Bali Chakravarthy wanted to have the seat of Indra (Indra Padavi) permanently. As per his guru Shukracharya’s advice he started performing Ashwamedha Yaaga. He completed 99 Ashwamedha Yaagas. If he completes the 100th he will be eligible for the post of Indra.
Indra sought the help of Sri Mahavishnu to avoid him being dethroned by King Bali. Aditi, the mother of Indra, also performed Tapas to get back her son’s lost glory.
Lord Vishnu assured that he himself will come to rescue of Indra. For this divine mission, Lord Vishnu was born as Vamana, the dwarf. In this incarnation Vishnu was the son of Aditi.
Lord in this avathara was known as Vamana because he was dwarf in form at the beginning. He was known as Trivikrama because he is the one who has conquered the three worlds, Earth, Upper worlds and Nether worlds. He grew to a gigantic size while suppressing the King Bali and conquered the Universe with just three paces of his foot. He was also referred as Upendra as he was known to be the younger brother of Indra. We find all the three names Trivikrama, Vamana and Upendra while reciting 24 Kesava Namas. An exclusive Purana named after Lord Vamana called Sri Vamana Purana scripted by Lord and Sage Veda Vyasa forms part of 18 great Puranas called Ashtadasa Puranas.
Lord Vamana was born as the son of Sage Kashyapa (Kashyapa Prajapathi) and his wife Aditi in accordance to the penance done by the couple and prayers of Indra and other Deities. He was born on Bhadrapada Sukla Dwadasi day under the star constellation of Sravana Nakshatra. This day every year is celebrated as Vamana Jayanthi the day on which Lord Sri Vamana was born.
As soon as he was born He took no time in attaining the boyhood becoming a Vatu (Brahmachari). Lord Brahma himself initiated the Gayathri Manthra to Sri Vamana. His attire was that of a typical Brahmin Brahmachari, wearing a Koupeena (Loin cloth), a sacred thread, holding a Chatthra (Umbrella) in one hand and Dhanda/Kamandalu (stick and water jug) in the other, his upper body covered with Deer skin, wearing a ring of Dharbha (Kusa grass) to his third finger.
Lord Vishnu grew up fast and got his upanayanam done and went to King Bali, where he was conducting the 100th Ashwamedha Yaaga.
On seeing the handsome face of Vamana in the Yaaga, Bali Chakravarthy came to Vamana and did Shastanga namaskara and prayed him to take some “daana” (gift) from him. He also told him that whatever Vamana demands, he will give.
He asked him whether Vamana would like to have land, elephants, horses, jewels, etc. For everything Vamana said “NO”.
Vamana also praised Bali Chakravarthi for his just rule and reminded him that his great grand father Prahlada was a great Vishnu bhakta, and also praised Hiranyakashipu-Hiranyaksha about their power and determination.
Finally Vamana demanded just three steps of land and He said He would like to measure it all by himself.
Initially Bali hesitated to donate just three paces of land as it is a disgrace to his status and was guilty to give such charity. But later agreed, upon insisting by Lord Vamana and promised to give three paces of land as charity measured by Sri Vamana’s foot.
By that time, Bali Chakravarthi’s Guru Shukracharyaru realized that the little Brahmin is Vishnu. He told Bali not to give the daana, as the gods had sent Vishnu to take away everything he has. Bali refused to hear his advice and said what more glory can I get than fulfilling Daana Dharma demanded Sri Hari Vishnu.
The King is however a man of his word and offers the gift to Vamana. Shukracharya, annoyed with the pride of the king, shrinks himself with his powers and sits in the spout of the Kamandalu (water jug), from which water has to be poured to seal the promise to the deity in disguise. Lord Vishnu, in disguise of the dwarf, understands immediately, and picks a straw from the ground and directs it up the spout, poking out the left eye of Shukracharaya. Since this day on, the guru of the asuras has been known to be half blind.
Thus Guru Sukracharya lost one eye.
Soon Bali Chakravarthi did the sankalpa and agreed to the three steps of land as asked by Vamana. When Maha Bali completed the ritual process of donating the land, Lord Vamana assumed his cosmic form (Trivikrama), measured the entire Earth including the nether worlds by his first step.
With his second step He measured the entire upper worlds (Sky). When his foot reached the zenith it crossed the Sathya Loka where Lord Brahma stays. Seeing the foot of Lord Maha Vishnu, Lord Brahma offered abhishekam and washed the Lord’s foot and the water that fell from His foot sanctified the entire Universe. We find in the verses of great composer and Saint Sri Annamacharya referring to the foot washed by Lord Brahma (Brahma Kadigina Padamu) in one of his verses on Lord Sri Venkateswara.
When the entire Universe was conquered by just two paces of Lord Sri Maha Vishnu (Vamana) there was no space left in the Universe to keep Vamana’s third pace. When Lord Vamana asked Maha Bali the space to keep his third pace, all the pride and vanity of Maha Bali had vanished and he had no hesitation in surrendering before the Supreme Lord. Having realised the Supreme Reality, Bali readily offered his own head to keep the Lord’s third step. Lord Vamana immediately placed his third pace (his foot) on the head of Bali and sent him to the Patalaloka or Underworld.
He was also given the boon that he will be allowed to rule the entire universe for one day in a year and on that day he can visit the earth, which is the Balipadyami day – the Kaarthika Shudda Padya.
Moral/Message from this tale Vamana Avathara
Hidden behind every Avathara of Paramatma there is a message/moral conveyed. In this Sri Vamana Avathara the message is total surrender to the God however mighty one may be. When once you shed your ego and surrender totally with devotion at the feet of the supreme Lord there is nothing one can worry about and will get total protection. This is what exactly has happened in case of Bali who had no other alternative but to surrender to the Lord Trivikrama who had conquered the three worlds.
When King Bali surrendered in front of Lord Vamana with total devotion, the Lord was very much pleased and gave him boons voluntarily without being asked by King Bali. He not only made him the ruler of the nether world Suthala but also assured him that He would always protect his kingdom. He also assured Bali that he would become the Indra in the next Manvanthara. By the touch of Lord’s foot on the head of King Bali all his sins got cleaned up, he became immortal (Chiranjeevi). This is what one should understand that we should never ask for alms to the Supreme Lord. If you ask you will get only what you had asked. It you don’t ask you will get everything that you require.
The story of Bali also bring out the reality that, there is nothing permanent and nothing to be taken for granted in this world be it wealth, beauty, power, status, position or family and nothing belongs to anyone. Even the mighty have to fall on one day or the other. We have several such historical examples that we are also seeing in this modern world.