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The fifth incarnation of Vishnu, is usually represented as a dwarf ( vamana) holding a water pot in one hand and an umbrella in the other hand. This incarnation symbolizes the under-developed stage of mankind.

Bali set all his mind to perform the “Ashwamedha” horse sacrifices and years have passed after he started doing this. Bali had been successful in completing nearly ninety nine sacrifices one after another. Finally they were planning on a large and grand scale the hundredth sacrifice for on completion of this Bali would earn the merit to be permanently installed as Indra. The Asuras who were morally right or justifiable in the beginning had slowly become vain and impertinant. They threatened people who were still worshipping Devas, saying that Bali is the only god Indra now and that the asuras are the rulers and lords over three worlds. Soon the earth started witnessing lot of unexpected calamities. Bali was very much confused and was not able understand about the happenings. So he came to Prahlada and asked the reason for the sudden change and the calamities happening around. 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 ecstasy and understood the cause of it all. He explained to Bharatha about Vishnu's birth in the world to defeat and teach a lesson for the Danavas who were drunk with power. Bali reacted with anger and said to Prahalada that he and his subjects will never be afraid of the Devas and all his warriors are capable of carrying the whole earth on their shoulders, so Vishnu can never interrupt or defeat them in any way. On hearing this Prahalada became very violent and cursed Bali for talking ill about the prowess and the powers of Lord Vishnu, the eternal lawgiver and protector. Prahlada made it clear to Lord Vishnu that he will lose his kingdom and will be banished from earth.

But soon King Bali realized his mistake of losing control over his tongue because of his pride of valour. He repented over his error and corrected himself to the conduct of humble. Prahlada also felt sorry for cursing him in anger. But nobody can avoid fate. Prahlada wanted Bali to place full faith in Hari and complete the Ashwamedha sacrifices which he was doing. So according to the arrangements made initially all the rites and recitations of the Vedas were carried out in the sacrifice hall in front of the holy fire. Bali was taking part in the yaga with his wife. Shukracharya approached to him and warned him to complete the sacrifice and to be careful so that devas do not cheat them by following any deceitful ways. Shukracharaya told Bali even if Lord Vishnu comes and asks for any gift, then it is supposed to be denied saying the inabiity to give anything to the almighty and send him away. Bali was not pleased with this idea of Shukracharaya of not giving anything to anybody for he was even ready to give hs soul in charity. He asked Shukracharya not to place any hurdles in his idea of charity. As this was happening there was a disturbance among the crowd and slowly a little bachelor of about eight years was making his way towards them and his face was shining with a smile with an umbrella over his head. The little boy's face was very clear and he seemed to be very intelligent and knowledgeable.

The young ascetic addressed Bali and wished him saying auspicious things would happen in Bali's kingdom for he was doing the wonderful Ashwamedha sacrifice. The ascetic also wanted Bali to gift him with valuable gifts equal to that of the sacrifice. Bali felt elated and proud and told his wife about the pleasant and meaningful words told by the little ascetic. He felt very fortunate to set his eyes on the jewel of learning. Bali asked his subordinates to fetch holy water in a golden jug to wash the feet of the ascetic and get his blessings. Bali and his queen washed the feet of the young ascetic, offered flowers and sandal wood paste and worshipped him. Then Bali made him sit on a precious throne and spoke to the great litte man enquiring about him of who he is and what the King can do for him. Bali told the young ascetic to ask whatever he desires, or everything that he has for he was ready to give anything that he wishes. The young ascetic also told the King of Danavas, that he has come to him knowing that Bali being the Lord of the three worlds, will be ready to give anything that he wants. The ascetic introduced himself as the son of Kashyapa and that his name was Vamanamurthy. He was there not to get any kingdom or wealth for he is a bachelor who has been just initiated into the knowledge of Brahman and started wearing the sacred thread. He wanted to give gurudakshina to his preceptor Bharadwaja and for which he needs a few places of land to perform the religious rites of 'Agnihotra'. Hence he wanted to ask Bali for only three places of land to be measured by his feet. He said to the king that was more than enough for him and it will satisfy. Bali with full happiness and willingness was ready to fulfill his desire. He asked the ascetic to wait till he brings the golden jug containing water from the hermitage. Once Bali left, Shukracharya followed him to the hermitage and said about the foolishness of the King of just promising the young ascetic to give charity of his wish. Shukracharya with his yajna power was able to relate to Bali that the boy was none other than Lord Vishnu who had come there in the name of Vamana and he is the friend of Devas.

But Bali felt very happy about what Shukracharya told for it is Narayana, to please whom saints and wise men perform austerities for years, has come on his own to ask for charity from Bali. Bali thought he was very lucky to give a gift to the Lord which is likely to happen only because of the merit earned by him in his previous life. But Shukracharya told King Bali that he was feeling proud only because of his ignorance. Shukracharya once again warned Bali to be wise and take his advice now otherwise Bali will ruin himself and the Danavas.He said not to respond or react to the wishes of Vamana. But Bali ignored Shukracharyar and said him not to stop him from giving charity. Bali walked straight to Vamana with the golden jug full of water. He addressed Vamanamurthy as Devadeva, and told that he was ready to fufill his requirements. So Bali asked him to extend his hands and receive it.

Vamana stretched his hands under the hand of Bali. Bali placed his hand with tulsi leaves upon Vamana's hands, while Vindhyavali poured water from the golden jug as the priests chanted and heavens rained petals of flowers on Bali and Vamana. But to everybody's astonishment Vamanamurthy 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 underworld. 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, they became mad with anger. With uplifted weapons they came to attack Vamana. 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 blessings. He is now with Devas. Therefore it is natural that they should win against you.” Hearing these words, Danavas stepped back. Balli's son Banasura became very unhappy about the happenings and his father's condition. He talked to Vamanmurthy, the Lord of all the three world's, saying that his father has given all that he had asked in charity, what more is he left with to give the Lords further. Banasura also told that his father has not offended Vamana in any way. Banasura also told Vamanmurthy of how partial the Lord is for he has taken sides with the Devas and have done injustice to them. But Vamana replied to Banasura that he is who received the gift and he has measured the land only with his feet and not with anyone else's. Vamana argued to Banasura and the assembly of the charge against him of his partiality to Devas. The Lord told it was he was appointed Lord Indra for proper functioning of the system of worlds.

Bali had to be punished for removing Indra from his position before the expiry of Indra's tenure. Now Vamana turned to Bali and told that it was a test for his vow to give charity for which the King did not hesitate to give whatever Narayana asked even at his hard time of difficulties. So now Bali has gained a position higher than the Devas by his fame. Narayana also blessed Bali immortal. But still Bali was keeping up his words and asked the Lord to put his third foot on his head, be pleased to accept it in fulfillment of his promised gift and said that Narayana has also taught the Danavas swollen with insolence a good lesson.Having recieved Sri Hari's foot on his head, Bali was discharged of his debt. Tears of joy flowed down in the eyes of the Danavas. The day on which Bali gave charity to Vamanmurthy fell on the first day of the bright fortnight of Karthika, 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'.