Festival Of India

Commonality in Indian Festivals


Story of Mahabali

The story of this day goes thus: An Asura (demon) king – Mahabali - used to rule Kerala. In that time everybody lived in peace, everything was in plenty, none indulged in doing wrongs, telling lies or betraying one another. All the people were happy about his rule and thus the king’s popularity grew to such a proportion that the Gods were shaken and even thought at this rate one day people will ignore Gods and thus they will no more be worshipped or liked by the people. Therefore a delegation of Gods approached Vishnu to save them from this growing ignonimity. Vishnu then took the avtar of a Vamana, Brahmin Bikshu and approached Mahabali for alms. Mahabali was known for his habit of giving alms to Brahmins and never to say ‘no’ to anyone who approached him for alms. Mahabali when approached by Vamana (Vishnu in disguise) readily agreed and asked what he would need. To this the Brahmin said that he has no place to live and needed only ‘three steps of land’ (moonu adi mannu). Mahabali gave him the alms and asked him to measure the land wherever he pleases. (Our community actor depecting Mahabali pictured here.)


Story of King Bali

On Nakra-Chaturdashi day, people dedicate themselves to lighting lamps and praying. On this day, people believe that the lighting of lamps expels ignorance and heralds a future full of joy and laughter. The story behind this holiday tradition revolves around King Bali of the nether world. His mighty power had become a threat to the gods. In order to curb his powers Lord Vishnu in the guise of a small boy (batu waman) visited him and begged him to give him as much land as he could cover with his three steps. Known for his philanthropy, King Bali proudly granted him his wish. That very moment that small boy transformed himself into the all-powerful Lord Vishnu. With his first step Lord Vishnu covered the entire heaven and with the second step he covered the earth. Before taking the third and final step, Lord Vishnu asked Bali where he should make his third step.Bali offered his head. Putting his foot on his head, Vishnu pushed him down to the underworld. At the same time for his generosity Lord Vishnu gave him the lamp of knowledge and allowed him to return to earth once a year to light millions of lamps to dispel the darkness and ignorance and spread the radiance of love and wisdom.


Depending on where you live in India, Diwali is observed anywhere between one to seven days. Most people in India start festivities on the new moon day of the month Asvina (Hindi) / Thulam (Malayalam) which falls in the Western calendar months of October/November . However, it is a peculiar thing that in Kerala, a state in Southwestern India, Diwali is not celebrated on the same day or with the same fervor.

Why would Diwali be considered an all-India festival, but one part of the country is not observing it? Or if they are, why is it so different than the rest? Why Diwali may be celebrated a day earlier in Kerala (and Tamil Nadu) ?

As Rama returned to his kingdom through Tamil Nadu. Hence, Deepavali is celebrated here a day ahead of north India.” This seems logical for anyone who has read the Ramayana and understands the geography of where the story takes place. After all, it would definitely take time to travel up from Sri Lanka to North India, even if you are a god with super powers!

Another doubt

“Why does Diwali celebration start and end before rest of India and why is Diwali only celebrated for one day in Kerala while it is celebrated for up to a week in other places in India?”

though the characters names vary slightly. If one were to ask any Malayalee, he or she would gladly retell the story of King Bali or Mahabali and give this as the “Onam Story” or use this as a reason for celebrating Onam. However, this story happens to also be one of the Diwali stories or legends, in particular in relation to the Nakra-Chaturdashi day. The Nakra-Chaturdashi day is the second day of Diwali, which effectively would be two days after the day Kerala celebrated Diwali this year.

After realizing that the same story/legend/myth is used to explain Onam and Diwali, it seems logical to me that only one festival or the other can be celebrated, unless of course, you omit the King Mahabali story for Diwali in favor of the other countless stories/legends that are available. Onam, being a grand festival lasting up to two weeks is long , and Diwali comes so soon after Onam (within 1 ½- 2 months) its could be too hectic to have two really grand festivals, one after another, so Onam prevailed.