|“Vamana1” by Unknown – LACMA . Licensed under Public Domain via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Vamana1.jpg#/media/File:Vamana1.jpg|
When Lord Shiva blessed a rat that night.
Mahabali’s mind was sharp as a sword,
Underworld, Heaven and Earth’s new Lord.
Mahabali’s reign was noble and just,
The Devas were not to be swept like dust.
Led by Indra, the defeated king,
To Lord Vishnu, they began to sing.
They begged him to intervene,
To balance the worlds, as once it’d been.
An ‘Asura’ King couldn’t possibly mean well,
They refused to to rest until he fell.
Lord Vishnu acceded to their pleas
And took to the earth like a breeze.
Mahabali meanwhile chased after the stallion
Closely followed by his burly battalion.
The ‘Ashvamedha’ was underway
Well into the ritual’s final day.
Abruptly, a child blocked the road ahead,
“Merciful Mahabali, spare me some land.”, he said.
The troops threatened, the stallion neighed
But the young boy stood unafraid.
Mahabali sized up the boy, asking his name,
Sukracharya foresaw the entire game.
“Vamana.”, the boy looked up at the ‘Asura’ King.”
A small request to you I bring.
Leave a morsel for me to plough,
Surely that much your Lordship can allow.”
Sukracharya cautioned Mahabali not to relent.
“Land worth three strides of mine, by your consent!”,
Vamana appealed again earnestly,
“Alright boy, have your way, let’s see.”
Vamana smiled as he began to grow
Till he towered above one and all below.
The earth and the underworld in one stride
Mahabali watched the shadows wide eyed.
In the second stride, heaven was claimed,
“Where now, Mahabali?”, Vamana exclaimed.
Mahabali lowered his head in reply
And Vamana’s foot emerged from the sky.
It pushed Mahabali deep into the netherworld.
Without a protest Mahabali accepted his fate
As he stood behind Netherworld’s gate.
Lord Vishnu granted Mahabali a wish that day
That once a year, on Earth, he’d be able to stay.
So Mahabali ascends every year,
As they sing praises and for him they cheer.
This post is a continuation to my previous one (Of Rats and Rulers), although, it is a standalone tale in itself. This poem conveys the story behind the festival of Onam. It is celebrated in India, especially down South, among Malyali communities to celebrate the return of the benevolent Asura King Mahabali.
The King of the Devas, Indra, ever protective of his seat in heaven turns to Lord Vishnu in order to defeat Mahabali. Lord Vishnu takes the form of a young boy, Vamana and restores the kingdom of heaven to Indra and the other Devas, sending Mahabali to the netherworld.
‘Asura‘, a class of beings of the Vedic times, were different from humans and ‘devas’. They were usually considered to be evil.
‘Devas‘ were divine beings, usually revered by humans in Vedic times.
‘Sukracharya‘ was Mahabali’s advisor.
‘Ashvamedha‘ was a royal ritual in Hindu traditions, to be performed only by kings. A horse would be set loose and the lands so traveled by it would be in the name of the king and would belong to the king.