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Vamana Avatar Home -› Hindu Trinity -› The Preserver -› Vishnu -› Vamana Avatar
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The sacrifice hall
In Bali's extensive hall of sacrifice, there were the recitation of Vedas, and the auspicious sounds of music of the instruments. Shukracharya was officiating as the head-priest at the hundredth horse sacrifice. The saints, gandharvas and the subjects from the three worlds had come in large numbers to witness the sacrifice. At one place there were heaps of pearls and precious stones from which gifts were given. At another place cows and jewelry were distributed as gifts.

Adorned with clothes made of goldthread, Bali sat with his wife Vindhyavali before the holy fire and performed the rituals. Shukracharya approached Bali and whispered, "O Bali, It is time now to complete the sacrifice. You have to be very careful now. Who can guess the deceitful ways of the Devas? They may send Vishnu to this hall of sacrifice." Bali said, "O preceptor, is that so? Then advise me how I should conduct myself if Vishnu himself comes here." Shukracharya said, "Listen, this is my advice, O Bali. If Vishnu comes and asks for any gift, deny it cleverly. Plead your inability to give anything to the Almighty and All-powerful and send him away."

Bali was not pleased with this advice and did not heed him since he had vowed to give charity.

Even as they were talking thus, the hall of sacrifice filled with murmurs of 'Make way, make way.' Every one moved aside and made way for the new guest. Bali and his queen stood up eagerly and looked towards the entrance gate.

Vamana arriving at the ritual place
A little ascetic of about eight years was making his way towards them. His face was shining with a smile. He held an umbrella over his head. A plait of hair was hanging at the back of his head. He wore the sacred thread on his bare body the lower part of which was covered with cloth made of fiber. His hands held the staff of an ascetic and a water jug. There was deerskin under his armpit. He wore the mark of sandal wood paste on his forehead. It looked as though he had combined all branches of knowledge in his young body. He was taking his steps towards Bali.

The young ascetic addressed Bali and said, "O King Bali, let auspicious things happen to you." Bali, his queen Vindhyavali, their son Bana and the rest were struck with wonder and went on admiring his stature for a time. The young ascetic continued speaking and said, "King of the Daityas, this is a splendid sacrifice. I can judge what a righteous man you are from the flames rising to the skies from the place of sacrifice; from the kind of eatables served to people at this festivity; from the gifts of pearls and precious stones given in charity; from lakhs and lakhs of admiring subjects who have gathered here out of love and from the chanting of the Vedas. You must give me a gift suitable to this superb sacrifice."

Bali felt elated and proud. He turned to his queen and said,"Vindhyavali, how pleasant and meaningful are the words of this little ascetic ! We are indeed fortunate to set our eyes on this jewel of learning. Bring holy water in a golden jug. Let us wash his feet and earn merit." Vindhyavali brought a jug full of water. Bali and his queen washed the feet of the young ascetic, offered flowers and sandalwood paste and worshipped him. Then Bali made him sit on a precious seat and spoke to him, "Great man, though you are young and short, your learning has made you shine above all others. Who are you? Your handsome body is a feast to the eyes. Your words are sweet like honey. What can I do for you? What can I give you? Ask whatever you desire, or everything that I have. I shall give anything that you ask."

Vamana asking for 3 steps of land
The young ascetic said "O king of Danavas I came here to ask you for a gift only because I know you will give all I ask, as you are the lord of the three worlds. I am the son of Kashyapa and my name is Vamanamurthy. I am a bachelor and so I do not need either kingdom or wealth. I have been just initiated into the knowledge of Brahman and started wearing the sacred thread. I am yet to give my gurudakshina to my preceptor."

Vamana continued, "My preceptor Bharadwaja needs a few paces of land to perform the religious rites of 'Agnihotra'. Therefore I ask you to give me only three paces of land to be measured by my feet. That will satisfy me."

Bali burst with laughter on hearing Vamana's request. He said, "One who asks me for anything should not feel the need to ask for gifts from any one else later. Even if you ask for one of the kingdoms under my authority, I shall grant it. I feel ashamed to give you this little bit of land. What do you gain from this? At least ask for more land."
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