There is no easier way to put the title. Onam is a festival among some smart ass fishermen – malayalis/south of india lol.
The celebration is for the king maha bali. Probably was popular for some reason now only in kerala. This king was cool, and he was just and he was kind and patient and powerful. And he was a demon (asura).
The festival is a kind hearted loving sentiment for this kind of legend. The festival spread over some 10 days shows the lavish and complete sides of malayalis (not bound by any religion now). Its a time of utter spending and celebration. From good clothes, food and lights and of course everything sublime.
The celebration should have been across India, for the legend – myth; is a hindu legend.
The ten avatars of lord vishnu – are kind of saving grace which the invisible presence bestows now and then, the avatars occur at each stage of human evolution/devolution – with the purpose of inspiring faith and love on the invisible grace – which has helped true love conquer hate.
So these individual stories are myths – and these serve a purpose for a society – to help create a sense of one ness and strength (of course needed when the human is faced against the odds of death and darkness of beyond the universe!). But this individual story which involves maha bali – is kind of baffling atleast to me, for it would have the reverse purpose.
So mahabali the ancient kind, is a powerful asura – who has taken over the love and respect of the people – he rules, and yes he does rule; but with wisdom. The problem is that he a a demon. I really do not understand why he would be a demon, but thats the story.
And with such awesome rule over the land; the citizens soon forget even to oblige the lord for his magnificence. They consider Mahabali lord and saviour for all. This is where the story kind of fades away for me, Lord is upset ofcourse, not in some selfish sort of way – but in a spiritual sense; Lord cares for every sentient being it would seem – and the goal of life is to realize itself and hence the lord has to manifest himself – to prove that even lord mahabali has to stoop in front of his mighty over power.
The story is indeed convoluted for mahabali was one of the few demons – who adores the good ‘force’ or whatever, he is an ardent devotee and of course he knows that lord vishnu will take form to destroy him? (His guru – the planet shukra/venus – guru for all demons, even advises him and yet he mahabali does not back down)
So lord vishnu manifests himself – as the tiny pygmy (vamana). This is stage of human evolution – where pygmies came along I guess. He comes to King Mahabali in the form of a small Brahmin boy while the king is performing yagna (sacrifices to the fire). He asks him his due, and king mahabali in a faint presence of ego says – whatever you see and beyond belongs to me, you may take what you please.
The small pygmy now expands his size and becomes as become as the entire cosmos itself and within 2 steps covers the entire earth and sky (the story is that the boy asks for 3 feet worth of space and what it covers to be his own). So within the first two steps – the entire realm which mahabali controlled is gone; and a final step is still left.
The king bows down and prays to the lord – and asks the third step to lie on his head (as that is the only place which mahabali owns now). The lord does so pleasingly – as he knows that mahabali is an ardent devotee, and asks any request/boon which he might want in return; here mahabali asks to come up to the earth once a year or such – so that he may see the people and how they are doing. And with this – he is pushed under the earth into realms of hell/patala/other dimension whatever.
SO every year, devotees and citizens of Mahabali’s kingdom – await his arrival and celebrate it with fervour, but why is is that only kerala gets to celebrate it in style, and if Mahabali was such a good king – shouldn’t he have ruled forever – is it not better than the god led rule of this day and age (where most would agree that it is more nihilistic and pathetic and now actually being led and ruled by demons – who do not have an ounce of wisdom?!)
Why would the lord god of the universe take such form/avatar to redeem the world – and in this case from who/what?
Some myths never make sense I guess, or perhaps they are not myths and actual portents into history/reality – as it happened way distant in the past. Just blurred with ages of tom foolery at the minds of less evolved and more dangerous people than Mahabali could ever fathom to be or see, in his beloved kingdom.
Peace and Love