vreeDaa vidha vadhaanya dhaanava yasO naasera dhaaTee paTah:
trai aksham makuTam punan avathu na: TraivikramO vikramah: /
yath prasthaava samuchritha dvaja paTee vrithaantha siddhaanthibhih:
srOthObhih: sura sindhu ashTasu disaa soudhEshu dOdhooyatE //
“ When the Lord went to Mahaabali to beg for three footsteps of land, the bounteous Emperor Mahaabali felt ashamed of himself in offering the gift. When the Lord grew to show His Viswaroopam and measured the three worlds, the foot that went up seemed to be the flagstaff proceeding to proclaim the glorious bounty of Mahaabali. Brahma offered “Paadhyam” to this foot, while the sacred waters flowing from this fell on and sanctified the matted crest of hair of Siva and the eight directions. May that Vikrama’s foot protect us”
THE BACKGROUND STORY:
MAHABALI, the grandson of PRAHLADA was a virtuous king. He performed a sacrifice called `VISWAJIT' (conquest of the worlds) meaning that which bestows mastery over the three worlds. From out of the sacrificial fire arose a golden chariot, an armor and a coat of arms. Donning them, he set out on a `DIGVIJAYA' (Conquest of the directions). With the help of SUKRACHARYA his preceptor, he drove Indra and Devas to the nether world and occupied MAYAVATHI, the capital of Indra.
BRIHASPATI counseled Indra to wait. Nothing could be done and MAHABALI would fall only if and when his preceptor cursed him for disobeying his command a situation that could be contrived only by Lord VishNu.
Kaasyapa Rishi had another wife by name ADITI who was the mother of Devas.As the banishment of Devas took place at a time when KASYAPA had gone out for meditation, she awaited his arrival. And, when he returned she narrated
the happenings. KASYAPA and ADITI performed a `PAYOVRATA' - (penance for 12 days when the sacrificers could drink only milk). This was done to propitiate SRI VISHNU. Vishnu was pleased and appeared before them and told that he would be born as the youngest son of ADITI and would help in restoring the glory of Indra. Accordingly he was born during a bright fortnight of the month Bhadrapada. The baby immediately grew up to be a short statured Brahmin Brahmachari (celibate) called VAMANA.
This Brahmachari entered the sacrificial grounds of BALI who was performing Aswamedha (horse sacrifice). He was resplendent and shone like a thousand Suryas. Bali was amazed, received him with due honors and requested what he
wanted - cows, elephants, horses, gold, chariots and promised that he would give whatever VAAMANA wanted.
Vaamana said that he did not desire any of these but wanted that much of land as measured by three steps in his stride.
BALI readily agreed and asked his wife to bring water for consecrating water in his palm. His Guru, Sukracharya realized that it is only Lord VishNu who had come in the garb of a Brahmachari and prevailed upon BALI to retract from his promise. But, Bali insisted saying that if Lord VishNu himself were to seek alms from him, there could no greater glory for him and he would not retract.
Sukracharya became angry and cursed him that he would soon fall from his high position. And, SRI VISHNU was waiting exactly for this moment. Soon after the consecration VAAMANA grew and grew so tall that all those who witnessed were amazed to witness such a phenomenon. Vaamana became TRIVIKRAMA and began to measure the three paces. By the first he strode like a colossus and covered the earth. By the second, he measured the Heavens. And, asked BALI where was he to measure by the third pace. BALI bowed low to Vishnu and prayed VIKRAMA to place his foot on his head. Lord VishNu sent him to Sutala to rule there and thereafter to enjoy for a whole Manvantara, the position of Indra.
The three steps are compared by a commentator to three fiery manifestations of the Lord Viz., Flame, Lightning and the Sun-the flame ablaze the terrestrial sphere, the lightning illuminating the atmospheric sphere and the Sun darting across the celestial sphere.
Thus, in this Avatar the God of majesty and power took a dwarf's stature, begged MAHABALI on behalf of his devotee, Indra and at the same time ensured MAHABALI, Lordship of the Sutala, the nether world and thereafter the position of the next Indra in Savarni Manvanthra. It is believed the Lord is still guarding the palace of MAHABALI and had conferred immortality to MAHABALI in recognition and appreciation of his steadfastness in upholding his promise.
Swami Vedanta Desika describes this Avatar as `Raksha Vaamana" - Vaamana whose only objective is protecting those who surrender to him. Indra surrendered and on his behalf he took a lowly form of a dwarf. As MAHABALI surrendered to God when he bowed before the Lord, the Lord assumed the role of a watchman to guard his palace.
Since he did not desire to dishonor MAHABALI, the grandson of an ardent devotee, Prahlada, He stooped even to
beg of him three paces of earth and desisted from wresting earth by force. Also, Bhagavaan had promised to Prahlada that he would not kill any of his family members or descendants. So, he had to avert a fight, which would have entailed Mahaabali's death. The only way he could wrest earth was begging and begging for a living was the prescribed vocation for a Brahmin especially a Brahmachari. Thus, he protected both Indra and Mahaabali without bloodshed.
An interesting point which is little known is that when Mahaabali once complained to his grandfather, Prahlada about the decline in the prosperity of his kingdom, Prahlada told him that it was due to the disrespect shown by Mahaabali to the Lord. Mahaabali asked arrogantly who was this VishNu that stood in his way. Prahlada could not bear to hear such a haughty reply and cursed Mahaabali that he would soon be banished from his kingdom. Sukracharya's curse only added fuel to the fire of the curse of Prahlada. Together, the two curses brought the downfall of Mahaabali.
Though, in fact, Lord VishNu (the rightful lord of the Universe) was only reclaiming what belonged to him and in the process seemed to check up the measurements since he did it by begging alms- considered an unedifying act, he shrank and looked dwarfish and small - all as a supplicant before MAHABALI who looked great as a bestower - a fact that had to be recognized.
ANDAL refers him as "ONGI ULAGALANDA UTHAMAN' - the noble one who measured the earth by assuming gigantic proportions - to prove that he measured his own property.
Who is a “Uthaman”? One who helps others expecting a ‘quid pro quo’ is an “adhaman”. One who helps without expecting anything in return is a ‘madhyaman’. One who beliitles himself, not minding the dishonor to one’s self, yet goes out to help others is “Uthaman”. Here the Lord belittled Himself to help both Indra and Mahaabali. Hence, He is “Uthaman”.
Even as pilot goes before a VIP, the foot of Trivikrama when it reached the high heavens proclaimed the glory of MAHABALI'S bounty
1. This is the ONLY Avatara that is mentioned in the Vedas“Idam Vishnu VichakramE Tredaa nidadE padam”.
2. When the Lord took Viswaroopam, He shone like the combination of the terrestrial flames, the atmospheric lightning and the celestial Sun.
3. Because the Lord had promised to Prahlada not to kill any of his descendants, He had to resort to a strategy to dispossess Mahaabali. The best way that could be done is by begging a gift from Mahaabali. Naturally, out of shame as one with a begging bowl, the Lord had to appear in a diminutive form before Mahaabali, Hence, the dwarf Vaamana!
4. Vreeda vidtha= Overcome with shyness. The Sruti says that Daanam should be given with shyness and humility. “hriyaa dEyam”
Hence, Mahaabali offered gift in this spirit.
5. Vadaanya = Generous. Vada + anya. When one gives Daanam, the donor should feel he had not given enough. His bhaavam should be to ask the recipient Please tell (Vada); “Do you need anything more?” (anya).This is the frame of mind of the generous Mahaabali.
6. Daanava Yasah naaseera Dhaatee patah = The glory of the Asura King was such that when the Lord took the form of Trivikrama and grew, His foot reaching up the high heavens seemed to act as a pilot declaring his glory of a VIP spearheading his army (naaseera).
7. Trai aksham makuTam Punann = Sanctifying the head of the three eyed Siva because the waters flowing from Lord’ feet cleansed with the kamanDalam waters offered by Brahma in SatyalOkam flowed down and was held in the locks of hair of Lord Siva, the locks became purified!
8. The TiruvaDi of the Lord appeared as the flag post; the Ganges looked like the flag (dvaja patee) declaring to all the worlds the glory of Mahaabali’s generosity.
9. It is interesting to note that when one raised His foot (Trivikrama), one offered Paadhyam and washed it (Brahma) and a third one’s head got sanctified by the holy waters (Siva)! This establishes without any doubt as
to who is Para dEvata.
10. Why did Mahaabali fall? His Guru Sukracharya cursed him when he disobeyed him by insisting on granting alms to Vaamana against Guru’s protests.
Once, puffed up with pride, he challenged his grandfather, Prahlada denigrating the Lord so dear to Prahlaada; Prahlaada spelled a curse that he would lose his possessions. The twin curses led to his downfall.
11. Swami Desika in the 12th Sloka calls Vaamana “Rakshaa Vaamana” – One who protected. This is because he did not kill Mahaabali; Instead, He spread the glory of Mahaabali in all the 8 quarters (Ashtasu disaa soudeshu), sending him down to rule over the nether world of Soothalam and finally assuring him the post of Indra in the next manvantara.