Thiruvananthapuram: Keralites on Wednesday celebrated Onam with traditional fervour and gaiety. The day also saw a political controversy with BJP President Amit Shah's Vamana Jayanth greetings on Onam eve evoking protest from political leaders, including Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan who demanded an apology from Shah for "misinterpreting" legend.
People in their best attire offered prayers at temples while the day was marked by feast and festivities, including cultural programmes organised by various institutions. Flower mats (Pookalam) were also laid in houses. Heavy rush was witnessed at temples, including at the famous hill shrine of Lord Ayappa at Sabarimala, Sree Krishna Temple at Guruvayur and Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple in Thiruvananthapuram.
Onam is celebrated to honour demon King Mahabali, who according to legend ruled the state once, under whom the people were equal, prosperous and happy. People believe that it was on this particular day of 'Thiruvonam' in the Malayalam calender month of Chingam when Lord Mahavishnu took his fifth avatar as Vamana, appeared in the kingdom of King Mahabali and sent him to the netherworld.
According to legend, on Thiruvonam day the spirit of Mahabali visits the people of Kerala. Shah's greetings without referring to Onam, days after RSS in Kerala describing Onam celebrations as Vamana Jyanthi contrary to the legend that it is the homecoming of Mahabali, triggered a controversy with Vijayan taking objection to it.
For Keralites the day is dedicated to Mahabali. Accusing him of trying to "misinterpret the legend", Vijayan, reacting to Shah's Facebook posting, asked him to tender an apology to Keralites.
Vijayan said Keralites celebrate Onam without the barrier of caste or creed. Onam was a festival of equality and fraternity. "Misinterpreting festivals celebrated by all would only help to create divisions in the society", the CM added. Congress leaders VM Sudheeran and Ramesh Chennithala also criticised Shah and said people of state would reject the "version" of Shah.
Meanwhile, BJP President Kummanom Rajasekharan termed the controversy as "unnecessary". He said Shah had greeted the people of the country as in many places Vamana Jayanthi is celebrated. Even at the temple in Thrikkara in Kochi, Vamana jayanthi is celebrated, he said. Shah had also greeted people of Kerala separately on the occasion of Onam, he said.
Sudheeeran and Vijayan were "trying to reap political mileage by triggering unnecessary issues like this and it is very unfortunate that persons holding positions as Chief Minister and KPCC President were doing this", he said. An article published in the Onam special edition of RSS mouthpiece Kesari had questioned the traditional legends of the festival saying it is the celebration of birth of Vamana, incarnation of Lord Vishnu and not the homecoming of demon king Mahabali.
The article had argued that there was no reference in any mythological scriptures which supports the popular and widely circulated legend that 'Vamana', had sent Mahabali to the netherworld through deceit and the king visits the land annually to meet his subjects, as widely believed.