October 23, 2016

India: Controversy over Kerala Onam and Vamana Jayanti (Varghese P.J.)

Mainstream, VOL LIV No 44 New Delhi October 22, 2016

Controversy over Kerala Onam and Vamana Jayanti

by Varghese P.J.

[. . .] Kesari, the mouthpiece of the Kerala unit of the Hindu nationalist group, Rashtriya Swayam-sevak Sangh (RSS), recently published an article urging the people to celebrate Onam as the birthday of Vamana. This article stirred a debate on whether the BJP was trying to brahmanise the festival. On September 13, the BJP national President, Amit Shah, made a Facebook post showing Vamana stepping on the head of Mahabali who keeps his hand folded while Shah himself smiles from a corner. ‘Hearty greetings on Vamana Jayanthi’ read the text. A Hindu Aikya Vedi leader even ventured to state that Lord Vishnu should be seen as a freedom fighter who freed Kerala from an imperialistic force (Mahabali). This statement shows how a religious flavour is added to the Onam concoction that could disturb the cultural fabric of the State.

Several vehement protests cropped up from all the political leaders of Kerala against the distorted wish of Amit Shah turning the term ‘Onam’ into ‘Vamana Jayanti’. [. . .]