The fifth among the Dasavatara is Sri Vamana-avatara. There are innumerable lila-avataras. Among them are twenty-five chief lila-avataras of which Sri Vamanadeva is the eighteenth. All the lila-avataras have been mentioned in the previous description of Matsya-avatara. Vasudeva, Sankarshana, Pradyumna and Aniruddha are the original catur-vyuha, or original four expanded forms of Sri Krishna in Dvaraka. They are prabhava-vilasa (four-handed forms) of Sri Krishna.
The majestic expansion of Sri Krishna, Narayana, who resides in Vaikuntha, also has His catur-vyuha, which is known as the second manifestation of four expanded forms. Each form of this second catur-vyuha again expands into three forms. Among the first manifestation of expanded forms, Pradyumna expands into three forms known as Trivikrama, Vamana and Sridhara. Thus, each form of the second catur-vyuha expands into three forms, which totals twelve, and These are the Presiding Deities of the twelve months.
The Deity of the month of Ashadha is Sri Vamanadeva. Vaishnavas wear holy marks of twelve hari-mandiras (temples of the Lord in the form of markings known as tilaka) on different parts of the upper body. Among them, the hari-mandira on the left side of the abdomen is fixed for the Presiding Deity Vamanadeva. The catur-vyuha in the superior transcendental spiritual sky and Their twenty vilasa forms are differentiated by the positions of holding divine weapons in four hands. Sri Vamanadeva holds the conch, disk, mace and lotus. It can be seen that Kesava resides in Mathura; Jagannatha in Nilacala; Madhava in Prayag; Madhusudana in Mandara; Vasudeva, Padmanabha and Janardana in Anandaranya; Varadaraja Vishnu in Vishnu Kanci and Hari in Mayapura. In a similar manner, Vamanadeva also has a dwelling place in the universe. One day of Brahma or one kalpa consists of 14 manvantaras (each manvantara consists of 71 cycles of the four yugas). The 14 manifestations of the Supreme Lord in these 14 manvantaras are known as manvantara-avataras. Sri Vamanadeva is the manvantara-avatara in Vaivasvata-the seventh manvantara.
In the 8th Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam, Srila Krishna Dvaipayana Vedavyasa Muni has given detailed accounts of Lord Vamanadeva’s pastime of appearance, the capturing of the three planetary systems from Bali Maharaja (on the pretext of asking for only three steps of land) and the eventual awarding of the Sutala planet to Bali. A short description of these topics is given here.
Describing the reigns of the fourteen Manus (Svayambhuva, Svarocisha, Uttama, Tamasa, Raivata, Cakshusha, Vaivasvata, Savarni, Daksha-savarni, Brahma-savarni, Dharma-savarni, Rudra-savarni, Deva-savarni and Indra-savarni), Sri Sukadeva Gosvami has mentioned the pastime of Bali and Vamanadeva, which took place during the reign of Savarni Manu of the eighth manvantara.
Once, when Bali Maharaja was the king of the demons, Indra, the king of the demigods, killed Bali Maharaja and his chief generals in a fight between the demigods and the demons. When Devaraja Indra began killing the demons with the vow of annihilating the entire demon dynasty, grandfather Brahma came to know about it and sent Narada Rsi to stop him from such a heinous act. When Narada Rsi informed Indra about the order of Brahma to stop killing the demons, only then did he cease.
Sukracarya, the family priest of the demons, revived Bali Maharaja and his chief generals and demons by using the art of mrita-samjivani. For the benefit of the demons, Sukracarya advised Bali Maharaja to arrange for a visvajit-yajna to be performed by brahmanas of the Bhrigu dynasty. Bali Maharaja, following the order of his spiritual master, collected offerings for the sacrifice. Sukracarya and the brahmana descendants of Bhrigu performed the sacrifice systematically. Various kinds of weapons including an inexhaustible quiver were produced in the sacrifice. Bali Maharaja became greatly powerful by the power of mantra and besieged heaven with his army of demons. When the demigods informed Devaraja Indra about this, he came prepared with his army to fight. However, upon seeing the splendor of Bali Maharaja, he became bewildered. What to speak of fighting, Indra did not even have the courage to stand before Bali Maharaja. Therefore, the worried and frightened Indra approached his spiritual master Brihaspati, and inquired about the amazing strength of the demons. “What is the reason behind this extraordinary power of the demons?” he asked. Brihaspati, the spiritual master of the demigods replied, “The brahmana descendants of Bhrigu who are dear to Sri Hari, are backing Bali Maharaja. Bali Maharaja has become powerful by the yajna performed by them. If you go to fight with him at this time, you will be unable to win. You will certainly be badly defeated. Therefore my advice to all of you is that you give up your kingdom of heaven and hide in space.”
On the advice of Brihaspati, Indra and the other demigods left heaven and began to live clandestinely in space. Aditi , the mother of the demigods, was saddened to see her sons living in this condition without a kingdom. She stopped taking food and water and existed in a depressed state. Because she was constantly sorrowful and indifferent to all the housework, her home lost its beauty. Day by day she became increasingly emaciated. Mother Aditi anxiously began to wait for her husband Kasyapa Rsi who was engaged in performing austerities. After a long period of time, Kasyapa Rsi returned home having finished his austerities. Surprised at seeing the house lusterless and his wife weak and pale, he asked Aditi why this was so. Aditi weepingly replied to her husband, “The demons have driven our sons out of the kingdom of heaven. I pray to your lotus feet that you will please take action to expel the demons and return my sons to their kingdom. Until my sons regain the kingdom of heaven, my sorrow will not be alleviated.” Hearing the inappropriate words of his wife, he tried to pacify her by speaking the essence of supreme truth. He said, “The demigods are our friends and the demons are our enemies; this vision of the duality of enemy and friend only occurs to those who are infatuated by the illusory energy (maya) of the Supreme Lord. Due to forgetfulness of the Supreme Lord, people experience the negation of knowledge (viparita-buddhi) of their own constitutional position, and consequently all sorts of troubles and difficulties originate. Actually, all are engaged in a mutual interrelationship of love by dint of their relationship with the Supreme Lord. A pure understanding of knowledge does not include any vision of enmity. My advice to you is that you should give up bodily misidentifications along with false relations and worship Hari with full dedication.”
Mother Aditi took to heart the teachings of her husband, which were full of knowledge. Nonetheless, she persistently requested that her sons should regain the kingdom of heaven. Mother Aditi repeatedly implored that unless her sons returned to their residence in heaven, she would be unable to find peace of mind. It would seem from these words of Mother Aditi that much like a materially entangled jiva illusioned by maya, she was aggrieved by affection for her sons. But this was not the actual case. In reality, the Lord wanted to appear as the son of Kasyapa Rsi and Mother Aditi, to bestow His mercy upon them. He was in fact inspiring Mother Aditi and compelling her to speak like this just to fulfil His objective.
Kasyapa Rsi attentively heard the words of Aditi, and realising the actual purpose of her requests he said to his wife, “If it is your strong desire that the demigods are to return to their kingdom of heaven, then you will have to perform the Kesava-toshana vrata (a fast to please Kesava) for twelve days  by drinking only milk. Other than Lord Kesava, no one will be able to fulfil this desire of yours.” As per the instructions of Kasyapa Åshi, Mother Aditi performed the Kesava-toshana vrata, subjecting herself to severe austerity while observing proper usage and custom. At the end of the fast, the Lord appeared before Mother Aditi and assured her that He would appear as her son at the proper time under auspicious indications and would fulfil her desire.
As predicted, at an auspicious time the Lord appeared in the heart of Kasyapa Åshi. Kasyapa then imparted divine knowledge to Aditi through initiation. The Lord first appeared in the heart of Aditi and then entered into her womb. When Brahma and other demigods realised that the Supreme Personality of Godhead had appeared, they began to offer prayers to the womb of Aditi. On the twelfth day of the month of Sravana, at the very auspicious moment of the Abhijit star, Lord Narayana appeared from the womb of Aditi as Syamasundara (sweet and dark complexioned) Pitambara (dressed in yellow garments) holding a conch, disc, club, and lotus.
Kasyapa Rsi and Mother Aditi saw that as soon as the Lord had appeared before them in a four handed form, He miraculously assumed the form of a dwarf (Vamana), although he was perfectly proportioned. Kasyapa Rsi and Mother Aditi became filled with great bliss upon seeing the beautiful form of Vamana, and were completely overwhelmed with affection for their child. All the birth samskaras (purificatory rituals) of the child were performed according to the directions of the scriptures. At the sacred thread ceremony of Vamanadeva, the sun-god himself instructed Him in the Gayatri mantra, Brihaspati presented Him with the sacred thread, Kasyapa gave Him a straw belt (a girdle), Mother Earth gave Him a deerskin to sit on and the moon-god who is the king of the forests, gave Him a brahma-danda (the rod of a brahmacari). Mother Aditi gave Him kaupina-basana (sacred underwear), the Presiding Deity of heaven offered Him an umbrella, Lord Brahma gave Him a water-pot, the seven sages offered Him kusa grass, Sarasvati gave Him a string of rudraksha beads, Kuvera gave Him a pot for begging alms, and Bhagavati, the mother of the universe, gave Him alms.
Bali Maharaja had begun the performance of a fire-sacrifice in the field known as Bhrigukaccha on the bank of the Narmada River. He was a greatly charitable person. Brahmanas who were desirous of his charity were going to the place where the sacrifice was being held. A new brahmana will beg alms after the sacred thread ceremony. Following this custom, Vamanadeva set out for the sacrificial arena of Bali Maharaja, holding His danda, waterpot and umbrella to beg alms from him. Vamanadeva was walking while holding His umbrella. Being small in size, He was completely covered by the umbrella. When the brahmanas saw Him from a distance, they thought that the umbrella was walking by itself, so they were very astonished. Later, they understood that a brahmana boy of small stature was underneath the umbrella. The brahmanas tried very hard to overtake him, but were unable to do so. Vamanadeva bewildered all the brahmanas with His maya and became the first to arrive at the sacrificial arena. The auspicious arrival of Vamanadeva in His brilliant effulgent form diminished the brilliance of the sacrificial fire. Understanding that a great personality had arrived, Bali Maharaja, his priests and others present there, rose up from their seats and welcomed the Lord by offering proper respects. Considering Him to be a great brahmana, Bali Maharaja offered his obeisances and then sprinkled on his own head the water with which he had washed the Lord’s lotus feet. After worshipping Him according to the proper customs, Bali Maharaja spoke to Lord Vamanadeva as follows: “You have surely come here to ask me for something. Therefore, whatever You desire, be it wealth or a kingdom, I shall give it to You. If You have the desire to marry, I shall give You a qualified girl as per Your desire.”
The dwarf Vamanadeva replied, “I know the previous members of your very exalted dynasty. You have taken birth in the dynasty of the uncommon warriors Hiranyaksha and Hiranyakasipu. Your grandfather Prahlada was a maha-bhagavata. Just by remembering him, the jiva (living entity) is purified. Your father Virocana, after promising charity to a brahmana, never failed to fulfil his promise. I know that you also will not refuse to fulfil your promise. I ask you for three steps of land.”
Upon hearing this, Bali Maharaja smilingly said, “You have narrated those great deeds of my ancestors which even I had no knowledge of. However, You have begged for a very insignificant thing. I see that You are a little brahmana; therefore, Your intelligence is also little. What purpose could be served by obtaining three paces of land, measured by Your small steps? Do you know who I am? I am the owner of the three worlds. By my desire I can give You all of Jambudvipa (Asia). After accepting alms from me, if You beg alms from anyone else, it will disgrace my name as a great charitable person. Therefore I request You to please reconsider this matter.”
Sri Vamanadeva said, “I know that you are the owner of the three worlds and that you can give Me many things. But I am a brahmana. A brahmana should be satisfied with little. If brahmanas desire many objects of sense gratification, they lose their spiritual potency. One’s desire for sense gratification never ends. If you give Me Jambudvipa, I will desire the whole earth. Next I will desire Rasatala, then heaven, and finally the position of Brahma. There is no end to this. Material things are of no use to the soul. As charity given by you, I shall be satisfied with three paces of land as measured by My steps.”
At that time, Sukracarya, the spiritual master of the demons, was also nearby. He understood that Lord Vishnu had appeared in the form of a dwarf brahmana to fulfil the motive of the demigods. On the pretext of begging for three steps of land, He would take the three worlds from his disciple Bali, leaving him bereft of his kingdom. Foolishly, Bali Maharaja, not knowing the real identity of this little dwarf brahmana, was inclined to fulfil His request.
Sukracarya, desiring the welfare of his disciple, spoke to Bali Maharaja, “Bali! You do not know the real identity of this dwarf brahmana who has come to you. He is the Supreme Lord Himself. To fulfil the motive of the demigods, He has come to beg charity from you. On the pretext of asking for three steps of land, He will take away the three worlds from you. Where will you live then? What will you do? With no wealth, how will you perform your charitable and religious duties? Therefore my instruction to you is that you should not give Him the land.” Hearing these words of his guru, Bali Maharaja said, “I have given my word to a brahmana. How can I break my promise? How can I tell a lie? If this dwarf brahmana is the Supreme Lord Himself, where can I find a better or more qualified candidate for charity? Even if I refuse to give, He will take it by force. Being my guru, why are you creating such obstacles? On the other hand if He is only a dwarf brahmana, how much land can He take by the measure of His three steps? I will not be able to abandon the decision that I have made to give in charity now.”
Sukracarya again tried to convince Bali by saying, “Look Bali, in some special circumstances, one should even tell falsehoods for the protection of dharma and wealth; for example, how much wealth one has. By not keeping this secret, one’s wealth does not remain safe. If one’s wealth is not safe, dharma is not preserved. As soon as you pronounce the words for your promise of charity, this dwarf brahmana will assume a very large Trivikrama form. He will occupy the sky with His body, and with his two steps He will cover the three worlds. You will then not be able to keep your word. Therefore, you should never give Him the three steps of land. This, again, is my instruction.” Even after instructing him in this way, when he saw that Bali Maharaja would not renege on his promise, Sukracarya became filled with rage and cursed Bali to lose his opulence.
Bali Maharaja held true to his promise even after being cursed by his guru. He began to draw water from the water-pot with the intention of offering charity, but while doing so, he saw that there was no water coming out of the pot due to the spout being blocked. The reason for this was that Sukracarya had been unable to tolerate the foolishness of his disciple, and out of affection for him had entered into the waterpot, thereby preventing the water from flowing out. Bali Maharaja then began to clear the blocked spout with the help of a stick from a broom. This destroyed one eye of Sukracarya. It is said that because of his obstructing service to the Supreme Lord, Sukracarya became known as ‘Kana Sukra’ (Sukra, blind in one eye). However this incident has not been mentioned in the Srimad-Bhagavatam.
As Bali Maharaja recited the words of his promise with water from the water-pot, the dwarf brahmana assumed an immense Trivikrama form, occupying the sky with His body, and then took over the three worlds with His two steps. The inconceivably powerful Supreme Lord’s lotus feet encroached upon the three worlds and reached Satyaloka. Seeing the Lord’s lotus feet, Brahma and other demigods became very pleased. They worshipped those lotus feet according to proper custom. Vamanadeva then asked Bali Maharaja for one more pace of land. Lord Vamana warned, “Breaking your promise after giving your word will be an irreligious act.”
Bali Maharaja replied, “I am bereft of everything but I am not upset about this. However, I am unable to fulfil my promise and, due to this fact, I am sad and in mental agony. You have acquired everything of mine with Your two steps. There is nothing else of mine remaining to give.” Upon seeing that everything had been lost to Lord Vamanadeva, the demons became determined to recapture their kingdom. When the demons approached Vamanadeva to kill Him, a wonderful Narayani army emanated from the body of Vishnu and began to fight with the demons. Seeing the killing of the demons by the Narayani forces, Bali Maharaja asked them to stop the fight. He said, “Our time is now inauspicious, so the result of the fight will also be inauspicious.” The bird king Garuda, understanding the desire of Lord Vishnu, bound Bali Maharaja with the ropes of Varuna. When Bali Maharaja was bound with ropes, a universal cry of distress spread everywhere in the heavens and on earth. Then Vamanadeva approached Bali Maharaja and said, “In your dynasty, no one has broken his word after giving it to a brahmana. You took an oath that you would give Me three steps of land. Why are you not giving Me one more step of land? You are religious, yet you are behaving irreligiously.”
Bali Maharaja’s wife, Vindhyavali, was a pious and devotionally inclined lady. She said to her husband, “You have given Vamanadeva whatever material possessions you had, but you have not given your very self.” Bali Maharaja was greatly delighted upon hearing the timely and wise words of his devotionally inclined wife. He directed Vamanadeva toward his head as a place for the remaining step of land. At that time, a foot emerged from the lotus navel of Vamanadeva and rested on the head of Bali Maharaja. Bali Maharaja achieved the touch of those lotus feet, which is rare even for Brahma and other demigods. On witnessing the great fortune of Bali Maharaja, kettledrums sounded in heaven and flowers showered down. Being greatly pleased, Lord Vamanadeva spoke to Bali Maharaja, “I am very pleased with you. You have not fallen from your dharma. You did not deviate from the truth in spite of being cursed by your gurudeva. Until now you were the giver and I was the receiver. Now I am the giver and you are the receiver. I shall give you whatever you want.” Having completely surrendered to the Lord, Bali Maharaja did not ask Him for his lost wealth like a materialistic person. He prayed, “O Lord Vamanadeva! May Your soothing lotus feet, which You have placed on my head, always remain there.”
Service of the Lord and self-surrender to His lotus feet never result in loss for anyone. Out of foolishness, the ignorant living entity prays for insignificant things from the Supreme Lord. One can achieve the completely blissful Supreme Lord by sincere surrender or devotion without ulterior motive. Bali Maharaja achieved the Supreme Lord by the atma-nivedana (self-surrender) process of bhakti.
Upon seeing the devotion and great fortune of his grandson, Prahlada Maharaja felt very happy and glorious. He had tried very hard to make his son Virocana a devotee, but Virocana had not become so and his propensity for demoniac tendencies caused Prahlada pain in his heart. There was now no limit to his joy upon seeing his grandson as a devotee. Being pleased with Bali Maharaja, Vamanadeva awarded him the Sutala planet, which is supremely blissful like Vaikuntha, and ordered the Sudarsana cakra to protect that abode of a bhakta in every way.
Lord Vamanadeva, the protector of brahmana-dharma, saw Sukracarya, the foremost of the Bhrigu dynasty brahmanas and guru of the demons, standing hesitantly nearby. He said to Sukracarya, “Your disciple Bali Maharaja has undergone many difficulties. Please perform the yajna again for his welfare.” Sukracarya replied, “My disciple has seen You; he has chanted Your name and glories. Your rare lotus feet have been placed upon his head. Is my disciple still so impure that I have to perform a yajna to bless him?”
mantratas tantratas chidram
sarvam karoti nischidram
“There may be discrepancies in pronouncing mantras, observing the regulative principles in serial order and moreover, there may be discrepancies in regard to time, place, person, articles and paraphernalia. But when Your Lordship’s holy name is chanted, everything becomes faultless.”
In the Vamana Purana written by Sri Vedavyasa Muni, the pastimes of Vamanadeva have been described in the context of a discussion between Lomaharshana Suta and other sages. Even after the death of Hiranyakasipu, the demons were in constant control. The demigods were driven from everywhere and the demon kingdom spread all over the three worlds. The demons began performing many rituals and sacrifices. Two demons named Maya and Sambara became very famous. Everywhere, religious duties were performed without difficulty. Four-legged dharma was presiding; however, one leg of adharma had entered nominally. At that time, Bali was enthroned as the king of the demons and everyone was satisfied because of this. Due to Bali Maharaja’s defeating Devaraja Indra, Lakshmi Devi became pleased and entered into his body. On Lakshmi’s entering into Bali, all the goddesses became pleased with Bali Maharaja and he became full of all qualities and achieved immense wealth. Having no place for the demigods, Devaraja Indra went to Mother Aditi on top of Mount Sumeru and informed her of his defeat at the hands of the demons. Understanding that only the thousand-headed (sahasra-sirsa) Narayana could rescue the demigods from this difficulty, Mother Aditi sent Devaraja Indra along with the demigods to her husband Kasyapa Åshi. As per their mother’s instruction, all the demigods went to the third prajapati (progenitor), Kasyapa Åshi, and offered him their obeisances. Kasyapa Rsi listened to their problems and then sent them to Brahma in Brahmaloka. Understanding their desire, Brahma asked them to pray to the creator of the universe, the Supreme Lord, on the northern bank of the Ocean of Milk. He told them, “During your worship of the Supreme Lord, you will hear His infallible words saying that He will accept the prayers of Kasyapa Rsi and Mother Aditi, and fulfil their desire by appearing as their son.”
Being ordered by Lord Brahma and after crossing oceans, mountains, forests and rivers with great hardship, the demigods reached Kasyapa Åshi. Along with him they reached the place known as Amrita (ambrosia or nectar ). Kasyapa Rsi then engaged in a vow, which lasted for thousands of years. The demigods also followed this severe penance (tapoyoga). The great soul Kasyapa recited the Vedic paramastava (supreme prayer) for the pleasure of Narayana and to fulfil Mother Aditi’s desire for a son. Thereafter, Kasyapa Åshi, along with his wife, went to their asrama in the forest of Kurukshetra. Mother Aditi performed severe penances at that place for ten thousand years. Being satisfied by the prayers of Aditi, Supreme Lord Vasudeva appeared before her. When Lord Vasudeva told Mother Aditi to ask for a boon, Aditi prayed that her son Indra could regain the kingdom of heaven. The Supreme Lord said, “So be it!” and assured her that He would fulfil her desire by appearing as her son. Thereafter, upon Aditi’s becoming pregnant, Sri Krishna appeared in her womb. Due to the entrance of Madhusudana into the womb of Aditi, the strength of the demons became diminished. Bali Maharaja became powerless as if burnt by fire or cursed by a brahmana. He inquired about the reason for this from his grandfather, Prahlada. Prahlada Maharaja, after thinking for a while, said to Bali Maharaja, “Do not consider this sort of incident to be ordinary. It is now necessary to think about counteracting it.” After meditating for some time, Prahlada Maharaja realised that the Lord had appeared in the womb of Aditi in the form of Vamana. It was He who had abducted the splendor of the demons. Bali Maharaja, now knowing the reason for the loss of his splendor, further inquired from his grandfather, “Who is this Sri Hari who you say is the cause of our fear? We have hundreds of mighty and powerful daityas (demons). Vasudeva Krishna does not have enough power to compare with even one of these.” Prahlada Maharaja, the best of the daityas, became angry upon hearing such blasphemous words against Vishnu from his grandson, and cursed him that the demons would soon be destroyed. “I do not consider anyone other than Sri Krishna to be the protector of this material world. May I see you in the position of losing your kingdom within a short time.”
Bali Maharaja, upon hearing these unpleasant words from his grandfather, became filled with remorse and repeatedly and pitiably begged forgiveness for his thoughtless words. Satisfied on seeing his grandson fallen at his lotus feet, Prahlada Maharaja said, “Son! I cursed you in anger. My curse will not go in vain. However, you should not be sad about that. Become devoted to Acyuta-He will be your rescuer.”
Ten months later, Lord Govinda was born in the form of a vamana (dwarf). Everywhere auspiciousness and happiness awakened in the hearts of all living beings. With the advent of Vamanadeva, Lord Brahma completed His jata-karma (birth rituals) and other samskaras and offered many beautiful prayers to the Lord. Satisfied by these prayers, Vamanadeva said that He was now repeating to Lord Brahma the promise that He had first made to Indra and then to Aditi: He would see to it that Indra would be reinstated as the ruling power of the universe.
At the sacred thread ceremony of Vamanadeva, Brahma gave Him a krishnajin (the skin of a black antelope), Brihaspati gave Him the sacred thread, Marici gave Him a palasa danda (the rod of a brahmacari), Vasishtha gave Him a water-pot, Angira gave him a kusacira (a piece of cloth made of kusa grass), Pulaha gave Him a mat to sit on, and Pulastya gave Him two cloths of yellow colour. After being worshipped by the demigods, Vamanadeva, in matted locks and holding a rod, waterpot and umbrella, set off for the sacrificial arena of Bali Maharaja. As Vamanadeva was walking, the earth became free of miseries and became restless. The great serpent Ananta came from Rasatala and began to help Vamanadeva. By seeing Lord Vamanadeva, one’s fear of snakes dissipates. Upon seeing the earth in this over-excited state, Bali Maharaja inquired as to the reason from Sukracarya. Sukracarya replied, “The cause of the universe, the eternal Sri Hari has appeared in the home of Kasyapa in the form of Vamana. He will come to your yajna. The earth is becoming restless by the deflection of His feet.” Hearing this from Sukracarya, Bali Maharaja considered himself to be very fortunate as he would be able to have a glimpse of the Supreme Lord, Vamanadeva. “The Supreme Lord is making His auspicious arrival. What should my duty be now?” Bali Maharaja asked Sukracarya. Sukracarya replied, “O king of the demons! According to Vedic directions, the demigods are enjoyers of the offerings of yajna, but you have made only the demons enjoyers of those offerings. Lord Sri Hari, although satisfied as the maintainer, is coming for the fulfilment of the desire of the demigods. Therefore, whatever He desires from you for the welfare of the demigods, you should clearly tell Him that you will not be able to give to Him.”
In reply Bali Maharaja said, “O brahmana, how will I be able to say this? Even if an ordinary person asks me for something, I am unable to say no to him. If in place of that, Govinda Himself comes to me as a beggar, how will I be able to refuse Him? I can give up my life but I cannot refuse Him. I have heard about the glories of charity from you. You are now expressing a different opinion. You should not obstruct me in the matter of giving in charity.” At that time, Vamanadeva appeared in the sacrificial arena of Bali Maharaja along with Brihaspati and other demigods. Then Bali spoke to his priest Sukracarya, “Lord Sri Hari Himself has come to our home, so He should ask for whatever He wishes.”
When Vamanadeva entered the sacrificial arena, all the demons became lusterless due to His splendor. However, Vasishtha, Visvamitra, Garga Rsi and other top-most sages became greatly blessed upon seeing Vamanadeva. Vamanadeva praised the yajna of Bali Maharaja, as well as its organisers and priests. They in turn also expressed their gratitude to Vamanadeva.
With great devotion, Bali Maharaja worshipped Lord Govinda by washing His feet with water and offering oblations, saying, “O best of men, please ask for whatever You wish, be it gold, jewels, elephants, buffaloes, cloth, ornaments, wives, cows, copper, silver and all other metals or even the whole earth.”
Although smiling, Vamanadeva spoke with a serious expression, “O King, to satisfy the terrible fire of my hunger, all I ask from you is three steps of land. Please give gold or villages to whoever asks for them.”
Bali Maharaja said, “Your purpose will not be served by three steps of land. Please ask for land measured by thousands of steps.” Even then, Vamanadeva asked only for three steps of land. Bali Maharaja then took water in his hand and made a promise to give Vamanadeva land measured by only three steps. Immediately, Vamanadeva assumed a gigantic form that was greatly splendid and all-encompassing. All the mighty demons, upon seeing this dazzling form of Vishnu, achieved the state which insects assume upon seeing fire. All-powerful Vishnu then covered the sky and three worlds in a very short time. Defeating the demons, He awarded rulership of the three worlds to Indra. Thereafter, Lord Vishnu gave the Patala region below the earth planet, to Bali Maharaja. Sarvesvara Vishnu also told Bali, “After the passing of the Vaivasvata-manvantara and upon the arrival of the Savarni-manvantara, you will become Indra. Now I have given the region controlled by you to Indra. Whatever happens, as per My order, you should stay in the Sutalapuri region of Patala, which is charming, full of many qualities and beauties, and enjoy the sraka-garland, sandalwood and many other types of earthly pleasures.”
Bali Maharaja replied, “O Lord, by receiving these items of enjoyment from You, may I not forget You. Please bless me that I may remember You.” In this way, Sri Hari gave the kingdom of the three worlds to Indra and blessings to Bali Maharaja and then disappeared.
By hearing this pastime of Bali and Vamanadeva, those who have lost a kingdom will retrieve it and those who have become separated from their objective will also achieve it. Brahmanas will acquire knowledge of the Absolute Truth. Kshatriyas will become expert in conquering the earth and vaisyas will achieve an increase in wealth. Sudras will attain happiness and good fortune, and anyone who hears this will be delivered from all sins.
Near the end of Vamana Purana, there is a short description of the binding of Bali along with a description of Bali Maharaja’s wife, Vindhyavali, and their son Banasura.
chalayasi vikramane balim adbhuta-vamana
kesava dhrita-vamana-rupa jaya jagadisa hare
(Sri Jayadeva’s Dasavatara-stotra, 5th Verse)
“O Kesava! You assumed the form of Vamana to trick the great demon Bali Maharaja by Your steps, and to purify all living entities by the water that emanated from the nails of Your lotus feet. All glories unto You, Lord of the universe.”
 Two of Kashyapa Rsi’s wives-Diti and Aditi are mentioned here in connection with this topic. The sons of Diti are demons and the sons of Aditi are demigods. The demons and the demigods are stepbrothers.
From “Dasavatara – The Ten Manifestations of God” by Swami B.B. Tirtha