The guru of the devtas Brashpati realised that devtas could not win against Bali who had decided to fight but the devtas did not wish to give their kingdom and therefore there ensued a great battle.
Brashpati advised the devtas to stop the fight and leave their kingdom and go into hiding as they could not win from Bali as his stars were very high at that time. Indra was first very upset and refused to leave his city of ‘Amravati’, but Brashpati persuaded him to do so and find some other way to destroy the asurs! The devtas obeyed and went into hiding as ordinary citizens of Mrityu Lok, but were extremely disturbed and upset at this state of affairs.
Balis’ great desire to become Indra was fulfilled as he entered the capital of the devtas ‘Amravati’ and the threat of asur raj hung heavily in the three worlds with the fear that in the long run this will eventually bring disaster as the tendencies of the asurs were bound to come out even though Bali was generous and kind so far, in any case the balance of power was badly disturbed and the poor devtas were in a mess.
The devtas are the children of Aditi and Kashyap. Kashyap had been absent from his ashram for a very long time doing tapasya in the mountains. When he came back he found Aditi very distressed and asked her for the reason of her sorrow. Aditi told him about how the asurs had taken over the kingdom of her children and their King Bali had become invincible and her sons were roaming around rootlessly on earth.
This she could not bear. Kashyap told her that if she prayed to Narayan for the first twelve days of Phagan and only drink milk during this time and repeat the mantra ‘Om Namo Bhagvate Vasudeva’ Narayan will surely come to her and she could ask Him to deliver her children from their awful fate.
Aditi did just that and Narayan suddenly appeared on the tenth day, and told her that He knew her sorrow and although Bali was a very good and kind king, still he had become arrogant and must be taught a lesson as he could not take away other people’s wealth and homes and make them destitutes. He promised to be born as her son, but she was not to tell anyone about it.
So it happened that she gave birth to a son who came in the full form of Narayan at birth, but soon changed into a tiny baby. As he grew older he still remained a tiny person looking more like a child. The child glowed with an ethereal light and the gods and devtas knew that this was Narayan himself.
They gave him beautiful presents befitting an hermit, someone gave him an umbrella and someone a kamandal and another the sacred thread that he wore on his body, but he still remained very small and was named ‘Vaman’, his other name was ‘Upendra’.
Mahabali decided to do a yagya as now he was the strongest of the kings in the three worlds. So on the holy grounds of ‘Brighukachekha’ on the northern banks of the river Narmada he started his yagna under the directions of his Guru Sukre. Soon the whole assemblies saw a light coming from a distance and were very intrigued to see such a luminous person coming towards them.
Bali got up and saw a very small boy with a jata on his head and an umbrella in one hand and a kamandal in the other, his whole body was shining like gold and everyone started to guess as to who this could be. They all got up as one man to welcome this celestial being.
Bali looked towards him and in glowing words asked him to come and join in his yagya, and he washed the tiny feet and requested the young Brahman boy to ask for anything from him as was the right of a Brahman and he would give it there and then as was the dharm of a Kshatriya.
The tiny Vaman asked him for nothing more than the ‘three paces of ground measured by his foot’. This was a surprise for Bali who told the young ‘Vaman’ that he could ask for much more as his tiny feet could measure very little. In the meantime Sukre guessed as to the identity of this tiny luminous figure and signalled to Bali not to give what was being asked for, but Bali had given his word and told his guru so, on which the guru got very angry and cursing Bali and left the ‘yagnashala’.
Bali asked Vaman to proceed on measuring the ground with his foot. Soon Vaman rose to such a stature and took the full form of Narayan as ‘Viraat Purush’. He was very awesome but Bali did not budge from his word and asked Him to do as was agreed upon. Narayan covered the entire earth with one step, the next He took the Devlok, Janaloka, Satyalok and Dyurloka. Brahma who was in Satya Lok was greatly excited as the gleams of the Lord’s nails of the foot were soft like the moon-light. Brahma washed the foot with the water from his kamandal and the water that fell from the foot of Narayan flowed as a river named ‘Mandakini’ purifying all the spots it touched.
On earth it became known as Ganga. Now Narayan asked Bali where He to step for the third step, as all land was had been taken by just this two steps. Bali quickly told him to step on his head as he was not afraid of going to the netherland pushed by Narayan Himself who had actually purified him by taking away his ego.
Narayan was very pleased with Bali who stopped his army from fighting the ‘devtas’. They did not realise who Vaman was because when He took the ‘Virat Roop’ they had all fainted and only woke up when He had become ‘Vaman’ again.
The Vishnu promised to look after Bali and his father and grandfather and keep them at ‘Sutala’ which He said “is dear to me and I shall keep guard over them and Bali would become Indra in ‘Manvantra’ known as ‘Savarni’ and all his asur tendencies will leave him and he will be a great Indra.” And so came and went the Vaman avtar. The manifestation of life in the first human being.