- 01 Sep 2020
- 3 min read
Why in News
Recently, the festival Onam was celebrated across Kerala.
- The Festival: Onam is a major harvest festival in Kerala and is celebrated to honour the home-coming of Asura king Mahabali who brought about peace and prosperity in Kerala.
- Time: It is one of the three major festivals of Kerala, celebrated during the month of Chingam, the first month in the Malayalam calendar, Kollavarsham.
- The other two major festivals of the state are Vishu and Thiruvathira.
- The 10-day harvest festival begins on Atham (first day of Onam) and concludes on Thiruvonam (last day).
- Celebration: Onam is celebrated by making Pookkalam (the flower rangolis). Other rituals are also performed which includes-Vallam Kali (the boat races), Pulikali (the tiger dances), Kummattikali (mask dances), Onathallu (martial arts), among others.
- The main attraction is the traditional Onam sadhya (grand feast).
- God vs Demon Story:
- Battles between demons and gods are familiar to people everywhere. Gods emerging victorious over evil is an inseparable part of these battles.
- In India, too, these victories are celebrated in different parts of the country over the years. E.g. Rama is good, Ravana is evil. Durga is good, Mahishasur is evil.
- However, an exception to this has been the battle between Mahabali (Asura or demon) and Vamana (avatar of Vishnu), where Mahabali is revered as the unchallenged King of Malayalis.
- There are a few isolated places in India where demons are worshiped. E.g. There are some areas in Bihar and Bengal where Mahishasur is king of Asur tribes.
- Historians see these fights between god and demon in the context of fights between brahmins and non-brahmins and tribals in the past.
- Asur is among the 9 Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups found in Jharkhand and are Austro-Asiatic in origin.
- Besides Jharkhand, members of the tribe live in pockets of Bihar, West Bengal and a few other states.
- The 2011 Census put the number of Asur at 22,459 in Jharkhand and 4,129 in Bihar.
- The Asurs claim to be descendants of Mahishasur, the buffalo-demon whom Goddess Durga kills after a spirited fight lasting nine nights.
- It’s this mythology in mainstream Hinduism that’s celebrated in the form of the nine-day-long Durga Puja, but observed as ‘Mahishasur Dasain’ among the Asurs, who hold a period of mourning during which they largely stay indoors.
- They celebrate festivals like Sarhul, Karma, Dhanbuni, Kadelta, Rajj karma, Dasahara Karam.