Bharatiya Janata Party president Amit Shah on Tuesday faced flak from Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan for his "Vaman Jayanti" greeting on Twitter as the state celebrated the harvest festival of Onam. On Facebook, Vijayan said, "With Vaman Jayanti wishes, Amit Shah has tarnished social values that Mahabali upheld and has insulted Malayalis."

On Twitter, Shah had written, "Samastha Deshvasiyonko Vamanka Jayanthi ka Hardik Shubhkamanaein [Wishing Everyone a Happy Vaman Jayanti]." His message was received with displeasure by a section of Malayalis, prompting him to tweet a second Onam greeting later in the day. Critics said Shah's message was an attempt to give a Brahminical Hindu colour to the festival.

The debate started with Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh's Malayalam mouthpiece, Kesari, suggesting that the Onam legend about Malayali king Mahabali was a distorted falsehood. It said Malayalis should be celebrating Vaman, the fifth avatar of Hindu god Vishnu, instead. It went on to say that the festival was originally celebrated to mark the birthday of Vaman, reported Economic Times.

Onam is Kerala’s biggest festival. The mythological story underpinning the celebration revolves around Mahabali, whose rule is considered a golden period in the state's history. However, his power made the Devas, Vedic gods, envious, which led to Vishnu taking the form of a Brahmin dwarf and tricking Mahabali into defeat. Mahabali was sent to hell but he still returns annually to visit Kerala – which is when his former kingdom celebrates Onam.