The Glory of the Vamana Avatar and Its Inner Significance

Vamana with His parents - Aditi and Kashyapa

Lord Vamana and His Parents

Kashyapa and his two wives, Diti and Aditi, were the parents of Asuras (demons) and Devas (demigods). Indra, the king of Devas went to war with the king of the Asuras, as it was common practice in those days for one king to invade the kingdom of another to acquire additional territory. Mahabali vanquished Indra in the war and proceeded to annexe the territory of Indra and occupied his capital Amaravati. Kashyapa had gone to the Himalayas to do penance. Lamenting over the defeat of her son, Indra, Aditi was in great grief. When she was wailing, Kashyapa came to her. Instantly; he was able to recognise the cause of her grief by Divine insight, which he had acquired as a result of his penance. He consoled his wife Aditi saying that nothing happens in the world without God’s will and people should go on doing their duties. He asked her to pray to Lord Narayana and taught her a Vrata (ritual) to be followed strictly, known as Payovrata (milk ritual). It has to be observed from the twelfth day of the bright half of Karteeka (Shuklapaksha Dwadashi). She observed the Vrata as prescribed. A devotee’s sincere prayer will never go waste. Since she performed the Vrata with a pious heart, Narayana appeared before her and blessed her that He would Himself take birth in her womb and help Indra. Aditi was very happy and true to the word of the Lord, she gave birth to a son of uncommon effulgence on the twelfth day of the bright half of the month of Bhadrapada. That child was Vamana Murthi. Even as a child He demonstrated His Divine power by doing marvellous deeds.

Mahabali - The King of the Demons

Mahabali was performing an Ashwamedha Yajna (horse sacrifice). He had previously performed a hundred such Yajnas. He declared that he would give anything that anyone sought from him during this Yajna. Vamana came to the Yagashala. As He was approaching them, the sages assembled there perceived the extraordinary effulgent form of the young lad. Mahabali went forth to receive the Brahmana boy with all traditional honours and gave him and eminent seat befitting the status of a holy person. Bali told him: “Master, it is my good fortune that You have chosen to honour me with Your presence. Whatever You desire, I am here ready to fulfil the same”. Vamana smiled and said: “You need not give Me anything very great. It is enough if you give Me that extent of land covered by three foot-steps of Mine”.

Lord Vamana at the Yagashala of King Mahabali

On hearing him, Bali’s preceptor, Shukracharya, who could have vision of the future, told Bali that the one who had come to seek a gift from Bali was not an ordinary Brahmana boy but Lord Narayana Himself who had assumed this form. He advised Bali not to promise the lad anything. But Bali was a king who would never go back on his word and told his Guru that he would never break his promise. He was determined to give Vamana whatever he wanted since breaking one’s word was a sin and he had to keep his pledge. Shukracharya insisted that he should not fulfil the demand of Vamana as He had come to deprive Bali of all his possessions. He said Vamana was not really in need of anything as everything was in His hands.

Bali, however, determined to honour the word given to Vamana, begged pardon of his Guru for disregarding his advice. Earlier, while Bali was embarking on the war with Indra, he had prostrated at the feet of his preceptor, Shukracharya, and on his advice he performed the Vishvajit Yajna from which he secured very powerful weapons. It was only because of Shukracharya’s help that he was able to conquer Indra. On this occasion, Bali was not prepared to heed the advice of the same preceptor. Shukracharya cursed Bali, saying: “As you have not heeded your Guru’s words you will be reduced to ashes”. Bali was firm and replied, “I am prepared to face any consequence, but will not go back on my word”.

So saying, he told Vamana to measure the three feet of land as desired by Him. All attempts of Shukracharya to dissuade Bali from offering the land desired by Vamana proved futile. Bali told his Guru: “Prana (life) and Mana (honour) are the two eyes of a person. Even if life goes, honour should be protected. Granting that the person that has come now is the Lord Himself, I should be the most fortunate one as the Lord who gives everything to mankind, is seeking something from me”.


Bali wanted to perform a great Yaga (sacrifice) called Vishwajit Vishwam (means the totality of Pancha Bhootas (five elements), Pancha Indriyas (five senses) and Pancha Koshas (five regions or sheaths) of the human body). It is the victory over such a Vishwam which the word Vishwajit symbolizes.

Indra is so called because he is ruler of the Indriyas (senses), and the ruler of the Indriyas in man is the Manas (mind). The nature of the interplay of Indriyas is such that it is possible to gain as well as to lose through it. Indra wanted to rule heaven, but Bali wanted nothing of the sort. Indra used to propitiate and beg Vishnu in order to achieve what he desired, but Vishnu Himself descended in the form of Vamana to beg from Bali. Thus Bali proved himself to be far superior to Indra.

Vamana belonged to the famous Siddhashram which was founded by Kashyapa (representing Purusha or man) and Aditi (representing the feminine Prakriti or Nature). It is through the union of this Purusha and Prakriti that the progeny known as Siddhi (in the form of Vatu), the embodiment of Vishnu Tatwa, was born. The Siddhashram was located on the banks of a sacred river called Pavitra, which represents life. Siddhi will always be found on the banks of flowing life whenever the Bhava Shuddhi (purity of mind) and Chitta Shuddhi (purity of heart) predominate in man. It is due to the fact that all Sankalpas (resolutions) could be realised at this sacred Ashram that it has come to be known as Siddhashram. Vishwamitra, after the successful completion of his Yaga with the help of Rama and Lakshmana, brought them to reside at this Ashram for some time. It was at this Ashram, too, that Bali attained Moksha (liberation).

The spreading of Vishnu Tatwam (nature of Vishnu) is known as Trivikrama Tatwam (nature of Vishnu expanding to the three worlds). The aspect of Trivikrama Tatwam is represented by the Gayatri Mantra: ‘Bhur Bhuvaha Suvaha’. The Bhu Loka, Bhuvar Loka and Suvar Loka constitute the Trivikrama Tatwam. It is wrong to conceive of these three Lokas (worlds) as existing one on top of the other and thus capable of being reached by climbing a ladder, as it were! In fact the three Lokas are intertwined with each other and one exists within the other.

The real meaning of this kind of geometrical configuration of the three Lokas is that the Pancha Indriya, Pancha Bhootas and Pancha Koshas (five senses, elements and sheaths) aspects of man’s Deha (body), is Bhu Loka; the aspect of Prana Shakti or Manas Tatwam is Bhuvar Loka; and the microscopic state of Aanandam (bliss) represents Suvar Loka. So it can be said that the three worlds, Bhu Loka, Bhuvar Loka and Suvar Loka, are nothing but the Deha Tatwa, Manas Tatwa and Ananda Tatwa (essential nature of body, mind and bliss) respectively and the totality of these three represents the Trivikrama Tatwa.

Again, these three aspects of Trivikrama Tatwa can be understood in terms of the three states of an individual, viz., the one you think you are, the one others think you are and the one you really are. Hence only by proper Sadhana can one transcend from Bhu Loka through Bhuvar Loka to Suvar Loka. The attainment of Suvar Loka is known as Moksha (liberation), and it represents the stage of complete mergence with the Lord. Since it is a state where the aspect of Moha (attachment) is made to disintegrate, it is known as Moksha (Moha+Kshyaam = Mokshyam).

Source: Vamana, Chapter 2, Sai Vani: Avatar on Avatar Purushas

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