Parasurama - The Originator of Kerala ?
A number of myths and legends persist concerning the origin of Kerala. One such myth is the creation of Kerala by Parasuram, a warrior sage. Parasuram was the incarnation of Maha Vishnu. He was the sixth of the ten avatars (incarnation) of Vishnu. The word Parasu means 'axe' in Sanskrit and therefore the name Parasuram means 'Ram with Axe'. The aim of his birth was to deliver the world from the arrogant oppression of the ruling caste, the Kshatriyas. He killed all the male Kshatriyas on earth and filled five lakes with their blood. After destroying the Kshatriya kings, he approached an assembly oflearned men to find a way of penitence for his sins. He was advised that, to save his soul from damnation, he must hand over the lands he had conquered to the Brahmins. He did as they advised and sat in meditation at Gokarnam. There, he was blessed by Varuna - the God of the Oceans and Bhumidevi - Goddess of Earth. From Gokarnam he reached Kanyakumari and threw his axe northward across the ocean. The place where the axe landed was Kerala. It was 160 katam (an old measure) of land lying between Gokarnam and Kanyakumari. Puranas say that it was Parasuram who planted the 64 Brahmin families in Kerala, whom he brought down from the north in order to expiate his slaughter of the Kshatriyas . According to the puranas, Kerala is also known as Parasurama Kshetram, ie., 'The Land of Parasurama',as the land was reclaimed from sea by him.
Onam - The legend of Mahabali
Another mythical character of Kerala who had and still has a great influence on the cultural life ofMalayalees is Mahabali (Maveli) - the Asura King who was expatriated to the nether world by the Gods. The myth goes like this :
Contrary to the general concept about Asuras, who are embodiments of wickedness and depravity, Mahabali is known for his rectitude, goodness and benevolence. The rule of Mahabali brought peace and prosperity to the land. The fame and power of the king increased day to day. This growing greatness of an asura made the Gods uneasy and they sought the help of Maha Vishnu to restraint his power. Lord Vishnu who is forced every time to assume the form of an avatar to annihilate the 'evil asuras', this time took the form of Vamana (fourth avatar), a Brahmin boy and approached Mahabali. Vamana was offered a boon by the King for which he asked three strides of land, which the King readily agreed. Soon the boy began to grow to such a height that his first pace covered the whole of the 14 worlds and the second covered the sky and all that was left. Realizing that Vamana's third step will destroy the Earth, Mahabali asked him to place the last step on his head and thus he was stamped to the nether world. But before doing so, Vamana offered Mahabali with a boon -to visit his subject once every year. This was the origin of Kerala's most important cultural event and festival - Onam. It is the time when the exiled king returns for a brief sojourn in his former kingdom and visit his beloved subjects. Onam reminds the people of a blissful, affluent and harmonious era sans treason, deceit and fib.