Story of King Bali

First Online: August 25, 2012
Page Last Updated: January 29, 2014

Bali (a.k.a Mahabali) was the grandson of Prahlada, who instilled in him a strong sense of righteousness and devotion. Bali would eventually succeed his grandfather as the king of the Asuras, and his reign over the realm was characterized by peace and prosperity. He would later expand his realm – bringing the entire world under his benevolent rule – and was even able to conquer the underworld (patala) and Heaven, which he wrested from Indra and the Devas. The Devas, after their defeat at the hands of Bali, approached their patron Vishnu and entreated him to restore their lordship over Heaven.

In Heaven, Bali, on the advice of his guru and advisor, Shukracharya, had begun the
Ashwamedha Yajna so as to maintain his rule over the three worlds. Vishnu, meanwhile, had adopted the avatar of Vamana, a small Brahmin boy, and, during the rite, approached Bali and requested a grant of land – although only as much land as he could cover with three paces.

Despite the warnings of his advisor, Bali granted this boon. Vamana then grew to an immense size, and, with his first pace, traversed the all of the earth and the underworld. With his second pace, he covered Heaven in its entirety. Admitting defeat, and seeing that Vamana has no more room for his last step, Bali offered his own head as a stepping-stone.



Vishnu as Vamana the Dwarf
Bali offers his head as a stepping stone

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