Vamana The Great Dwarf


Discover the fascinating story of Vamana Avatar, one of the ten avatars of Lord Vishnu in Sanatana tradition. This captivating tale follows Shri Vishnu in his dwarf form as he defeats the demon king Bali and restores balance to the universe. With themes of humility, justice, and divine intervention, this tale offers valuable lessons on the importance of righteousness and the power of devotion. Join us as we delve into the symbolism and meaning behind this timeless story and uncover its relevance to our lives today.

There are few ideal characteristics of a true charismatic hero or a great leader. Tall, fair, Handsome, intelligent, etc. But, if you look back in history, you find that, when the whole world was keeping an open eye for that tall hero, often, short men have stolen the show, right from under your nose. Whether it may be our own Chhatrapati Shivaji, Lokmanya Tilak, Lal Bahadur Shastri or it may be Nepolean Bonapart and Adolf Hitler in history. It may be Picasso, Voltaire, or Beethoven in art, Or, it may be Gimli, Frodo, or Lord Tyrion in TV fiction. This is a story of one of the most popular and the most powerful dwarfs among them, Vamana, the great Dwarf. 

Long ago, there was a childless sage couple named Prusni and Sutapa. After praying to Lord Vishnu for many years to grant them a child, pleased Vishnu appeared in front and assured the couple, that they will have to reborn three times on this earth and the god himself will take birth through them every time.
After nine months, Lord took birth through them naming Prasngarbha. In the next life, this sage couple took the name of Aditi and Kashyap and for their last life, they took the names Devaki and Vasudev.

King Daksha Prajapati, had three daughters. One was Sati, who married Mahadev, and the other two were Diti and Aditi. One of the legendary Sapta Rishi, Sage Kashyap married both Diti and Aditi. Aditi gave birth to Gods Surya, Agni, and Indra.

King Bali:

Hiranyaksha, first of the Demon, getting Killed by Varaha, Haleebidu Temple
Hiranyaksha, first of the Demon, getting Killed by Varaha, Haleebidu Temple

Diti, was pregnant, and after carrying her child for hundred years in her womb, Hiranyaksha was born, and with him, the Demon race began. Hiranyaksha was killed by Lord Varaha, while his little brother Hiranyakashipu, father of Bhakt Pralhad, was slain by Narsimha. Prahlada had a Demon son named Virochana, who later fathered a powerful demon child, named Bali. Powerful Bali became the leader of the demons. Although he was not a devotee of Vishnu, just like his grandfather Pralhad, he was a very righteous and just ruler.  

When the king Bali got to know, how Indra, Varuna, Kubera, and other demigods cheated the demons during Samudra Manthan or churning of the great sea, he got furious. Straightaway, with the demonic army, they attacked Heaven.

Srimad Bhagvat Purana portraits a brilliant picture of waterfront ahead., Purana says, there were many types of warriors blowing drums, conch shells while riding on animals like horses, elephants, vultures, eagles, ducks, hawks, whales, Makaras, buffaloes, rhinoceros, jackals, rats, lizards, and even riding on humans as well. For a while, demons were overpowering the armies of demigods. But after the appearance of Vishnu and his Sudarshan, demons started to die. Shukracharya, till now was able to bring back the dead Rakshasas with the help of Sanjivani Vidya, was not able to do so as Vishnu started cutting their bodies.

Then inevitable happened and king Bali died in the battel. Few remaining demons dragged his body out of the battlefield to Shukracharya in hell while retreating, and the battle was won by the Demogids.  

Revenge of King Bali:

Although dead, being intact, Shukracharya resurrected King Bali with his Sanjivani Mantras, and being a grateful king, Bali served the sage with all his heart. Being pleased with his devotion, Shukracharya guided him to perform Vishwajit Yadnya (Ceremony to win the world). After receiving blessings from his grandfather Pralhad and other Brahmins, Bali started the Yadnya. As he was pouring the ghee into the sacred fire, one brilliant celestial chariot covered with gold and silk emerged from the fire. Yellow-colored horses were attached to it with a flag of the roaring lion. A gilded bow, along with two quivers with unlimited arrows and unbreakable armor appeared in front of him. Pleased and proud grandfather Prahlada, gave him a garland of celestial flowers which will never fade, and his beloved teacher Shukracharya gifted him a conch shell. Now, the stage was set for the revenge of the demons.
After blowing the conch shell gifted to him by Shukracharya, along with all of the demons might, Bali attacked Indrapuri, the city of Indra. Crushing all of the obstacles in between, he advanced towards Indra’s abode like a juggernaut. Seeing his might, Indra went to his teacher Brihaspati. Knowing all about the Vishwajit Yandya, Charriot, and the blessing of Prahlada, sage realized that now, Bali is impossible to be defeated. As per his suggestions, Indra, and the rest of the demigods became invisible. Along with the rest of the army retreated and ran away from Heaven. Demons took over the kingdom of Indra. Maharaja Bali started ruling there. As per Shukhracharya’s advice, he started performing Ashwamegh yagnya.

While Aditi was looking for her sons in Heaven, she could not find anyone. She started griefing for her children. When her husband, the great Kashyapa came back from his penance, she told them what happened. Kashyapa tried to make her understand the Maya of the supreme lord, she could not comprehend him due to severe anguish.

Kashyapa advised her to surrender to Bhagwan Vishnu with her problems by doing Payo Vrata, a 12 days penance to please the Vishnu, thought by Brahma himself. Very pleased with her Payo Vrata, Vishnu appeared in front of her and assured her that he himself will be born as her son, and will grant her every wish.   

Birth of the Vamana:

Abhijit star had risen in the sky, on the auspicious 12th day of Shravan month, she gave birth to Vaman. After eight years, Kashyapa performed a Sacred thread ceremony (Mauji Bandhan or Upanayana Sanskar). Brahma himself gave him the sacred thread, while Soma gave him the staff, mother earth gave him the pair of sandals, and Alms were provided by Bhavani. 

Till now, under the guidance of Shukracharya, Bali had completed 99 Ahswamegh Yadnyas. Completion of 100th Yadnya means he will be the Indra and the lord of all demigods. Wondering Vaman reached the northern shore of River Narmada, at the place called BruguKaccha where the last Ashawamedh Yadnya was in the process. He was giving donations to the Brahmins. As soon as celestial looking little Vamana entered the place, everybody started looking at this effervescent scholar child with curious affection. Bali approached him and with saluting him, asked Vamana what he can be pleased with. 

Shukracharya, the sage of demons founds Vamana suspicious. He grabbed Bali into the corner saying the little kid is none other than Vishnu, came here to destroy whatever you have achieved so far. Listening to this, Bali got excited, that a supreme lord has come here with a begging bowl, and considered this, as the greatest thing ever. Vamana, with a warm smile, asked for all the land, he could cover within three steps. As per Vedic traditions, after a giveaway, one must release water from his right hand to make it official. As King Bali started pouring the water from the kettle, it got stuck. Vamana, remove one straw from his mat and clear the waterway. Bali poured the water and thus the offering was completed.

Here, something uncanny happened. To stop Bali from giving three steps land, Sage Shukracharya reduced and tucked himself into the kettle pipe so, the offering couldn’t be completed. Vamana, while unclogging the waterway, pocked the eye of Shukracharya, and made him half-blind. He disappeared from there in agony.


Immediately, after offering, Vamana started to expand. He grew larger than Bali’s palace, larger than the village, larger than river Narmada and larger than the earth. And then, he placed his first feet on the earth. Maharaja Bali’s Kingdom. The earth was looking like a drop of mud stuck under the bottom of the lotus stem. Doing so, he continued to grow, and on the second step, he covered the entire space. When he asked that virtuous and Patronus king, where should he put his third step, Bali requested the giant to keep it on his head. While doing so, Vamana pushed the surrendered demon King into the nether world. He prevented Bali from performing the hundredth Ashvamedh Yadnya and becoming Indra. 

Miniature Story Of the Vamana Chennakeshava temple, belur
Miniature Story Of the Vamana

Somnathpur portrays the story rather beautifully, but being a miniature size, it often gets shadowed under the big and more famous sculptures. Here, on the left side, you can see dwarf Vamana meeting with Maharaja Bali, with bearded Shukracharya. On the right-hand side, you can see Bali, pouring water from his hand as a sign of offering. in the middle, you can see Vamana, in his Trivikrama form, covering the Satya Loka with his second step. 

Lord Trivikrama at Hoysaleshwara Temple, Halebeedu, Karnataka, India
Lord Trivikrama at Hoysaleshwara Temple, Halebeedu, Karnataka, India

In Halebeedu, Trivikrama is carved magnificently. Beautiful Pabhavali or decorative arch is coming out of a fierce-looking Kirtimukha. Delicate arches are merged into the peacock tails of Makara rather splendidly. Trivikrama, a form of Vishnu is holding his favorite Lotus, mace, Chakra, and Panchajanya conch shell in his hand. He is wearing a beautifully carved crown on his head, along with a belt ornament called Udarbandha on his stomach, Vanamala- a garland coming from his shoulders and reaching to his knees, and an ornament called Mekhala, on his hips. While his left leg is on earth, his right leg is in Satya Loka. Praising the glory of the supreme lord, three-headed Brahma, sitting on clouds, is showering the feet of Pundalika Vishnu with rivers. You can see waves of the river, coming out from Brahma. If you look closely, you will be able to see fish and turtles swimming in the river water. Below that, you will see Garuda with wings, saluting his lord.    

Why Vamana Avatar is significant?

Maharaj Bali was the grandson of Bhakt Prahlad, the greatest devotee of Lord Vishnu. Being righteous, empathetic, and decent king, Lord Vishnu did not kill him brutally like he killed Hiranyakashipu. Being the first of the human Avatara, this was the first time, when he did not use any of his weapons. May it be his Sudarshan Chakra or not even his beloved Kaumodaki mace as well. Instead, he chose a very unusual weapon: a begging bowl. Bali had almost all the qualities to be the ruler of the world, but he was indeed filled with pride. By removing his pride, Vishnu filled him with utter devotion or Bhakti. A state of total surrender. Only after that, he gave Bali what he sought. 

What happened to Bali after he was pushed into the Patal Lok?
As Vishnu, in the form of Vamana touched Bali with his feet, his ego vanished. He became one of the seven immortals as his all sins cleared up. He is now, the king of the nether realm called Suthala, where he and his people prosper. Despite not completing that 100th Ashwamegh Yadya, generous Vishnu announced him as the next Indra, when the universe we all know will end, and next Manvantara will start.        

Princes Ratnamala:

Demon Pootana and Krishna, Kedareshwar Temple, Halebeedu, Karnataka, India
Demon Pootana and Krishna, Kedareshwar Temple, Halebeedu, Karnataka, India

King Bali had princes named Ratnamala, got so much affectionate towards Vamana, that she had a sudden burst of an overwhelming surge of maternal instincts. She had this urge to make Vamana, her son, and suckle him, and showering that remarkable child with all the love and devotion in the whole world. Great Vishnu, granted her wish in the next birth, as him being Krishna, and Ratnamala, in the form of Putana. Here, on the outer walls of Kedareshwara temple, located in the corner of town Halebeedu, you will find that sculpture of Putana, about to die. And Lord Krishna on her chest.



3 thoughts on “Vamana The Great Dwarf

  1. Once again , speechless. Legendary stories and associated sculpture all over Hoysala temples leave us only to think and rethink again and again about our mythology…Feeling proud to be a Hindu ❤️

    1. Thanks Sudhir Ji, for reading the post. My understanding is, out ancient temples were not just the place of worship. they were universities for knowing our Puranas, Panchatantra, Vedas and many more subjects. Every story from Purana has a takeaway.

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