As Malayalees in and outside Kerala get set to celebrate Onam next week, an article in an RSS magazine has called for a relook into the popular legend behind the festival. An article in the latest edition of ‘Kesari’, the RSS’s Malayalam mouthpiece, contends that instead of Mahabali, the mythical Asura (or demon) king, Onam should welcome Vamana or Lord Vishnu.
Unnikrishnan Namboothiri, professor of Sanskrit at Government Sanskrit College, Thiruvananthapuram, who wrote the article, said there is little in the epics to substantiate that Onam was observed to welcome Mahabali every year. Mahabali, he said, did not have a paunch and long moustache, as is depicted popularly. K P Sasikala, president of Hindu Aikya Vedi (Hindu united front), said, “Vamana is the incarnation of Vishnu. In the epics, even Mahabali adores Vishnu. (So) Onam should not be an occasion for disapproving Vishnu. He should be held as a freedom fighter who freed Kerala from an imperialistic force (Mahabali).”
She called the ongoing tradition an attempt to “insult and tarnish Hindu dharma”. Congress legislator V T Balram said the attempt to give Onam a new version would add communal colour to the festival.