Avatar 5: Vamana (the dwarf)

The four previous episodes take place during the first age, Vamanathe Satya Yuga (the “Age of Truth” or “Golden Age”). Narayana‘s fifth incarnation on earth takes place during the second age, the Treta Yuga (the “Silver Age”). I know this is starting to sound repetitive but once again Indra loses his dominions through his own weakness. This time, the asura king who holds sovereignty over the three worlds is Mahabali (“Great” Bali), the grandson of Prahlada (for his story see: https://srisatchmo.wordpress.com/2012/11/28/the-devotion-of-prahlada/). In the tradition of his grandfather, Bali is a great and benevolent king; he both adores and is adored by his people.

VamanavataraTo regain Indra’s dominions, Vishnu incarnates himself, for the first time without animal qualities, as a Brahmin dwarf named Vamana (with a wooden umbrella). King Bali was renowned for his generosity and Vamana came before him to ask a boon. The dwarf asked the king for as much land as he could cover with three paces and the king consented. Vishnu revealed himself as the dwarf transformed into a supernatural giant (Trivikrama). His first stride was from heaven to earth, the second from earth to the underworld and there remained nowhere else to make his final step. In an act of great humility and to make good on his promise, Mahabali offered his own head so that Vamana could make his last stride. However, before removing Bali, Vamana gave him the boon that every year he could return to visit his people and his kingdom. This is celebrated in the annual harvest festival in Kerala called Onam. It is celebrated in grand style in the month of chingam (Aug-Sept) and honours Mahabali’s annual visit to bless his people.

As a side note I like to mention that in this story we find the earliest references to Narayana/Vishnu. Prior to the conception of “Narayana”, the one who sleeps on the ocean of milk, there are references in the Rg Veda to someone known as “the Strider”, who takes world engulfing steps (like Trivikrama). The Rg Veda is widely recognized as mankind’s earliest scripture, composed close to 2000 BCE. The Vedic pantheon was quite different than what later developed into “the big three” (Trimurti – Brahma, Vishnu & Siva); in fact, the king of the devas, Indra, is a remnant of the old Vedic gods.


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. vajradharmurthy
    Dec 18, 2015 @ 05:00:18

    Interesting article! Its quite amazing to know that there are so many interesting stories of God Vishnu’s avatar that many are not aware of. Adding one more story of God Vishnu’s avatar. Vamana Avatar, the fifth avatar of God Vishnu came to earth in the form of a dwarf Brahmin to subdue the Demon King Mahabali.


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