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-: Great Devotee Bali :-
of Prahlada, devotee of Vishnu. Though a king of Rakshasas, he ruled with
righteousness and welfare of the subjects at heart. Having agreed to give in
charity threepaced of land to Vishnu , who came in the form of a young
'Vatu' (bachelor- boy) to beg for charity, Bali kept his promise by offering
his head on which Vishnu could put his third step. Hindus believe that Bali
There was great joy in the capital that day on account of the coronation ceremony. Every house was whitewashed andpainted with colors. There was a riot of green leaves in strings adorning the thresholds, and the walls were full of painted pictures. There was vocal and instrumental music accompanied by drums and timbrels. The subjects shouted with joy - "Today Bali becomes our king. It is the day of his coronation as our king and lord."
Soon after Bali returned from the forest after his tapas, which had given him great power, Prahlada wanted to install him as king. But Bali wanted his grandfather torule over the world for some more time. But after a few years Prahlada convinced Bali to accept the responsibility of kingship.
Bali however, agreed to this only on condition that his grandfather should stay in the capital. On the day of Bali's coronation, many kings came to the capital with previous gifts. It was celebrated with grandeur and joy. The Gandharva, Yaksha, Siddha and Daitya kings gave Bali gifts and expressed their desire to have him as their friend.
Only Devas (gods) did not
attend the coronation of Bali. Indra, the king of the Devas, was angry with
Bali after he heard of Bali's successful tapas.Fear and anxiety took hold of
him when he heard of the growing strength of the Danavas who drew their
strength and courage from Bali.
Danavas became bold and courageous after Bali became their king. Many heroes and scholars, who had taken shelter elsewhere on account of their fear of the Devas, now rallied together under the leadership of Bali.
Bali appointed scholars and wisemen as officers to assist him in the administration. shukracharya, the renowned wise ascetic, was appointed as the chief priest and adviser to the king.
The first task before Bali was to subdue the neighboring kings and also those that were far off from his kingdom and make them obey him. There was a reason for this. Some of the kings were selfish and wicked. They were robbing the subjects and harassing them without any cause. There was widespread poverty on account of the kings' misrule. There was no protection for the weak and the helpless. In many places subjects deserted their lands and ran for their lives, as a result of the unbearable harassment inflicted on hem. This made the lands unproductive and barren.
Having assessed the condition, Bali came to the palace of his grandfather, Prahlada, to consult him for advice. Prahlada welcomed him with affection. Bali said, "Grandfather, it is obvious that the king should be good if the subjects should live in peace and happiness. I am going now to fight the wicked kings and make them obedient to our law. Bless me and wish me well." Prahlada said, "Child, under the circumstances now, both courage and forgiveness are needed. Only one of these is never sufficient. Witnessing unrighteous conduct and needless pain inflicted on others, if we do not take proper action against the unjust, our own kith and kin will treat us with indifference. If a king always displays his power to punish them, his own subjects oppose him and will dread him, like men who are frightened at the sight of a serpent. Thereforeyoushould be forgiving even as you are strong, bold and courageous. Arrogance is never good for any one." With these words Prahlada blessed Bali and bade him farewell.
Bali set out on his
adventure of world conquests with his ministers and generals at the head of
his army. Who could have opposed the invincible warrior-king? A few kings
accepted his overlordship surrendering without fighting. A few did so after
their defeat. A few more courted his friendship. Having conquered the whole
world, Bali became the emperor.
After his conquest of the world, Bali summoned a meeting of all his ministers end subjects. In the open assembly he worshipped his chief preceptor Shukracharya and said with folded hands, "O Gurudeva, I became the emperor with your guidance. Accept the wealth I have brought as a token of my gratitude."
Shukracharya smiled and said: "O king of the Danavas, this wealth belongs to the subjects. Perform the 'Vishwajit' sacrifice in such a way that the wealth is properly distributed among the subjects. Then I shall ask for two gifts from you."
Bali agreed to his Guru's suggestion and said, 'What is the first dakshina that you wish to ask from me ?"
Shukracharya said: "First establish righteousness among the Danavas."
Bali vowed that his empire would become a place marked by righteous conduct and wanted to know what his Guru's second wish was.
Shukracharya. then said: "Practice the virtue of charity and try to reduce poverty in the world.Bali promised to fulfil his second desire also and said : "Giving charity will be my vow from today. I will give away in charity whatever is asked of me without denial from today."
The whole world was stunned to hear about Bali's vow. The Devas in heaven also were shocked and surprised when they heard the news of Bali's vow.
None of the Daitya kings had performed this kind of Vishwajit sacrifice so far. Bali warned the Daityas thus : "Shed the path of violence and earn good name by following the path of righteousness. The unrighteous will be punished severely. Spread the message that there is no place for injustice and unrighteousness in the empire of Bali."
Man is afraid of poverty
and hardship in this world. Being afraid of Danavas (demons), man worships
Devas (gods) and prays for heavenly happiness. Bali knew this. Therefore he
declared: "O my subjects, your happiness is mine. There will be no room for
poverty in Bali's empire in future , You need not go in search of heaven. I
shall make a heaven of this earth." He put into practice what he promised
Prahlada, Shukracharya, Shambara and other elderly wise men helped Bali to improve the state of affairs in his empire by making necessary laws for the administration of the empire. Bali implemented the laws framed by his advisers to provide enough food and shelter and to give necessary facilities to ensure happiness of his subjects. The ascetics (rishis) who had gone to forests and mountains to practice austerities returned to their way of life and to perform sacrifices in hermitages without the fear of Danavas. Every one was able to devote him to the performance of religious rites without fear. Peace and plenty prevailed everywhere.
Bali traveled to the nooks
and corners of his empire and saw for himself the happiness of his subjects.
He was delighted to see green crops everywhere. Every one was heard saying,
"Bali is righteous, truth loving, charitable. He is born on earth to make it
a heaven." There was no one who prayed to Devas (gods) for the grant of
wealth and happiness. Happiness and peace were firmly established on the
earth now. Having got rid of poverty, the subjects enjoyed life with
Indra, lord of heaven,
heard of Bali's fame on earth, and the fire of jealousy was kindled in his
heart. He called the Devas and addressed them thus: "if we allow Bali to
grow from strength to strength, he will endanger the supremacy of the Devas
in Heaven. Only when injustice and unrighteousness are encouraged in his
empire, will it be possible to subdue him. To incite his subjects to become
unjust and unrighteous, let us send Kalipurusha. We should see that there
are no rains and no crops so that the subjects will rise in revolt against
Bali." Accordingly Kalipurusha was sent to the earth in order to create
disorder and turmoil.
Meanwhile there was discussion in the court of Bali on earth. . His ministers and generals as well as Danavas urged unitedly, "O king, all the earthly kingdoms are now ours. Indra cannot hope to match your valor and strength. We must defeat the Devas and annex their kingdom of heaven to our empire. Brahma has granted you immortality and lordship. This is the time to get the full benefit of the boons you have secured from Brahma."
At an auspicious moment decided by Shukracharya, the Danava army got ready to invade heaven. The war trumpets and drums frightened Amaravati, Capital of Heaven. Indra met his foes boldly riding his white elephant Airavata, marching at the head of the united Deva army. Adityas, Varuna, Kubera, Yama and other Devas fought for many days against Bali and his army. But they began to flee from the battlefield one by one unable to face Bali. Having been wounded by Bali's arms, Indra ran for his life and sought the advice of Brihaspati, his preceptor. Brihaspati told Indra : "Devendra, it is futile to fight Bali. You cannot defeat him. Righteousness, truthfulness and justice have made him resplendent and invincible. Therefore it is better that you go underground for some time." Accordingly Indra and the other Devas left Heaven.
After establishing victory over Heaven, the Danavas installed Bali on the heavenly throne as Daityendra and celebrated the occasion as a coronation. Bali appointed his own men in place of the guardian angels of the eight directions, the Sun, the Moon and other positions to represent him in heaven, and returned to his capital on the earth.
The next day Shukracharya said to Bali : "O king of the Danavas, the Heaven also is yours now because of your twin virtues of charity and valor. Since the Under-world is also under your sway, the three worlds, the Earth, the Under-world and the Heaven are yours. But you have appointed Danavas in place of Devas. You have taken away their powers who enjoyed the power to rule over all these worlds which the Creator Brahma and Vishnu the Protector had given them. They may not take it lying low. They are sure to take revenge. If you desire to retain this overlordship of the three worlds permanently you should perform one hundred 'Ashwamedhas' (horse sacrifices). Get ready to perform them from today."
Bhrugukachha situated to
the north of Narmada was selected as the site for the performance of the
sacrifices. A large open area in the grounds of the hermitage was chosen as
the place to keep the sacred fire burning. Bali took the vow of sacrifice
along with hi queen Vindhyavali.
Dispossessed of his heavenly kingdom, Indra came to the hermitage of Aditi Devi situated at the bottom of the Meru mountain. Aditi was the mother of Indra. Aditi took pity on her children. Kashyapa, the father of the Devas, was also moved by their condition. All of them together came to Brahma.
Brahma said : "Devas, worship Vishnu. Let Kashyapa and Aditi also worship Vishnu and please Vishnu by their tapas and pray to Vishnu that he is born as their son. Only Vishnu can vanquish Bali and bless you." Kashyapa and Aditi went to perform tapas to please Vishnu.
Aditi's tapas were extraordinary. Lord Narayana appeared before her and said, "Mother of the Devas, I shall grant your 'request. Ask what you want."
Aditi said, "0 Lord of Gods, there is nothing that you do not know. The Danavas have occupied he kingdom of my son Indra with the help of Bali. They have taken away all the powers from my children. You gave my son Indra his position as the Lord of the Devas. I grieve that my children have lost their kingdom and power. But I grieve more because the Danavas have transgressed your law and have been behaving with pride and insolence. It pains me to see that you too are doing nothing to set matters right. You should be born as my son and defeat Bali. Go to the assistance of the defeated Devas and help restore the heavenly kingdom to the Devas."
Narayana said: 'what you
ask is right and proper. But Bali is righteous and truthful. We fought
against his wicked predecessors in war and used force to defeat them. It is
not possible to do so with Bali. Therefore we have to use some indirect
method. I shall take my birth as Vamana and your son." This comforted Aditi.
The Devas were satisfied now and bided time engaged in tapas.
Years had rolled after Bali started performing the 'Ashwamedha' horse sacrifices. Ninety-nine sacrifices had been successfully completed one after another. They were preparing for the hundredth sacrifice, which they had planned on a grand scale. On completion of thissacrifice Bali would earn the merit to bepermanently installed as Indra. The Danavas who were righteous in the beginning had become vain and insolent. They threatened people who were still worshipping Devas, saying, "Our king Bali is now Indra. We Danavas are the rulers and lords over the three worlds. None need worship Devas now."
There were unexpected calamities on the earth now. There were earthquakes at some places. At some other places rivers overflowed and swept away villages. At yet other places fires broke out and caused great damage. Unable to under- stand why such things took place,Bali came to Prahlada and asked :"What is the cause for these eruptions and calamities? Are they caused by the magical powers of the Devas ?".
Prahlada who was a devotee of Vishnu was capable of seeing into the past and future with his divine wisdom. He entered into a deep trance and understood the cause of it all. He said : "Vishnu has taken birth in the world in order to defeat and humble the insolent Danavas who aredrunk with power. These calamities betoken greater calamities awaiting the Danavas." Hearing these words, Bali became angry. With blood-shot eyes he turned toPrahlada and said, "Are we to be afraid of the Devas? Each warrior among us is capable of carrying the whole earth on his shoulders. When that is ourstrength, what can one Vishnu do to us?".
Prahlada also became angry andchastised Bali thus: ,You fool, you are too bold to speak ill of Sri Hari, the eternal lawgiver and protector. You have spoken thus knowing well that I am a devotee of Sri Hari. Very soon you will lose your kingdom and will be banished from earth."
King Bali realized his error. in fact Bali was not an enemy of Sri Hari. He had lost control over his tongue on account of his pride of valor. Regretting his conduct, he became humble. Tears of sorrow appeared in his eyes and he was unable to speak. He fell at the feet of Prahlada and begging forgiveness he said, "Be kind and merciful. You have rightly cursed me for my insolent words. I do not feel sorry if I lose my kingdom. I may get it back some how. But where can I get a guru like you ? I am more in sorrow because my speech has hurt your feelings."
Prahlada was moved to pity.
He lifted his grandson and said, "Child, I spoke in anger and cursed you.
Who can avoid Fate ? Do not regret. Place full faith in SriHari and complete
the Ashwamedha sacrifice. Let your fame be eternal."
In Bali's extensive hall of sacrifice, there were the recitation of Vedas, and the "jam auspicious sounds of music of the instruments. Shukracharya was officiating as the head-priest at the hundredth horse sacrifice. The saints, gandharvas and the subjects from the three worlds had come in large numbers to witness the sacrifice. At one place there were heaps of pearls and precious stones from which gifts were given. At another place cows and jewellery were distributed as gifts. Adorned with clothes made of goldthread, Bali sat with his wife Vindhyavali before the holy fire and performed Homa. Shukracharya approached Bali and whispered, "0 king Bali, it is time to complete the sacrifice. You have to be very careful now. Who can guess the deceitful ways of the Devas ? They may even send Vishnu to this hall of sacrifice. Bali said, "O preceptor, is that so ? Then advise me how I should conduct myself if Vishnu himself comes here." Shukracharya said, "Listen, this is my advice. If Vishnu comes and asks for any gift, deny it cleverly. Plead your inability to give anything to the Almighty and All-powerful and send him away."
Bali was not pleased with this advice and so he said, "Acharya, what kind of talk is this? You know that I have vowed to give charity. The merit earned by giving charity alone has reduced sorrow, poverty and disease and therefore people are happy in my kingdom. Before my time, did not the great emperors Dadheechi and Shibi give away even their bodies in charity? 1, who am ready to give my soul in charity, cannot deny anything to any one who asks for it. Is it not a pleasure to give something dear to us in charity to others instead of enjoying it ourselves ? I beg of you not to place hurdles before me when I wish to give charity."
Even as they were talking thus, the hall of sacrifice filled with murmurs of 'Make way, make way.' Every one moved aside and made way for the new guest. Bali and his queen stood up eagerly and looked towards the entrance gate. A little bachelor of about eight years was making his way towards them. His face was shining with a smile. He held an umbrella over his head. A plait of hair was hanging at the back of his head. He wore the sacred thread on his bare body the lower part of which was covered with cloth made of fibre. Hishands held the staff of an ascetic and a water jug. There was deerskin under his armpit. He wore the mark of sandal wood paste on his forehead. It looked as though he had combined all branches of knowledge in his young body. He was taking his steps towards Bali. Everyone saw what was happening in silence.
The young ascetic addressed Bali and said, "O King Bali, let auspicious things happen to you." Bali, his queenVindhyavali, their son Bana and the rest were struck with wonder and went on admiring his stature for a time.
The young ascetic continued speaking and said, "King of the Daityas, this is asplendid sacrifice. I can judge what a righteous man you are from the flames rising to the skies from the place of sacrifice; from the kind of eatables served to people at this festivity; from the gifts of pearls and precious stones given in charity; from lakhs and lakhs of admiring subjects who have gathered here out of love and from the chanting of the Vedas. You must give me a gift suitable to this superb sacrifice."
Bali felt elated and proud. He turned to his queen and said,"Vindhyavali, how pleasant and meaningful are the words of this little ascetic ! We are indeed fortunate to set our eyes on this jewel of learning. Bring holy water in a golden jug. Let us wash his feet and earn merit." Vindhyavali brought a jug full of water.Bali and his queen washed the feet of the young ascetic, offered flowers and sandalwood paste and worshipped him. Then Bali made him sit on a precious seat and spoke to him, "Great man, though you are young and short, your learning has made you shine above all others. Who are you ? Your handsome body is a feast to the eyes. Your words are sweet like honey. What can I do for you? What can I give you ? Ask whatever you desire, or everything that I have. I shall give anything that you ask."
The young ascetic said "0 king of Danavas I came here to ask you for a gift only because I know you will give all I ask, as you are the lord of the three worlds. I am the son of Kashyapa and my name is Vamanamurthy. I am a bachelor and so I do not need either kingdom or wealth. I have been just initiated into the knowledge of Brahman and started wearing thesacred thread. I am yet to give my gurudakshina to my preceptor. My preceptor Bharadwaja needs a few paces of land to perform the religious rites of 'Agnihotra'. Therefore I ask you to give me only three paces of land to be measured by my feet. That will satisfy me."
Bali burst with laughter on hearing Vamana's request. He said, "One who asks me for anything should not feel the need to ask for gifts from any one else later.
Even if you ask for one of the kingdoms under my authority, I shall grant it. I feel ashamed to give you this little bit of land . What do you gain from this? At least ask for more land."
Vamanamurthy said, "0 king, my work will be fulfilled with the grant of my request. Therefore make me the gift of the three paces of land that I ask." Bali replied, 'Well, let me fulfil your desire. Wait till I bring the golden jug containing water from the hermitage" and went inside the hermi- tage. At once Shukracharya followed Bali into the hermitage and said, 'What is this foolishness,0 king? Without consulting any one you have promised to give charity to the young ascetic. Do you know who this boy really is ? He is the friend of the Devas. It is Vishnu in the form of Vamana who has come here as your enemy !"
Bali said calmly, "Is that so, gurudeva? Has Narayana, to please whom saints and wise men perform austerities for years, come on his own to ask for charity from me? Has he become Vamana only to take gift from me? I am indeed fortunate that Narayana has come to my place to take a gift from me. This could only be due to the merit earned by me in my previous life."
But Shukracharya said, "King Bali, you feel proud only because of your ignorance. At least now, be wise and take my advice. It is not a sin to go back on one's word in self-defence. So do not give what he asks. If you do not take my advice, it will bring about the ruin of yourself and the Danavas. As soon as he takes the gift from you, Sri Hari will undo you just as he undid Hiranyakashipu."
Bali replied, 'Gurudeva, charity given regardless of the hardships is the best. If
Sri Hari asks, I am prepared to give even my head. Can there be greater glory forme than giving when Sri Hari's hand is spread out to receive the gift ? Please do not stop me from giving."
Having spoken thus, Bali
walked straight to Vamana with the golden jug full of water. He addressed
Vamanamurthy and said, "Devadeva, I am ready to give; extend your hand and
receive it." Vamana stretched his hands under the hand of Bali. Bali placed
his hand with tulasi leaves upon Vamana's hands, while Vindhyavali poured
water from the golden jug as the priests chanted verses symbolic of the act
of giving. At once the heavenly drums began to sound from all directions of
the earth. Heavens rained petals of flowers on Bali and Vamana.
Vamanamurthy was not short now. He grew from height to height. People wondered at the sudden growth. He now measured from his first foot all the empire of Bali on earth and the under-world. He then measured Bali's empire in Heaven with his second step and asked Bali where he should take his third measure.
Danavas who witnessed this
could not be silent spectators. They had aspired to occupy the other worlds
and rule them under the overlordship of Bali.They became mad with anger.
With uplifted weapons they came to attack Vamana. There were frightening
sounds every- where. Bali who stood with folded hands stopped them and said,
"Danavas, get back.Vamana is Vishnu, Lord of the World. You defeated Devas
once with His blessing. He is now with Devas. Therefore it is natural that
they should win against you." Hearing these words, Danavas stepped back
Banasura became unhappy seeing his father's condition. He addressed Vamanamurthy and said : "Lord of the World, my father gave you what you asked in charity. He has not offended you in any way. You asked for three paces of land in the guise of a short ascetic. Is it fair for you to measure the land with your extra- ordinary feet now ? My father has given away the whole of his empire to you.
What is left with him now to give you further ? You who should have been impartial, have taken sides with the Devas and have done injustice to us."
Vamana replied: "Banasura, it is I who received the gift and I have measured the land only with my feet and not with any one else's. Hear my argument against your charge of my partiality to Devas. I gave Shaker, the husband of Shachidevi, the status and power of Indra and arranged for proper functioning of the system of worlds. Bali had to be punished for removing Indra from his position before the expiry of his tenure."
Then Vamana turned to Bali and said: "0 King Bali, this is only a test of your vow to give charity. You did not hesitate to give what I asked even in the middle of your difficulties. You never regretted your charity even though I claimed all your empire. You never felt unhappy when you were bound to your vow. You did not feel sorry even though your kith and kin deserted you. Though your preceptor Shukracharya cursed you, you did not give up your truthfulness. Who has your patience? You have earned a higher place than the Devas by your fame. Be immortal ! Now ask me for any boon that you want."
Bali said, "0 Lord of the World, I am not pained at being defeated by you. The pride of insolence is bad. You have taught Danavas swollen with insolence a good lesson. I can tolerate all this but not the disgrace of having to eat my words as one whom could not fulfil his vow to give charity. Please place your third step on my head and be pleased to accept it in fulfillment of my promised gift."
Vamana agreed to Bali's request. Having received Sri Hari's foot on his head,Bali was discharged of his debt. People who witnessed this shouted, "King of devotees, soldier of charity, emperor Bali, honored of the world." Tears of joy flowed down their eyes.
Vamana gave the three worlds he had received as gift to Indra, The Devas praised Vamana in their happiness and Bali for his charily. Vamana addressed Bali in the presence of all and said, "Dana vendra, I give you the Kingdom of Sutala in the underworld. I shall give you one more boon. I shall protect your fort as Janardana and keep watch over your fort and defeat your enemies. You may ask one more boon."
Bali said, "0 Lord, as the protector of my fort you have given me the privilege of seeing you every day. For such a privilege even Rudra, Brahma and Lakshmi are not entitled. What else is there for me to ask ? But since you want me to ask for a boon, I do so. Though I go to Sutala in the under -world, I cannot forget the subjects of my erstwhile kingdom on earth. Therefore let me be blessed to see the happiness of my subjects at least once a year.
"Vamana granted his request and said: "The auspicious day on which you gave me charity will be celebrated as a festival on earth every year in future. On that day the whole earth will be the kingdom of Bali. People will worship you during day and light lamps at night as a symbol of their ideals and joy."
Having spoken thus, Vamana
departed with Brahma. Pious Bali went to Sutala along with Prahlada and
other kith and kin. He constructed a beautiful temple there for Janardana.
Sri Hari took his stand as Janardana, as the guardian and protector of
Bali's fort and palace.
The pious king Bali pleased the Lord of the World by his act of charity and became endeared to the world by that act and his kingdom on earth became a land of plenty on account of his charity. God waspleased by his act and became the guardian and protector of Bali's palace.
The day on which Bali gave charity to Vamanamurthy fell on the first day of the bright fortnight of Kartika, the month during which the Festival of Lights is celebrated. The next day after the Festival of Lights, celebrated on the New Moon day in the month of Ashwayuja,is called Balipadyami'. Hindus celebrate the day as a sacred festival. It is believed that gifts given on that day are dear to Bali and God. Men and women smear their bodies with oil and bathe, and wear new clothes on that day. In the central hall of every home, they draw beautiful figures with powder of rice in different colors and worship Bali and his wife Vindhyavali. They build seven forts out of clay or cowdung and worship king Bali. At night the thresholds of every home and temple are lighted with lamps in rows. Bali's kingdom is remembered and people shout with joy, "Let the ideal kingdom of Bali dawn at the earliest on earth."