For some time now, Sangh Parivar groups in Kerala have been attempting to redefine the legend behind Onam, seeking to commemorate the day as the birthday of Vamana (the fifth avatar of the deity Vishnu) rather than the remembrance of Mahabali (a generous king in the legend).
And now, the national BJP Chief, Amit Shah, has taken to Twitter to wish everyone Vamana Jayanti.
On Tuesday, Shah wrote on his official Twitter account, “आप सभी को "वामन जयंती" की हार्दिक शुभकामनाएं |” (To everyone, hearty wishes for Vamana Jayanthi).
Though Amit Shah's wishes were not to Keralites in particular and Vamana Jayanthi is celebrated in places like Madhya Pradesh, many were quick to point out on social media that Shah had not wished the same in previous years.
Soon Keralites started using the hashtag
#PoMoneShaji on Facebook and Twitter asking Shah not to meddle with the legend of Onam.
The controversy was started by an article published by the weekly Kesari, an RSS mouth piece, which alleged that over the years some forces intentionally spread misleading stories that tarnish the image of Hindu gods.
As BRP Bhaskar wrote, “Quoting from the Srimad Bhagavatam, one of the 18 Hindu Puranas, the Kesari article asserts that Mahabali was not sent to hell, as stated in the Kerala legends, but was honourably rehabilitated to a place which is the envy of even inmates of heaven.”
Bhaskar also writes, “Virtually throwing out the Puranic description of Mahabali as one who conquered all the worlds and posed a threat to the gods, the writer says his empire was in North India.”
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan asked Amit Shah for an apology. "By eulogising Vamana and denigrating Mahabali, BJP national president Amit Shah has humiliated Kerala and our festival Onam. The belief behind Onam is of equality and egalitarianism and it is a festival celebrated by all cutting across caste, creed, religion and other barriers," he said in a statement.
State Public Works Minister G. Sudhakaran has asked for a correction. "No idea why he is trying to distort things as this is totally wrong. The need of the hour is to see that he corrects it immediately," he said.
Shah's Facebook post on Tuesday also carried a picture of the mythical Vamana placing his foot on the head of Mahabali.
Sticking to this viewpoint, the President of the Kerala Hindu Aikyavedi, Sasikala Teacher, told journalists that Vamana was a freedom fighter who saved the world from Mahabali.
“With his tiny legs he was saving the world from the hands of Mahabali. Vamana’s move was against autocracy. Vishnu was a lord worshipped even by Mahabali. So Onam should not be utilised to tarnish the image of Vishnu,” she said.
However, on Wednesday Amit Shah wished everyone Onam.