In Bali's extensive hall of
sacrifice, there were the recitation of Vedas, and the "jam 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 jewellery were
distributed as gifts. Adorned with clothes made of goldthread, Bali sat with his wife
Vindhyavali before the holy fire and performed Homa. Shukracharya approached Bali and
whispered, "0 king Bali, it is time to complete the sacrifice. You have to be very
careful now. Who can guess the deceitful ways of the Devas ? They may even 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. 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 so he said, "Acharya,
what kind of talk is this? You know that I have vowed to give charity. The merit earned by
giving charity alone has reduced sorrow, poverty and disease and therefore people are
happy in my kingdom. Before my time, did not the great emperors Dadheechi and Shibi give
away even their bodies in charity? 1, who am ready to give my soul in charity, cannot deny
anything to any one who asks for it. Is it not a pleasure to give something dear to us in
charity to others instead of enjoying it ourselves ? I beg of you not to place hurdles
before me when I wish 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. A little
bachelor 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 fibre. Hishands 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. Everyone saw what was happening in silence.
The young ascetic addressed Bali and said, "O King Bali, let
auspicious things happen to you." Bali, his queenVindhyavali, 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 asplendid 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
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."
The young ascetic said "0 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 thesacred thread. I am yet to give my gurudakshina to my
preceptor. 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
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."
Vamanamurthy said, "0 king, my work will be fulfilled with the
grant of my request. Therefore make me the gift of the three paces of land that I
ask." Bali replied, 'Well, let me fulfil your desire. Wait till I bring the golden
jug containing water from the hermitage" and went inside the hermi- tage. At once
Shukracharya followed Bali into the hermitage and said, 'What is this foolishness,0 king?
Without consulting any one you have promised to give charity to the young ascetic. Do you
know who this boy really is ? He is the friend of the Devas. It is Vishnu in the form
of Vamana who has come here as your enemy !"
Bali said calmly, "Is that so, gurudeva? Has Narayana, to please
whom saints and wise men perform austerities for years, come on his own to ask for charity
from me? Has he become Vamana only to take gift from me? I am indeed fortunate that
Narayana has come to my place to take a gift from me. This could only be due to the merit
earned by me in my previous life."
But Shukracharya said, "King Bali, you feel proud only because of
your ignorance. At least now, be wise and take my advice. It is not a sin to go back on
one's word in self-defence. So do not give what he asks. If you do not take my advice, it
will bring about the ruin of yourself and the Danavas. As soon as he takes the gift from
you, Sri Hari will undo you just as he undid Hiranyakashipu."
Bali replied, 'Gurudeva, charity given regardless of the hardships is
the best. If
Sri Hari asks, I am prepared to give even my head. Can there be greater
glory forme than giving when Sri Hari's hand is spread out to receive the gift ? Please do
not stop me from giving."
Having spoken thus, Bali walked straight to Vamana with the golden jug
full of water. He addressed Vamanamurthy and said, "Devadeva, I am ready to give;
extend your hand and receive it." Vamana stretched his hands under the hand of Bali.
Bali placed his hand with tulasi leaves upon Vamana's hands, while Vindhyavali poured
water from the golden jug as the priests chanted verses symbolic of the act of giving. At
once the heavenly drums began to sound from all directions of the earth. Heavens rained
petals of flowers on Bali and Vamana.