‘Onam’ is a well known Kerala festival celebrated by all or almost all, Malayalees across the globe,irrespective of religion.But my smart 12 year son would not celebrate it.He says that he is not quite convinced and has some unanswered question on celebrating Onam.I was quite confident in convincing him and so offered to clarify his doubts.Here is how our conversation went..
Son: ‘Ma,why are we celebrating Onam?”
Me:’Son, It is believed that there once lived a wise and generous asura (demon) king, Mahabali. He was highly respected by his subjects and everybody was happy in in his kingdom. Every thing was ‘just’ in his kingdom.However ,Gods felt challenged with the growing popularity of Mahabali. They went and sought help from Lord Vishnu. King Mahabali worshipped Lord Vishnu only.
However, Lord Vishnu decided to kill the fair and just King. He took the avatar(form) of a poor and dwarf Brahmin, called Vamana and came to the kingdom of Mahabali.He visited at the right time ,that is, just after Mahabali’s morning prayers, when the King gave boons to the Brahmins.The disguised Lord Vishnu asked for some little land.King asked ‘How much land?’ To this the disguised God said,“As much land as could be covered by my three steps”.
The King saw that it was a dwarf Brahmin who had small feet.So he thought,that 3 steps would be like 3 feet of land.So he agreed and made a promise to do so. But Lord Vishnu had an intention to trick his own ‘bhaktha’ .Suddenly, Vamana increased to a massive size. With his one step he covered the whole of the sky and with the other he covered the whole of earth. He then asked for a place to put his third step.
King realised that the boy was no ordinary Brahmin and he had been tricked into this.But the good King would not go back on his promise though conditions have changed after the promise.He asked Vamana to to put his third step on his head.The Brahmin boy did so, killing Mahabali and sending him into the nether world, the ‘Pathalam’. Then suddenly Lord Vishnu was pleased with King Mahabali’s generosity and granted him a boon. As the boon, the King said he would like to visit Kerala and his people every year. Lord Vishnu was pleased to grant the request.It is this homecoming of King Mahabali that is celebrated as Onam every year.”
Son: ‘Ma,If Mahabali was a ‘just and good’ King and every one liked him,why should Gods dislike and kill him?
Me:’But Gods did not like him’
Son:’I am asking ,why Gods should hate a good King?’
It was getting a little tough for me to answer.
Me:’Fine,Let us leave all those stories,Son.Let us celebrate it just for the fun of it.OK?’
I thought that would close the discussion,but my son did not think so.He would not leave at that.
Son:’No,Ma.Actually I googled and found out that ‘Asuras’ are not ‘Demons’as you told.’Asuras’ were aborigines who did not drink alcohol.’Suras’ were alcohol drunkards.Why should a ‘drunkard’ Sura kill a non-drinking good Asura King and we all celebrate it?More over Mahabali is a good King and we should only mourn his death.Why should we celebrate death of somebody good?’
Me:’No ,Son.We are celebrating his return,not death!’
Son:’Ma,who will kill his enemy and allow him to return every year?What kind of cock and bull story are you believing in,Ma?’You said Lord Vishnu killed his own disciple.Why would a God kill some one who worshiped him?If I worship a God,will that God protect me or kill me?’
I was little confused.This little boy seems to know more than me.
Me:’O.K.Son,What do you say,then?’
Son:’I am not going to celebrate the death of a good and righteous King Mahabali.He was killed by trick.Let me not be a fool celebrating the fall and death of a righteous King by unrighteous means .Instead I will go and see Rajini’s Kabali ,on Onam day! Bye,Ma!’
I left him his way and went for our Onam celebrations.I was a little confused but I had never asked this kind of questions to my Dad ever. My son is too much.I just can’t accept the little boy’s reasoning.They need to grow to understand all these the way I understood.Hope he understands.