Once again, this Onam witnesses a row over Vamana and Mahabali.
Last year, the BJP and few Sangh Parivar groups had sharpened the debate to redefine the legend behind Onam, seeking to commemorate Thiruvonam (the last day of the 10-day festival) as the birthday of Vamana (the fifth avatar of the deity Vishnu) rather than the remembrance of Mahabali (a generous king in the legend).
This year, the row is over a statue of Mahabali, the Asura king, being built adjacent to the Vamanamoorthy temple. The temple in Thrikkakara in Ernakulam district, is perhaps the only one in Kerala with Vamana as deity.
Ever since the Travancore Devaswom Board (TBD) decided to set up a bronze statue of Mahabali, a group of devotees and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad in the area has raised objections that the statue cannot come up near a Vamana temple.
â€śWe are not against Mahabali, he was a well-known devotee of Lord Vishnu and Vamana is Vishnuâ€™s avatar. But we donâ€™t want the statue coming near to the temple. That too it is a Vamanamoorthi temple. It would hurt the feelings of Hindus. The devotees here are against this, we are supporting their religious sentiments. VHP had approached court and Devaswom Ombudsman against this move,â€ť SJ Kumar, Kerala State President of Vishwa Hindu Parishad wrote on Facebook.
â€śThere were many attempts over the years to reduce the significance of Vamanamoorthy Temple. The latest is the installation of the statue of Mahabali. Instead of placing it in some other public places, TBD wants to place it near the temple without seeking permission of the devotees,â€ť he added.
The Hindu Aikya Vedi too has opposed the move.
The foundation for the statue that has been modelled after a painting of Mahabali by Travancore King Uthradam Thirunal.
TBD Chairman Prayar Gopalakrishnan told PTI that the reason to model the statue based on the statue was to do away with misconceptions about the character of Mahabali.
Mahabali or Bali was pictured as a man with a moustache and a pot belly and the statue would give a proper representation, he said.
Ajay Tharayil, TDB member told The News Minute that the board will go ahead with the work.
â€śWe are just building a statue of Mahabali, it is not an idol of a deity. Moreover, it has been built outside the temple. He was a ruler who was also a devotee of lord Vishnu. There is no inappropriateness in placing the statue next to the temple,â€ť he said.
The temple has been Earlier also there controversy over the temple that some of the locals had claimed that the temple should be in the name of Mahabali not in the name of Vamana.
A change.org petition filed by Anish Nair a year ago says, â€śThe city of Kochi, houses the only Vamana temple in Kerala, at Thrikkakara. Itâ€™s existence commemorates the victory of Brahmanism and stands as an insult to Kerala as a whole. We implore all progressives to collectively demand for the consecration of the temple to Mahabali in the place of Vamana, and for the temple to be dedicated to education and general welfare of the Bahujans. It is important to push back the forces of Vamana, the forces of Brahmanism, the forces of humiliation and oppression.â€ť
In 2016, RSS mouthpiece Kesari published an article stating that over the years certain forces had intentionally spread misleading stories that tarnished the image of Hindu gods. They said that Mahabali was not banished to hell by Vishnu, as stated in the Kerala Onam legend, but was honourably rehabilitated to a place which was the envy of even inmates of heaven. It also stated that Mahabali was a king of North India, not of Kerala, which sparked a huge controversy.