Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Festival of Liberation

Today we celebrate the festival of Onam in Kerala. This festival gives us a great opportunity for spiritual renewal.
A legend has it that King Mahabali was a devout worshipper of Lord Vishnu. He was sincere, honest, just and a good ruler. But he had one weakness — ego. He had conquered all the three worlds and posed a threat to the Devas (Gods), Asuras (demons) & humans. And to eradicate his pride and redeem his beloved devotee of this one sin, Vishnu came to earth in the form of a dwarf Brahmin named Vamana.
The king in his pride asked the Brahmin what he wanted for he could give anything. Vamana asked for three paces of land and the king agreed. To humble him Vishnu, as Vamana showed Mahabali that he is just a puny creature in front of God's universal stature.

Mahabali, who was a man of principles, realized God's purpose and offered his head for Vamana's footstep, as he was sent to another world. This fatal step proved a blessing in disguise for the good king — the foot salvaged and released him from the recurrent cycle of birth and death. But Vishnu granted him a boon and Mahabali asked that he return to the people, he loved so much, every year. This day of return is celebrated as Onam.

The 20th Paasuram (stanza) of Andal Thirupavai, a great Tamil devotional poetry also praises the deeds of Vishnu in his Vamana avatar in the following lines:

“Oh Valiant Lord, who removes the trembling of the thirty three (crores of) gods, by going to battles (on their behalf) and by being in front of them (in such battles), kindly awaken from sleep. Oh Lord, who cares about our protection, and is fully equipped with enormous strength and valour! Oh Lord, blemishless and pure, and the One who defeats with vigour your enemies! Kindly awaken………………… May You give us a fan, a mirror and Your Lord as well, and at this time itself, may You help us to take our (ceremonial) bath....”

This Paasuram is a supplication to Andal, the mother Goddess, to wake up the divine from his rest for the protection of his people as well as to provide the needed state for receiving the Lord, A fan, which signifies a means to withstanding and mitigating the energy of the divine presence and a mirror, which signifies a method of perceiving through reflection in the manifest the unmanifest wholeness. This is similar to the special vision Lord Krishna grants to Arjuna when he reveals his universal from. The final supplication is for help in purification of the self through a ceremonial bath, signifying preparing the inner self for divine presence.

That is why Onam is celebrated by a ritual bath, wearing new clothes and resolving to lead a new life of truth, piety, love, and humility.

Happy Onam!!!
Love to you all


  1. Festival of Liberation

    Onam is unique in many ways. Though it is associated with Hindu purnanas, it is celebrated with an intension of invoking people to lead a life of truth, piety, love and humility. It is also harvest festival. During this season people at least sing (think) about the Golden era of Mahabali for a while. This era was characterized by equality and truth and may other utopian ideals which we can only dream about in this present world.

  2. Pramod, thanks for your elucidation.