The appropriation of the sacred in Hindu festivals is a favourite subject of the Left and social media.
Recently, social media saw reactions to a video that became viral. In this video, girls wearing hijabs were seen dancing at a Kerala school’s Onam celebrations. Politicians and several people endorsed the video. However, Times Now website has reported that clerics have taken objections to it, obviously.
- For centuries, Indic festivals have celebrated dharma, diversity, people and culture.
- Onam, Kerala’s harvest festival, is one such. It is celebrated with fervour, bringing together families at their ancestral homes for week-long festivities, worship, tradition, music, dance and togetherness.
- More importantly, Onam puts the sacred texts and the importance of Pauranic tales at the centre of all celebrations.
- Onam is based on the legend of King Mahabali, the king of asuras, and celebrating his return to Kerala, where he comes to greet his subjects, each year.
- Mahabali was an ardent devotee of Vishnu. As the legend goes, Vishnu disguised himself as a Brahmin, Vamana, to test King Mahabali.
- The avatar of Vishnu tests Mahabali’s bhakti and Mahabali is able to pass the test by proving his devotion and integrity.
- Towards the end of the test, Vamana, the Brahmin, kept his foot on Mahabali’s head to give him blessings and eternal salvation
- King Mahabali requests Vamana to reveal his true identity. When he discovers that Vamana is an avatar of Vishnu, he requests Vishnu to let him visit Kerala in order to greet his people – once a year.
The Onam Appropriation
- It is this legend and belief that is subject to appropriation by the Left in their misinterpretation of the Vamana-Mahabali episode.
- They cleverly make it about exploitation based on class/caste.
- Worse, their efforts in misinterpretation are not just aimed at Vamana for his identity as a Brahmin, but also at diluting the sacred from Onam and removing the importance of Hindu sacred texts.
- They even forget that the King was a bhakta of Vishnu.
- The appropriation of Onam on similar lines has been a subject of controversy.
- A report mentions that the Hindu Aikya Vedi took objection to a head teacher’s greeting of Onam in Kottayam in 2020 and was made to apologise.
- In 2016, the Wire reported that ‘Vamana Jayanti’ greeting by BJP national president Amit Shah invoked criticism from the people of the state, including the Chief Minister.
- Amit Shah greeted people on Onam with a poster in a post made on Twitter. In this poster, Vamana is depicted with his foot on a King.
- The same controversy seemed to return to Kerala in 2018. It was people’s objection to Amit Shah’s stance once again.
- A 2018 report says: “BJP President Amit Shah is getting severely trolled by Malayalees on social media platforms for wishing Vamana Jayanti on the eve of Onam, the national festival Kerala and for allegedly trying to ‘Brahminise’ the quintessential Malayalee festival that celebrated equality of all humans.”
The Rising Questions
- In 2022, the scenario has evolved. The Left seems to have become smarter at removing the Hindu symbolism from Onam by presenting a picture of cultural assimilation involving all religions.
- Social media erupted with reactions to a video that became viral. In this video, girls wearing hijabs were seen dancing at a Kerala school’s Onam celebrations.
- The scenario building around Onam indicates that appropriation of Hindu symbols, festivals and beliefs happens when the Left successfully distorts the perception of the ‘sacred’.
- Here is a question. What is the future of Onam like and who will shape it?