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Legend Swamiji's Discourse

Date: Celebrated in the month of August - September.

Legend: This festival is important particularly in Kerala, where it marks the day on which Emperor Maha Bali, (grandson of Prahlada, a great devotee of Mahavishnu), due to his profound devotion towards Lord Vishnu and his goodwill and just reign in his kingdom towards his subjects received benediction and liberation at the hands of the Lord, who assumed the Vamana form (an incarnation of Vishnu), to test the greatness of Bali by asking him to grant him three feet of land.

"This day is celebrated as the day when Emperor Bali was both humiliated and blessed by God, in the Form of Vamana, Sovereign of the Three Worlds. Bali called himself so, for, he had Bala or power, more than anyone else. He was saturated with egoism. God came to him, while he was busy with a Yaga, in the form and guise of a Brahmin boy, and asked for a gift of just three foot-measures of land. Bali told him that he could ask for infinitely more riches and lands; but, the Boy insisted on that tiny gift only. The preceptor of Bali warned him about the identity and bonafides of the strange mendicant; he mentioned that he may be God Himself. This made Bali happier, for, if it was true; he was so mighty that even God came to his door as a mendicant. Such was the measure of his conceit.

But, when Vamana drew Himself up to cosmic proportions and measured the entire earth with one foot and the vast expanse of space with another foot, Bali was humbled; he offered his own head as the third foot-measure, and let himself be trodden into the nether-world. This day marks the day when the incarnation of Vamana happened, in order to teach this lesson that pride meets with doom. Once the ego was thus suppressed, Bali became cleansed and God blessed him with various boons. He assured him that He would ever be his guardian. He permitted him every year, on Onam Day, to come up into the world and see for himself his empire and receive therefrom the homage of his people. So, this is the Festival of Vamana's advent as well as Bali's Transformation."

The story of Bali is full of significance, spiritually and otherwise. The mutual love and regard that prevailed between the ruler and the ruled made them a composite of the whole. Out of his love for the people Bali gave a promise to the people, after he had given everything he had, to Vaman, that once a year he would appear among them to give them the joy of his presence. The Onam celebration marks the fulfillment of that promise. The people of Kerala believe that every year on Onam day, Bali appears in spirit and otherwise in their midst. It is not easy for people to understand the inner significance and sacredness of this celebration. It can only be understood by those who have full faith in the power of the Omnipotent Lord."

Quotes from Chinna Katha I
Discourse Sep 12, 1989

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