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Is There A Common Story Behind Onam & Raksha Bandhan?


Onam is the official state festival of Kerala. Games, fairs and competitions are organized on this day by the Malayali Hindus. The boat race is the most popular among these. Similarly, the festival of Raksha Bandhan, mainly celebrated in the northern regions of India, is dedicated to the brother-sister bond. But did you know that the stories of both the festivals are interrelated and these festivals share a common past? Let us explore how.

The Stories Of Onam And Raksha Bandhan

The Powerful King Mahabali

Once there lived a king named Mahabali. Though he was a virtuous human and a responsible ruler, he soon became too confident about his achievements. Overpowered by pride, he decided to establish his supremacy over the universe by defeating all the gods. Being a staunch devotee of Lord Vishnu, he was powerful enough to undertake such battles. Within a few months he conquered the Devloka, where most of the gods lived.

Power and pride become toxic when they overpower the good in a man. This happened with Mahabali too. Gods knew this very well. Fearing the king, they approached Lord Vishnu who lived in Vaikhuntha. They wanted him to kill the king but Lord Vishnu did not want to do so for Mahabali was his devotee. However, he promised to find a remedy, after testing the devotion of Mahabali.

Mahabali Organizes A Feast

On the other hand, Mahabali organized a feast where the prominent saints, priests, kings and intellectuals were invited. To showcase his prowess, the king declared that he would fulfill a wish of each guest. We know Lord Vishnu is known as an intelligent God who has conquered the pride of many whenever he has incarnated on earth. Grabbing the opportunity where he could test Mahabali, he took the form of a dwarf sage, Vaman and presented himself at the meeting.

Vaman's Amusing Wish

The meeting, comprising the most revered personalities of the times, proceeded with Mahabali asking every guest his wish and fulfilling it. When it was Vaman's turn to state his wish, he demanded just three pieces of land, equivalent to three footsteps. A little amused by the wish of the dwarf sage, the king agreed to grant his wish.

As the king consented to it, Lord Vishnu transformed into a giant Vaman. With his incredibly big footsteps, Vaman covered the sky in the first, the earth in the second and asked Mahabali where the third step should be kept. His pride vanished and the king offered his own head to keep the third step on it.

As Lord Vishnu stepped on to the head, the king was sent off to the netherworld (Patalloka). Having been relieved from the king's rule over Devloka, the gods rejoiced. However, Lord Vishnu was pleased with the king's act of offering his head.

Thus Lord Vishnu gave permission to the king to visit his kingdom in present day Kerala, once in a year. This day is today celebrated as Onam when the people of Kerala celebrate the homecoming of their former king Mahabali.

When Mahabali Requested Lord Vishnu To Accompany Him

However, that is just half part of the story. Lord Vishnu, pleased with the king's devotion, agreed to grant a wish to him. So the king took a promise from Lord Vishnu that he should accompany him to his new abode in the netherworld. Having made the promise, the lord had to go along with the king. Goddess Lakshmi got worried when she came to know the whole story.

She was worried as to who would look after the Prithviloka (earth) if Lord Vishnu was to stay in Patalloka (netherworld). However, Narad Muni, the wandering brainy sage, soon appeared there to help her out. He advised she should visit Mahabali and tie a raksha sutra (thread of protection) around the wrist of the king, and thus ask for Lord Vishnu to be relieved of the promise.

Goddess Lakshmi Tied Raksha Sutra Around Mahabali's Wrist

Goddess Lakshmi reached the abode of Mahabali, and told about the thread of protection that she had brought for the king. The king, pleased to have the thread tied around his wrist, asked the Goddess what he should give her in return.

The Goddess said that tying the raksha sutra around his wrist, she had accepted him as his brother and in return she demanded Lord Vishnu to be released of the promise. As the day was a Purnima of Shravana month according to the present day Hindu calendar, every such Purnima of this month is celebrated as Raksha Bandhan.

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