that it promoted caste superiority by celebrating Vamana, and that it undermined Mahabali, who was celebrated in Kerala as the ruler who didn’t discriminate.



The truth is, that when Amit Shah wished “Vamana Jayanti”, he wasn’t off the mark — Vamana’s birth did take place the day before Onam festival. There are temples in Tamil Nadu and some in Gujarat (his constituency), and Madhya Pradesh, which celebrate it, but the festivities are far less remarkable than Onam, which explains the furore. The only popular Indian festival involving Vamana, wasn’t even about him — it was about Mahabali’s return. Vamana Jayanti is so obscure that most of the country wasn’t even aware of it. It isn’t even a ‘festival’ — the way Janmashtami or Rama Navami is, which is why Amit Shah wishing the entire country for Vamana Jayanti is dubious and, at best, misplaced.



It was doubly unfortunate the iconography used in his tweet (and many other publications) was that of a fair Brahmin dwarf with his feet on the head on the dark Asura king. Vamana is hardly worshipped as a dwarf. The most prominent Vamana temples in Kanchipuram and Thirukoyilur, are of Vamana in his giant cosmic form as Trivikrama, or Ulagalandaar with one leg on the ground, and the other raised high, waiting to take his third step. Additionally, The Bhagavatam describes Vamana the dwarf to be “ > Shyaama Avadaatah”, or of dark complexion, which has always been Vishnu’s preferred skin tone every time he makes an appearance on earth. However, years of colonial influences on our mythology (white is always superior) combined with a caste system gone wild, ensured that the little, but significant nuances of our myths, went out the window.



Vamana does not ask to be celebrated, the same way Mahabali does not believe himself to have been oppressed by Vamana. The Vishnu who came as a Brahmin-Dwarf to take on an Asura king, is the same Vishnu who came ripped out a wall as an intestine eating Lion-Man to uphold the belief that an Asura child had. It might be convenient to believe otherwise, but to force our gloriously grey mythology, with its flawed Devas, benevolent Asuras and gods who make mistakes, into rigid frames of black and white and right and wrong wouldn’t just be doing a disservice to our ancient folklore, but also to ourselves.

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Printable version | Dec 15, 2018 3:44:21 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/thread/arts-culture-society/article9118701.ece

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