the foremost cultural festival of the South Indian state of
Kerala, falls towards the end of August or in early September
every year. The Onam festivities at Prasanthi Nilayam have
a unique charm of their own. The entire Sai Family from the
state of Kerala gathers at Prasanthi Nilayam to celebrate
the festival in the presence of their Divine Master, Bhagawan
Sri Sathya Sai Baba. The sacred day marks the occasion when
the mighty Emperor Bali performed the supreme act of surrender
to Lord Vamana, the Avatar of Lord Vishnu. The legend goes
that Lord Vamana, disguised as a Brahmin, asked Bali for just
three paces of land. His first two paces covered the earth
and the heavens. And Bali, who would never go back on his
word, offered his own head
for the Lord to place His Feet on, and thus attained liberation.
However, he prayed to Vamana for one last boon – once
every year Emperor Bali wished to see his beloved subjects.
This day, when Emperor Mahabali comes to visit his people,
is celebrated as Onam by the people of Kerala.
The state of Kerala is home to varied and
captivating forms of art, music and dances. So, when the people
of Kerala gather at the Lotus Feet of Bhagawan on the occasion
of Onam, it is indeed a grand cultural feast. Sai Kulwant
Hall reverberates to the sound of the Panchavadyam, the traditional
music that is played on festive occasions in the temples of
Kerala. Reputed singers from Kerala enthrall the audience
with their expert renditions of Carnatic musical compositions.
The students of the Sri Sathya Sai Vidyapeetham at Srisailam
in Kerala usually present a cultural programme on this occasion.
“This day is the sacred day when the
Lord as Vamana Avatar conferred liberation on Emperor Bali.
Bali was a great person, but he had one weakness. He suffered
from a slight sense of ego. A great man sees the human even
in Lord Narayana (God). But a good man is one who sees God
even in man. Hence, it is more important for people to be
good rather than great. Most parents these days want their
children to become great in various ways - in scholarship,
wealth, and position. This is totally misconceived. They should
really want their children to be good.
Vamana incarnated to eradicate the undesirable
quality of ego in Emperor Bali, Bali was known for his love
of his subjects. Poverty was unknown in his realm. He looked
after the welfare of his people with an equal eye. He felt
proud about his kingdom and his people. Vamana wanted to efface
even this pride and redeem Bali.
Before leaving for the nether world, Bali
gave a promise to his people, whom he loved. He said he would
come back to them every year on Onam day and bless them.
Onam is celebrated as the day of advent of
Vamana and Bali. It marks the beginning of a new life. That
is why it is celebrated by wearing new clothes and resolving
to lead a new life”.
- Divine Discourse: 14th September
"When the Lord, as Vamana, was approaching
Emperor Bali's sacrificial ceremony, the Emperor received
him reverentially and asked him what he wanted. He said, "I
want three feet of ground measured by my feet." Bali said,
"Why come all the way to ask for just three feet of ground?"
Vamana declared, "That is all I want." The Emperor's preceptor,
Sukracharya, warned the Emperor against making the gift, since
the seeker was no ordinary person. But the Emperor firmly
declared that there is no greater sin than going back on one's
promise. He kept his word.
Emperor Bali stands forth as a sterling example
of one who stands by his word whatever the circumstances.
That is why the people of Kerala worship him to this day and
celebrate the festival of Onam in his memory. What is it that
is adored today? It is the virtue of truth. Without truth
nothing has any value.
Love is the supreme value. It is not worldly
love but Divine love that is precious. That Divine love encompasses
every other form of attachment to friends and others. Cultivate
the enduring friendship of God.
Emperor Bali was prepared to offer everything,
including himself, to God. That is his greatness. It is not
the gift of mere three feet of land. He offered himself to
the Lord. This is the spirit in which Bali surrendered to
- Divine Discourse: 27 August 1996