Blog

Mahabali

There are travel stories of all kinds across cultures.

Kings who travel across mountains to conquer distant lands. Merchants who traverse vast oceans to distant shores. People, Food and Ideas travelling around the world.

But here’s a unique travel story of a King who traverses the realms and travels from the Underworld to meet his beloved people once every year – The story of Onam.

Mahabali Returns

Many years ago, there lived a King named Mahabali, who ruled over all three worlds – the Heavens, the Earth and the Underworld.

Mahabali was a kind and just king. His people were very happy under his rule.

But some were not so happy. Particularly the Gods, and mainly their leader Indra, who felt threatened by Mahabali’s popularity and power. They went running to Lord Vishnu for help.

“Oh please Lord Vishnu,” they pleaded. “Deliver us from the rising power of King Mahabali!”

Lord Vishnu refused. “I shall do no such thing!” he replied. “Mahabali a great devotee of mine. And besides, I see no reason to destroy him!”

Devas pleading with Vishnu
The Devas pleaded with Lord Vishnu to help them in containing Mahabali

“Oh please Lord Vishnu,” the devas pleaded once again, “Don’t you see he has become all too powerful and a threat to us?”

Lord Vishnu pondered over the request and decided he’d do something after all.

Down below on Earth, King Mahabali was preparing for an Ashvamedha yagna, a sacrifice Kings performed back in those days, where they allowed a horse to wander wildly and claimed all the territory it had traversed, as their own.

yagna.jpg
An Ashwamedha yagna was performed by kings to acquire territory. Mahabali was planning a grand yagna on Earth.

 

At the yagna, Lord Vishnu took the form of a small dwarf boy named Vamana and appeared before the King asking for alms.

“Ask for whatever you wish!” King Mahabali told the dwarf boy.

“I seek no more than land, that is covered by my three steps!” Vamana replied.

Vamana and Mahabali.jpg
Lord Vishnu took the form of a dwarf boy named Vamana and appeared before King Mahabali

“Certainly!” agreed the generous King Mahabali, surprised by how little the boy was asking for.

As soon as he had agreed, something astonishing began to take place. Vamana now began to grow in size. He grew larger and larger. Until he was so enormous that he reached the sky.

Then with his gigantic first step, Vamana covered the Heavens.

With his second gigantic step, Vamana covered the Earth!

Everyone watched with great anxiety. But King Mahabali stood by unperturbed, fully prepared to honour his word, no matter what the consequences.

vamana 3rd step.jpg
Mahabali placed himself below Vamana’s foot, before he could take his third step

Before Vamana could take the third enormous step, King Mahabali bent down at his feet, realizing his time was up. With Vamana’s third step, King Mahabali was pushed into the Underworld.

“I have granted you your wish,” the King said to Lord Vishnu, thereafter. “Now won’t you grant me mine?”

Lord Vishnu smiled, deeply impressed by the King. “Ask for whatever you wish!”

“I have been thrust into the underworld and I shall accept that with grace,” said the good King. “But allow me to return to my kingdom once every year so that I may meet my dear people and assure myself about their well-being and happiness.”

“So it shall be!” Lord Vishnu nodded, moved by the King’s deep love for his people.

Pukolam
Elaborate Pukolams or flower-rangolis mark the annual return of Mahabali to Kerala

And so it is, that every year, King Mahabali makes an epic journey to Kerala, all the way from the Underworld, to meet his beloved people who rejoice in welcoming him with pukolams or flower rangolis, great feasts, snake boat races, tiger dances and more.

This ten-day festival celebrating the return of King Mahabali, is called Onam.

Onam Sadhya.jpg
Onam Sadhya is a great feast held during Onam to celebrate the return of Mahabali from the Underworld

You can now Listen to the Story on the Site Podcast by clicking on the link below

Looking for more on Kerala? The following posts might interest you.
FIND OUT WHY THE NILGIRS ARE CALLED THE BLUE MOUNTAINS!
DISCOVER MUNNAR : LAND WHERE THE THREE RIVERS MEET
IF YOU’RE IN KERALA, CHECK OUT THE KALARI
TAKE A TOUR OF A TEA FACTORY IN KERALA
FIND OUT THE VIOLENT HISTORY OF TEA
India Travel Tales 4 Kids
India Travel Tales 4 Kids
Discovering India through Stories
Hindi is India's National Language. True or False?

What is India's National Language? Is it Hindi? Or something else? Does India have a National Language at all? Find out more about India's tryst with languages and its quest to have a common lingua franca!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *