An anti- story

An anti- story
————–

I would like to tell you the story
Of the demon king Mahabali
The ‘Other’ whom the devas
Feared and hated so lustily.

A land by the sea,
Rich and verdant, ruled he.
Beloved of the people
Just and fearless was he.
No cheating, no thieving
Existed in his country.
Good thoughts, good deeds
Always here in plenty.
The king was good
His people were happy.

To please the gods and give thanks
He decided to conduct a yagnya.
An offering, some sacrifices
To the brahmins decided he.
Invites were sent far and wide
All over the country.

The devas watched in alarm
As he gave away alms
And acquired punya in plenty.
His power and reach
Among the gods
Dismay caused.
An asura who was good!
By his people loved!
“No, no this must not be.”

Approached they Vishnu
And his help beseeched.
“If this asura king grows more powerful
He will dethrone me,” moaned Indra,
Lord of the devas
“And devas being good
Are the ones who should rule
Defeat Mahabali, help me.”
Moaned he.

Thus Vishnu donned the avatar
Of Vaman, a brahmin boy
And joined the crowd thronging for alms
Outside Mahabali’s city.

All sacrifices for the day were done
Nothing was left to be given
The king was in a mood benign
When into his presence strode
A brahmin boy resplendent.

“Where is my share?
Where are my alms?”
Loudly demanded he.
Smiling inwardly
at this boy so puny
Replied Mahabali
“What is it you want, little boy?
I’ll give you anything you ask of me.”

“Three steps of land is all I want
Which I shall measure with my own feet
And make mine.”
Said Vaman.

“Only so much!
That you shall have, ” said Mahabali
As he poured the sacrificial waters
Into his palm.
The spout of the vessel was blocked
No water came out!
It was Shukracharya, the demon guru
Who sat inside blocking the spout!
He had grown suspicious
And realised the devas trickery.

But alas! The king unaware
Poked the spout with an eerkili
Shukracharya lost an eye
And exited hastily.
He warned the king then
But in no mood to listen was he.
Swelling with pride and
Magnanimity he spoke.
“Take your three steps.
The world is mine to give away.”

As the crowd watched in open-mouthed wonder
Vaman grew till he touched the sky.
With one foot he measured all earth
With the second all heaven
With nowhere left to place the third step
He turned to Mahabali.
The asura king knew
His pride was humbled.
(Or was it?
Here before him
Begging for alms
Was the Almighty)

With folded palms
Head bowed low
The devout king replied
“With your third step do measure
This humble devotee
Place your foot on my head here
O, Vishnu, the Almighty.”

With that Vaman placed
His third step on the king’s head
Pushing him down
To the netherworld forever.
Before doing so asked he,
“What do you wish
O, mighty king?
You shall be known over the world
For your magnanimity.
About your goodness and just rule
Songs there shall be.”

“O Lord, all I ask
Is that once a year
I may be allowed
To visit my people dear.
Do permit me.”
Thus spoke Mahabali.
His wish was granted
For all eternity.

And so we Malayalis
Have state declared holidays
Every year to celebrate
this benevolent one.
So even today
Flower carpets we lay
To welcome him home
Who stood for all things anti-

That’s what is ingrained
Since time immemorial
In the Malayali psyche
Irrespective of our present
Caste, creed, religion, gender.
Basically, we are all anti-

Notes:
Devas – gods
Asuras – demons
Yagnya – a ritualistic sacrifice
Punya – the goodness you accumulate
Vishnu – the chief of the Trinity
Eerkili – the midrib of the leaflet of a palm leaf. (Often used in making brooms)

Vineetha Mekkoth
All rights reserved.

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About Vineetha

Poet, writer, translator, editor Based in India. Has published poems in various anthologies. Is on the translators panel of the Kerala Sahitya Academy. Her poems have been included in the Brian Wrixon anthologies 'Words on the Winds of Change' and 'Women of One World'. She has also coauthored a poem with Gaurangi Patel which has been included in the 'Duet Anthology' brought out by XpressPublications. She has been selected for the ICOP Critics Award for March 2015 and her poem 'Reflections' is on the list of Highly Commended poems for the month selected by Destiny Poets, UK. In April 2015 her poem was published on the blog 'Incredible Women of India'. In the same month, April 2015, her poem 'Ashtavakra' was chosen as the Poem of the Month by Destiny Poets' International Community of Poets. In July 2015 her poem 'Nightscape' was one of the Highly recommended poems by Destiny Poets. So too in October 2015 her poem, 'Peace Always' was in the list of Highly Recommended poems by ICOP. Has been co-editor of 'Umbilical Chords: An Anthology on Parents Remembered'. Her debut poetry collection, 'Ashtavakra and Other Poems' was published in August 2017 by Authorspress, New Delhi

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