Vamana is the fifth Avatar (Incarnation) of Lord Vishnu, in the form of a beautiful young brahmin Vamana. He was the one who returned the heavenly kingdom to Lord Indra while outwitting the asura King Mahabali.

Having asked for only three steps of land, Lord Vamana increased to a gigantic size and took everything from Bali that he had, including Bali himself. On his head, Lord Vamana took his last third step after having pierced the shell of the universe with his second step and manifested the Ganges in this world. He is also referred to as Lord Trivikrama (three steps).

King Mahabali and Vamana Avatar

Often the ten avatars that Lord Vishnu took the form of being connected with the planetary counterparts through which we can also propitiate the planets. This is the main method of propitiation mentioned in the main classic astrological text written by Maharshi Parashara, the Brihat Parashara Hora Shastra.

Lord Vamana is connected with the giant planet Jupiter which might seem strange as this avatar is associated with a dwarf. However, Vamana appears as a dwarf only at first. He grows in size and turns into a giant, and measures the entire universe in just three steps.

In this regard, Vamana represents the power of Jupiterian wisdom, covering the entire universe with a kind of triple law. Worship of Vamana brings us into contact with the Jupiterian ability to organize life in accordance with the cosmic rhythm while transforming and elevating personal qualities.

The appearance of Lord Vishnu As Vamana

The story of Bali Maharaja and the incarnation of Lord Vamana is described in the Eighth Canto of the Srimad Bhagavatam. According to the story, long ago, there lived a great king named Bali Maharaja. He was the grandson of Prahlada Maharaj and a powerful demon king. Once, he even defeated King Indra and won the kingdom of heaven. This deranged Aditi and Kasyapa Muni, who were the parents of the demigods.

Aditi and Kashyapa prayed to the Lord that their sons would be protected from the Asuras. Through prayer and service, Lord Vishnu appeared in the house of Kasyapa and his wife in his four-armed form, wearing ornaments and carrying weapons. Then the Lord assumed the form of Vamana, a dwarf brahmana.

Pleased with seeing the incarnations of the Lord, the great sages performed all the prescribed sacred rites. At the initiation ceremony of Vamana as a brahmin, the sun god uttered the Gayatri mantra, Brihaspati offered the Lord a sacred thread, and Kashyapa offered a grass belt.

Mother Earth gave Him a deerskin, and the moon god gave Him a brahma-danda, the staff of a brahmachari. Mother Aditi gave Him an undergarment, and the sky god gave Him an umbrella. Lord Brahma brought a jug of water to Lord Vamana, the seven sages brought kusha grass, and Mother Saraswati brought a Rudraksha rosary. Lord Kubera gave Him a begging vessel, and Mother Bhagavati made the first donation.

With words of welcome and blessings, Lord Vamana, the best of the brahmacharis, revealed the effulgence of Brahman to all present. Thus, He eclipsed with His beauty the entire assembly, which was attended by great saints and brahmins.

He came to the sacrifice of Bali Maharaj, who was famous for his generosity. The King received this boy Vamana with honor. He greeted Him and said that he wanted to donate something to Him. Brahmins in those days were never refused. Vamana only asked for three paces of land. Bali Maharaj was surprised and asked Vamana to ask for more.

Vamana said that a person who has not been able to control his senses would not be happy even if he gains the whole world’s wealth, but one who has been able to control his senses will be happy in any situation. Devotees are always satisfied. Materialistic people can be wealthy, but still, they are constantly dissatisfied.

King Mahabali and Vamana Avatar of Lord Vishnu
Image source – Kathkids.com

Bali Maharaja had a spiritual master, Shukracharya. Shukracharya was the family priest, although he had mystical powers. He knew that this brahmana was not an ordinary person. He realized that the Lord himself had assumed the form of a brahmin boy to deprive his disciple of all wealth. Shukracharya began to chastise his disciple for promising three steps of land. He said that the Lord himself came to deceive Bali and deprive him of all wealth.

Therefore, Bali should not have kept his promise and told the boy that he was joking. But Bali Maharaj replied that the earth could bear the weight of mountains and oceans, but she could not bear the burden of a liar. So, Vamana’s request was granted, and the dwarf was transformed into Trivikrama (giant form). He stepped over the sky with the first step, with the second – through the earth.

King Bali offered to put the third step on his royal head since there was no other free place left. The pacified Vamana placed the third step on his head and allowed Bali to go to the lower world along with the armies of demons and rule there. Indra regained his heavenly kingdom.

Lesson by Vamana Avatar

1. Should Control Our Senses

During the conversation between Vamana and Bali, Lord Vamana told the King that a person must learn to control his senses. If not, despite all worldly gains and wealth, a person will not be happy in any situation. A true devotee is always satisfied with what he has.

2. Lesson of Truthfulness

When Shukracharya asked King Bali to refuse the promise he had given to Vamana, the King replied he could not deceive the Brahaman because, for Mother Earth, the weight of a liar is an unbearable burden. Especially when we deal with Vaisnavas, we should never cheat. Truthfulness is one of the fundamental principles of religion.

Truthfulness, purity, mercy, and asceticism are the four foundations of spiritual life. We don’t get into arguments like, “My way is better than yours.” People are engrossed in this debate. Our philosophy is that religion should be based on truthfulness, mercy, purity, and asceticism. Any truly religious path should bring a person to the level where he gains a love for God and gives up the taste for material, sinful activities. The Srimad Bhagavatam says that everything should be judged by its fruits.

3. A Complete Devotee

Bali Maharaj is a unique example of a devotee who has completely surrendered himself to the Lord. Sometimes Lord Vishnu gives us trials in the form of deprivation and adversity. It is easy for a devotee to turn to Lord in such a helpless situation. It becomes a much more serious test when Lord Vishnu, on the contrary, gives us everything – money, power, attraction, knowledge.

We should be cautious not to become proud and use them for their intended purpose. And we can remember the charm of the little brahmin boy Shri Vamana Deva in order to get the “super-special mercy” so needed in such a situation.

(Last Updated On: June 15, 2022)