The legend of Mahabali has intrigued the whole lot of people all these years. Though it was Lord Indra who felt insecure because of the huge popularity and growing acceptance of Mahabali among not only the Asuras and Manavas but even among the Gods.Even Lord Vishnu of whom Mahabali was an ardent worshiper was bowled over by the ethics and benevolence of this King.
The egalitarianism espoused by the ruler is widely considered as the first communist rule in the world by many of the lungi wielding comrades of a small southern Indian state. It is this small but beautiful state which even now celebrates the rule of this supposedly demon king. Kerala folklore praises this rule as the one in which everyone were equal, where there was abundance , prosperity and utmost peace and security in the society.
The story of Mahabali in short goes like this:-
Prahalad was the son of Hiranyakashapu. Hiranyakashupu was a Vishnu-hater, and the more hatred he showed for Vishnu the more attracted his son became to the Lord. Finally irritated with his son’s love for God, the Father challenged him to show the proof of God. The God out of rage appeared in the form of a Lion and killed the Father in front of the son. So much for the Lord’s discretion.
Prahlad thereafter took over the Asura kingdom and ruled a Golden and ascetic rule. It was no surprise that his grandson imbibed all the qualities and brought in an even better rule. Indra who was so possessive about his throne, was the first cry foul to Lord Vishnu. The complaint was, only Lord Vishnu was being worshipped in the kingdom. No other deity including himself was being allowed to be worshipped.
Vishnu saw some substance in the argument and wanted to restore secularism in the land. Knowing that Mahabali was the ultimate philanthropist who took pleasure in donating to the needy, the Lord decided to hit the iron when it was hot. A yagna was being performed by the king and any Brahmin who happened to visit the Yagna was fulfilled with all their wishes.
Vishnu took the disguise of a short and pious brahmin and visited the Yagna. Seeing the Brahmin, the king sought how he can help the Brahmin. Brahmin was cynic about the king saying that he could not fulfil the wishes. The king was taken aback and hence proclaimed that whatever be the wish, even if it’s his life, he would donate it to the Brahmin. These words were music to the Brahmin’s ears.
Brahmin wished three feet of land, and the king in his enthusiasm and pride, agreed to give the three feet of land, saying that the Brahmin should have asked for more. The brahmin before taking his steps had to clean his feet. The king was about to clean the feet by pouring water from his pitcher. Shukracharya was the Guru of Asuras, and he could foresee the foul-play. To give a signal to the king he transformed himself into a drone and blocked the water-path of the pitcher.The Brahmin being the God, took a small stick and poked the drone out, thus breaking one eye of the Guru. Guru took his original form back with a bleeding eye, seeing which the king understands what was going on.
But Mahabali being a man of virtue insisted that come what may, he will stand to his promise of satisfying the Brahmin’s wishes. The Brahmin by then had taken the universal form of the Lord. With his first step he measured the whole of earth. His next step was enough to cover the rest of the known universe and the skies. “What do you have next?”, the Brahmin sarcastically asked. The King bowed down on his knees and offered his head in front of the Brahmin.
The Brahmin before submersing the King to the Nether world asked for the last wish. The King said once in a year he wanted to return to his people and see how they are living. Lord was more than happy to agree to his disciple’s wish.
People of Kerala welcomes their erstwhile King every year, showing off in their best to make the King happy. As they say, one is supposed to celebrate this festival called Onam even by selling off one’s only belongings.
Here is a King whose spirit gets stronger with every passing year. Indra, “You might have the Throne, but here is a man, oops demon, who keeps our hearts forever.
Lal Salaam, Comrade Mahabali!
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