Diwali As Balirajya in Kerala

The legend behind Diwali takes a different turn when the festivities are celebrated in Kerala. The five- day celebration of lights has different customs in different regions of the world but the underlying theme behind the festival is the same. The celebrations revolve around the theme of the triumph of good over evil. The first day of Diwali is known as Dhanteras, the day on which people invest their money in expensive metals. The day is considered to be very auspicious to buy gold and silver ornaments and coins. There are various versions of the story behind the second and third day of the festivities. These versions differ from community to community and region to region. The second day is dedicated to the killing of Mahisasura- the battle between the devas and the asuras. At the end of the day, devas won the battle and this is celebrated as the victory of good over evil. Now the third day is the Balipratipada- this is celebrated as BaliRajya in Kerala. It is glorified to mark the return of the asura King Bali to Earth only for a day. It is acknowledged with much pomp and decor across the state of Kerala. People gear up for the festivities a week before and come together to celebrate the return of their noble King on this auspicious day.

According to Hindu mythology, King Bali was a follower of God Vishnu, an ardent devotee, famous among his people for his righteousness, integrity and courage. The other side of Bali was associated with over confidence, ego and arrogance. He was also proud of the fact that he was invincible as he was a sincere devotee of Lord Vishnu. Jealousy and pride made the gods seek the help of Lord Vishnu to stop the arrogance of Bali. Lord Vishnu to please his consorts took the incarnation of a dwarf called Vamana, the fifth incarnation of Vishnu. Lord Vishnu in his disguise as a dwarf approached the great and generous King Bali seeking refugee and alms. The benevolent king  immediately agreed to satisfy any of the demands that Vamana put forth. Aware of the king’s kind heartedness, Vamana asked for three paces of land from the King. Bali surprised at this request readily agreed thinking that it was easy to give away a mere three paces of land. In the midst of this, the dwarfed incarnation of Vishnu assumed his original form of the huge universe and took his first step forward. This first step covered the entire universe present.. With his second step, Vamana covered the whole Earth leaving out the only space where King Bali was standing. These two steps  were enough for King Bali to realise the greatness of the dwarf form before him and saw his Lord Vishnu in front of his eyes. In his devotion towards the Lord, he offered his own head for Vamana to place his next step as there was no other place for the third piece of land. This step banished Bali to the netherworld.

Lord Vishnu pleased by the dedication and generosity of his devotee, granted a boon for Bali wherein he could return to Earth once a year to be with his people and lighten the lives of the people in his kingdom. This auspicious day is celebrated as the Balirajya Puja, widely known as Diwali all over India. It is believed that the kingdom of Bali is the present day state of Kerala. The major rituals performed on this day are the traditional oil bath, exchanging of gifts and adorning the households with clay lamps. Another common practise is the game of gambling or the dice game which is popular in Kerala as well as North India. It is a great festival in Kerala, a time of devotion, gaiety and lights for the people.

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