Onam is not just a festival of harvest but an ancient tradition associated with the fifth avatar of Lord Vishnu. The story dates back to the Treta Yuga, when demon king Mahabali ruled the three worlds after defeating Indra, the king of Devas in a battle. It was during his reign that Lord Vishnu appeared as a dwarf, a Brahmin boy named Vamana. Today, on Vamana Jayanti (birth anniversary of Vamana), read on to know more about him and his association with the festival of Onam.
Vamana Avatar of Lord Vishnu
Vamana was born to Sage Kashyapa and his wife Aditi in the Treta Yuga. Lord Vishnu took the avatar of Vamana to retrieve the Swarga Loka or Deva Loka from Bali, and maintain a healthy balance.
Though Bali hailed from the family of the Asuras, he was a devotee of Lord Vishnu, like his grandfather, Prahlad. Once, when he performed the Ashwamedha Yagya, Vamana appeared before him to seek alms.
Vamana had visited Bali’s kingdom to trick him and test his devotion. Therefore, he wanted Bali to give him Bhiksha (alms). Bali, who at that time ruled the Deva Loka, the Prithvi Loka and the Patala Loka, wanted to showcase his generosity. So he agreed to give whatever Vamana asked for. And Vamana cleverly asked for the piece of land that he would cover in three steps with his tiny feet.
Bali, who was amused by such a demand, was confident that he would have to part ways with only a small portion of his land as Vamana was a dwarf and would only occupy a minute part of the land with his feet. Incidentally, Bali’s guru, Shukracharya, cautioned Bali against making any promises, but the latter wanted to show that he was generous enough to please his guest.
However, to his surprise, Vamana grew in size. With one step, Vamana covered the skies, and with the other, he covered the earth. Now, he wondered where he could lay his third step. Upon realising that Vamana was none other than Lord Vishnu, Bali offered his head and asked the Lord to place his foot on him. Thus, Bali proved that he was indeed a true devotee of Vishnu.