Bali Raj

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There are two alternate views of Bali, who is also popularly known as Mahabali.

1. Especially in Kerala, Mahabali is seen as as a good ruler tricked by the jealous Gods, who vanquished him by deception.
2. In the Hindu Puranas, Bali is a Daitya, an enemy of the Gods, who claimed all of the heavens, earth and the underworld.

Accordingly, there are two versions, which differ in the connotations and not in the substance, of the same story of how Mahabali was stripped of his kingdom. These are (in the same order as the two views above):
1. The Gods grew jealous of Mahabali's good rule and popularity. Vishnu, in his avatar as the dimunitive Vamana, asked Mahabali for a piece of land only three paces wide. Bali, ever the generous king, granted this wish, whereupon Vamana grew to an immense size and covered the heavens with one step and the earth with another. There was no space left for Vamana to measure his third pace. Realizing Vamana's ploy only too late, but still intent on keeping his word, Mahabali offered his own head for Vamana to place his third step. Vamana stepped on Mahabali's head and pushed him down into paataalam, the underworld. And thus the people of Kerala lost their beloved king, whom they celebrate to this day in the annual Onam festival.
2. According to mythology Bali was an efficient and popular ruler loved by all. His kingdom stretched the earth, the patal (the underground), and was threatening the skies. The ruler of the Heaven, Lord Indra got apprehensive of Bali's popularity and might, and approached Lord Vishnu for help and advice. Vishnu came to this mortal world as a (Vamana) Brahmin, went to Bali and asked for 3 steps of land. Bali readily agreed. With the first step, Vamana spanned the entire earth, with the next the underground, and there was nowhere to put his third step. Bali being true to his word, asked Vamana to keep the third foot on his head, who pushed Bali down into patal.

Festivals

In the state of Kerala, the Onam festival is a celebration of the visit of Mahabali or Maveli (local name of Bali) to their land.

According to legend, Mahabali requested Vamana to grant him a boon to come and visit his homeland, Kerala, at least once a year, and he comes to visit his people and his land during Onam.

See also

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