The Myth of Resurrection: Reimagining Mahabali through the Semiotics of Select Folk Songs
Keywords:Onam-Mahabali-Myth-Kerala-Folklore-Folk Songs-Culture-Hegemony-Residual Culture-Resurrection-Oppression-Caste
Written history, being the vehicle of dominant or hegemonic culture, often neglects sub cultural art forms whereas oral or folk culture acts as a reservoir of residual cultural practices. When written history is narrated, unwritten history is sung or performed. The importance of regional folk songs in delineating the subtleties of a particular culture can never be overlooked. Folk songs carry the emotions of the era as well as their associated sociocultural practices.
Mahabali is the central mythical hero of a very prominent traditional festival of Kerala- Onam. Conceptual pluralities in the history of onam festival stand in the way of explaining onam in a unidimensional fashion. Yet, the popular myth goes like this- Mahabali (affectionately called by people as 'Maveli'), the benevolent asura king rules his land in abundance, peace and prosperity, with no instances of theft or murder.
Jealous of King Mahabali's popularity and his power, the Gods conspired to end his reign. They sent Lord Vishnu to earth in the form of a dwarf Brahmin (Vamanan) who trampled Mahabali to the netherworld. But Lord Vishnu granted the king's sole wish i.e. to visit his land and people once every year. This visit is celebrated as onam festival in the Malayalam month of Chingam .
The just and noble Mahabali in the myth is not just a symbol of peace and prosperity, but a true image of resurrection from oppression, as the history of Kerala would like to tell. Myths and folklore depicts the hope of a generation. This paper tries to probe into the intricacies of the Mahabali myth through select Malayalam folk songs, to bring out the essence of that hope.
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