Vamana Avatar – Lord Vishnu stepped down to earth whenever evil made strong its clutches over the world and tries to overpower the gods themselves. Lord Vishnu when incarnated by his devotees to seek help for the crisis that had stricken, he took various avatars to help mankind rescue and to establish stability and faith among people.
One of such avatars that Vishnu took was ‘Vamana Avatar’, or Trivikrama ,which was his fifth avatar and his first avatar of during the ‘Treta Yuga’, according to Sanskrit language ‘Vamana’ means dwarf and ‘Trivikrama’ means three steps.
This Legend about Vishnu’s ‘Vamana Avatar’ is found in many Hindu scriptures, two of them being in the hymns of Rigveda and Bhagvata Purana.
King Bali, the great grandson of Hiranyakshipu, the grandson of Prahlad and the son of Virochana, after strict penance was able to incarnate Lord Brahma and asked him for a boon that ‘he shall never be defeated in any battle, as he wanted to establish a prosperous kingdom run by an asura, (in general people are scared of asuras because of their evil ways) but he wanted to alter this by his good rule’, Lord Brahma felt him to be a noble asura granted him the boon.
Bali also adored his Guru Shukracharya and he blessed him with a garland of ever blooming flowers and a conch. Bali was also an ardent devotee of Lord Vishnu.
When after several battles he spread his kingdom to the heavens by defeating Indra, he went home upset and his mother Aditi, after seeing him upset asked the reason behind his sadness. She then decides to help him and prays to incarnate Lord Vishnu and when he shows up she asks him to be born as her son to defeat King Bali as he was on his way to replace Indra and take over the ruler ship of heaven. Lord Vishnu could not help but agree to what Aditi had asked for because king Bali was also a true devotee of his. Lord Vishnu is then born as the tenth son of Aditi and sage Kashyapa, as a dark but radiant child; since he was a dwarf he was named Vamana.
In the meanwhile, Guru Shukracharya had told Bali to perform one hundred Ashvamedha yagyas in order to maintain his kingdoms and kingship and told him to never let any Brahmin return empty handed from him. He had already performed ninety nine yagyas and while he was performing the hundredth yagya, Vamana comes to his court.
King Bali is influenced by his radiance and feels attracted towards him, but his Guru Shukracharya understands that he is no ordinary Brahmin but Vishnu who has been sent by Indra. He warns Bali about this Brahmin, but Bali keeping his vow of never letting any Brahmin go empty handed, decides to take in the Brahmin and grant his wish whatsoever, he was also overwhelmed with the fact that Lord Vishnu had himself come to him to seek something from him and he being his devotee couldn’t let go this opportunity.
He goes forth and asks the Brahmin about what he sought from him. Vamana then asks for only three paces of land. Quite unexpected to what Bali had thought of, he grants his wish and is amazed to see the giant form that Lord Vishnu takes . When he moves his first foot to take the first step the heaven is reached and when he takes his second step the hell or netherworld is reached, and then he asks King Bali as to where he should place his third step because he could take all the three worlds with his two steps. The humble Bali then offers his head to Lord Vishnu to place his head.
Marked by his devout towards him and his righteous attitude towards his kingdom and people, Lord Vishnu grants him with a boon to rule the netherworlds and also he could visit earth every year to make sure the good governance in his kingdom, and that particular day of his return to earth is celebrated as ‘Onam’.
This story also has a symbolic significance that portrays that the three steps as three states of a being’s consciousness i.e. Jagrat, Swapna and Sushupti which means conscious, dream and deep sleep respectively and the final step that lord Vishnu takes signifies that the leap that one has to take to achieve salvation and liberate oneself from the vicious circle of life, death and rebirth.