Sunday, September 15, 2013

Happy Onam

“Guro,” called out Maveli. 

Maveli is the asura hypocorism for the deva name Mahabali.  Kerala is advertised by the Tourism Department as “God’s Own Country.”  But the people of Kerala love asura hypocorisms.  You can’t blame the people, really.  Like their favourite King, Maveli, quite many of them have been expatriated.  Those who are not expatriated geographically (or literally, if you wish) adopt expatriation by intoxication.  And expatriates love nostalgic hypocorisms.

Kerala is the land of expatriates.  Pravasi is the most favourite word in the state.  Every pravasi is supposed to be living in bliss.   If there is any Malayali pravasi who is not living in such blissful condition, Benyamin or Mukundan will write Aadujeevitham or Pravasam in honour of the hapless pravasi’s nostalgia for God’s Own Country which is actually Maveli’s Own Country.  And Maveli was an asura, a demon.

Prabho, My Lord,” came Maveli’s Guru, Sukracharya hearing Maveli’s call. 

Sukracharya was Maveli’s priest and guide, mentor and teacher, before the deva Vishnu came in the form of Dwarf and deceived Maveli.


Time: Pre-historic

Scene: Maveli’s Palace in Asura’s Own Country

Enter Dwarf bearing a queer mix of boyhood innocence and godhood malice and wearing the sacred thread of Brahminhood.

Dwarf:           Your Majesty, I live far below the poverty line.  I cannot even apply for the Aadhar card without which your government will not even let me have cooking gas.  Give me just three feet of land and I’ll manage somehow.  You are the most generous king of kings, dayalu of dayalus, prema yogi and karma yogi...”

Dwarf unfolds a leather vesicle and takes out Amul butter.

Dwarf:           The best butter available in Gods’ Own Heavens, Your Majesty.

Maveli:          Thank you, aditi.  Order me, what can I do for you?  Whatever your wish, it will be granted.

Enter Sukracharya with a stunned expression and whispers something in the ear of Maveli.

Maveli:          No, Guro.  I may be a demon by hierarchy, but I am honest by cultivation.  This is Asuras’ Own Country.  I cannot go back on my word.  [To Dwarf]  Tell me, Boy, what is your wish?

Dwarf:           Just three feet of land, Your Majesty.  But I will measure it out with my own foot.  [The word foot resounds in the PA systems of Asuras’ Own Country.]

Maveli:          Only three feet of land?  Measure it out for yourself wherever you wish in Asuras’ Own Proud Country.

Sukracharya begins to pack his American Tourister bags.

Dwarf suddenly begins to grow large.  He grows so large that the sun is blacked out.  Maveli stands unfazed. 

Maveli:          You are a deva.  I am an asura.  I accept your verdict.  I shall go to the patalam, underworld.  I have nothing to give you in return.  So please condescend to take this Amul butter back and grant me a wish.

Dwarf-turned-giant: [imperiously – but accepting the Amul butter smacking his lips] What’s your wish?

Maveli:          Allow me to visit my praja once a year.

Dwarf-turned-god: Oh, only that?  Granted.

Exit god from Maveli’s Own Country with Amul butter clutched close to his heart.

Back to Present Time

Maveli:          Guro, I’m going on my annual visit to Asuras’ Own Country.

Sukracharya: You’ve never cared to listen to me, Your Majesty.  Yet it’s my duty to advise you not to go.

Maveli:          Never mind, Guro.  I don’t foresee any danger.  There are no genuine devas anymore anywhere.

Sukracharya: There are no genuine asuras either, Your Majesty.

Maveli:          That’s precisely why I have to go, Guro.  Good bye.  See you soon.

Sukracharya: Happy Onam to you, Your Majesty.


  1. Wonderful write up. Enjoyed the way of making the old thing new to many through writing.
    Read it Here

    1. Whenever I think of Maveli and Onam, I get confused. Who were better: the devas or the asuras? And the problem is not an ancient one. That's why the ancient is tangled with the contemporary in this satire.

  2. Amul Butter is Utterly Butterly Delicious even for the Devas & Asuras!
    But, Coconut Oil is used to preapre the yummy Onam feast, right?!!! :)
    A very Happy Onam!

    1. You're right, yesterday I bought half a litre of coconut oil just for Onam's sake.

      Thanks for the greetings.

  3. This reimagining of Mahabali's story brought a smile to my face. Well-written!

    Happy Onam :)

    1. I wonder what Maveli would think seeing present day Kerala which is quite the opposite of what he had created.

  4. Didnt quite get the role of Amul butter, nevertheless, happy Onam to you. Btw, the story is simple, yet open to few philosophical interpretations - like everything else religious - one is that there is no such thing as ultimate good and bad, but the gods and their way. Second one could be a bit biblical - Mahabali as anybody else was born with 'original sin'(due to his Asura genes), but his karma made him a purer person. It can go on for a few more..but ultimately its all just myths and stories.

    1. Don't take it very seriously, Santhosh. I meant it as light satire.

      Happy Onam to you too.

      Amul butter was brought in to connect thre ancient with the contemporary. After all, gods live in eternity and there should be no gap between the past and present in eternity: there cannot be past and present in eternity.

      I agree with you that the Asura Maveli was far better than the Deva Vamana, because of his karma. I too believe in the importance of karma.

      Ultimately Maveli and Vamana are mythical figures. How we interpret them is what matters. This particular blog of mine is not meant to be taken very seriously.

  5. I have heard about Onam but I don't know it's history. May be it's high time to Google it. Anyway, happy Onam! :)

    1. I've put the legend behind Onam in this post in a satirical way. It's an interesting legend in which the Asura king, Maveli, turns out to be superior to the gods!


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