Today is Bali Padyami. On which day is Mahabali supposed to visit his subjects on prithvi loka - Onam or Bali Padyami?
Looking for references from scriptures only, and neither from folklore nor from medieval/modern literature.
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please read the summary and appreciate the post as the detailed part is too long
The Śrimad Bhāgavata Purana in regard to the appearance of Bhagwan Vishnu as Vamana says:
On the day of Śravaṇa-dvādaśī [the twelfth day of the bright fortnight in the month of Bhādra], when the moon came into the lunar mansion Śravaṇa, at the auspicious moment of Abhijit, the Lord appeared in this universe. Considering the Lord’s appearance very auspicious, all the stars and planets, from the sun to Saturn, were munificently charitable. ŚB 8.18.5
This day of Bhadrapada Shukla Paksha Dvadashi (when the moon is usually in Śravaṇa Nakshatra) is known as Vamana Jayanti.
In Kerala, although spanning over a few days, the festival of Onam is mainly celebrated in the Malayalam month of Cinkam (Tamil month of Avani) when the moon is in Tiruvoṇam (Oṇam) Nakshatra. (Refer Notes for clarity on correspondence)
Not surprisingly, the above two dates are exactly the same.
The Sangam Literature mentions Onam celebrations relating to Vishnu (and not Mahabali):
கணம் கொள் அவுணர் கடந்த பொலம் தார் மாயோன் மேய ஓணம் நல் நாள்
kaṇam koḷ avuṇar kaṭanta polam tār māyōṉ mēya ōṇam nal nāḷ (verse 590-591)
William Logan, a Scottish servant of the colonial government, in his book ‘Malabar Manual’ notes:
At Onam, which is perhaps the greatest national feast in Malabar … Parasu Raman or Vishnu is supposed to descend to earth to see his people happy.
- Chapter II - the People (e) Manners and Customs, Page 161
Celebrations include Malayalis making triangular pyramids representing Vamana (called Thrikkakara Appan) and not Mahabali They say, the Thrikkakara temple too has a procession of Vamana Bhagwan on the main day. Meaning, the festival of Onam is originally celebrated to mark Vamana Jayanti, or the birthday of Vamana Bhagwan. Over time, to disassociate Keralites with their Hindu heritage and to give a boost to South Indians being associated with Asuras (another point to fuel North vs South divide), such misconceptions were spread. Similar to Rama returning to Ayodhya on Diwali. We would also note that as per Srimad Bhagavatam 8.15.33, Mahabali did not rule over only Kerala as is commonly portrayed nowadays, he ruled over the three lokas, which is why Vamana was able to ask that from him.
Thus Onam is the grand celebration to mark the birth of God and subsequent quelling of Mahabali’s pride.
The Karttikamasa Mahatmya of the Vaishnava Khanda of the Skanda Purana talks of the three days of Diwali being where Mahabali has his rule on earth and Bali pratipada has been granted for worship of Danavas. Three days of Bali’s rule:
48-49a. On the fourteenth day in the dark half of the month of Āśvina, on the new-moon day and on the first day (of Kārttika) which is in conjunction with Svāti constellation, one should take these three days as the festival days of lights.
49b-55. Bali, the great king, was told ṃus by Hari who was delighted: “Welfare unto you. Choose your boon, whatever may be in your mind.”
On hearing these words of Viṣṇu, Bali spoke these words:
“What is there to be requested for, for my own sake? Everything has already been given over by me. For the sake of the general public I shall request. If you are competent, grant it unto me. Today the earth was gifted to you who are in the false guise of a Dwarf. Since that has been taken over by you by means of three steps in the course of three days, let there be my rule on the earth for three days, O Hari.
Naming of Bali Pratipada:
Formerly, at the beginning of Kṛtayuga, Bali was the great king of Dānavas. The earth as well as his own head was given to Vāmana by him. At that time the Lord himself was delighted and he spoke to Bali:
6-8. “O sinless one, since you have given me the earth on the first day in the bright half of the month of Kārttika with great devotion, I am delighted thereby. I shall grant you a boon. O king.”
After saying this, he granted the boon: “O king, the first Tithi of the month of Kārttika shall be known by your name. If devotees take oil bath etc. and worship on this day, O king, that shall give everlasting benefit. There is no doubt about it.”
9-12. Ever since then, the Pratipad Tithi has become very famous in the world.
This great festival that tends to favour Asuras, has been granted to Bali, O dear one, by Viṣṇu who was delighted. 52-55. Thus every year, one day and one night in the month of Kārttika have been given to the king of Dānavas on the earth, as if it was the ideal for him.
Accordingly from the above, we can conclude that Onam is to mark the manifestation of Vamana Bhagwan and Mahabali comes to rule on earth during the three days of Diwali.
Notes and credits:
Credit this website for 90% of the above research of Part 1 on ŚB, William Logan and MaduraiKanchi pointing towards Vamana Jayanti being Onam
Credit this website for pinpointing where in MaduraiKanchi reference to Onam is found.