Kerala minister’s remark on Vamana triggers controversy

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Isaac’s tweet didn’t go down well with the BJP which accused him of insulting Vamana who is one of the reincarnations of Lord Vishnu

A Keralite woman makes 'Pookalam' (flower rangoli) on the occasion of Onam festival. — PTI photo

Kerala finance minister Dr Thomas Isaac tweet Thiruvonam day on Monday describing Vamana as a "cheat" has angered the BJP and hindutva organizations in the state.

The minister’s controversial tweet, greeting the people of Kerala, said;  "Happy Onam! We celebrate Mahabali who did not discriminate by caste or creed, not Vamana who cheated him."  In his tweet Isaac also referred to Kerala announcing the floor price of 14 types of vegetables to suggest that people had something to celebrate this festival season.

However, Isaac’s tweet didn’t go down well with the BJP which accused him of insulting Vamana who is one of the reincarnations of Lord Vishnu.  BJP state president K Surendran demanded an apology from Isaac for what he called hurting the sentiments of Lord Vishnu’s devotees.

With the minister's tweet attracting criticism from the BJP and a section of people on social media, Isaac came out with a clarification. "To all those who have been upset about my Onam tweet: Accept that there can be many narratives. I was referring to the one by Sahodaran Aiyyapan, an ardent disciple of Sree Narayana Guru. If you are not convinced, read his Onapatu, the most popular Onam song of Kerala."

Legend has it that Mahabali a generous king once ruled Kerala. He was sent to the nether world by Vamana.  It is said that the devatas were threatened by the popularity of the charismatic Mahabali and the prosperity of his kingdom.

They felt jealous because the benevolent king belonged to the Asura clan. Vamana was sent to end Mahabali's reign in Kerala.

Onam is celebrated by Malayalees cutting across caste, religion and all other differences to welcome Mahabali who returns to his praja during the annual festival.

Interestingly, this is not the first time that Kerala witnessed a controversy over a narrative associated with Onam.

In 2016, the then BJP national president Amit Shah wished everyone a "happy vamana jayanthi" with the image of Mahabali under Vamana's feet.  Many felt that it was a deliberate attempt to change the narrative and redesign  Onam as a festival of Brahmanical victory over "lower " caste groups.

Many allege that there have been systematic attempts by BJP and Hindutva groups in Kerala to  project Onam as an exclusive Hindu festival.