King Bali, and His Promise for Three Steps of Land

This history of Diwali tells the story of a great King, King Bali, how is people loved him, and celebrate his homecoming once a year.

King Bali, and His Promise for Three Steps of Land

Long ago there lived a great king called Bali who, although he was an asura, was honorable, generous, and just.

One day, Bali decided to perform a great homa to call up the great god Brahma, Creator of the World. Building a great fire, he poured ghee and other offerings into it with a thousand priests chanting holy mantras. The best of his cattle were sacrificed and gifts of land, cattle, fine clothes, and gold were distributed to all.

The devas, however, were greatly alarmed by Bali's devotion. "What if Lord Brahma grants him a boon that will make him invincible? He must be stopped before he can cause harm."

They rushed to Vaikuntha to appeal to Lord Vishnu for help.

"0 great Protector of the World," they cried, addressing Vishnu. "King Bali is performing a huge homa to call up the great god Brahma. He must be stopped before Brahma grants him a boon. Remember the trouble we had with Naraka, Ravana, and Mahishasura?"

"Yes, indeed, I do," replied Vishnu, gravely, looking down at them from his serpent throne. "But isn't Bali a kind and just king?"

"Yes," replied the devas. "Also very generous. But power may go to his head and make him cruel."

"You are right," agreed Vishnu. "He must be stopped before he can cause trouble."

Meanwhile, King Bali was quite pleased with the way his sacrifice was going. He had fed a thousand priests, distributed lands among ten thousand noblemen, rewarded twenty thousand artisans, and clothed thirty thousand peasants. Orphans had
been found homes, and the poor and sick had been cared for.

"Surely Lord Brahma must be pleased," Bali said to himself. "It's only a matter of time before he appears to reward me."

Just then, a small dwarf entered the sacrificial hall. "0 great King," said the dwarf. "I see that you are giving away gifts. May I, too, have a gift?"

"Of course," replied Bali generously.

"No one is to be turned away. You can ask for anything and it is yours."

"All I want is a small piece of land," said the dwarf, bowing low. 'Just three steps will do."

"Is that all?" Bali was confused. The dwarf had such tiny legs. "You could ask for much more. A large estate, food, clothing, riches, perhaps even a beautiful bride."

"No, no," said the dwarf, shaking his head. "I have no need of such things. Just three steps will do."

"So be it!" pronounced King Bali, waving his hand generously. "Take your three steps, Dwarf."

The dwarf then stretched as tall as he could and took his first step. To everyone's surprise, it covered the whole earth!

Stretching tall once more, the little dwarf took his second step. To Bali's alarm, it covered the whole sky!

Stretching once more, the little dwarf raised his leg to take his third step. But there was nowhere to place it. He had already covered the whole world!

"You promised me three steps," he said. "Where should I place my foot now?"

Realizing that the dwarf was none other than the great god Vishnu, Bali knelt to the ground and bowed his head. "I always fulfill my promises," he declared gravely. "I promised you three steps
and three steps you shall have. Place the third on
my head, 0 Lord."

The dwarf then placed his foot on Bali's head and pushed him deep into the underworld.
Petals fell from the sky as devas came out to rejoice.

But the people of Bali's kingdom were far from being happy, for they loved their generous king. Vishnu, too, felt sorry for him, for, after all, he was good and kind.
"Bali, you are a good king and your people love you. Therefore, you may return to visit
them once a year," he announced.

And thus, once a year, on the sixteenth day of Kartika-the second day of Deepavali when the day is short and the night is long, Bali returns to visit his people, who greet him with great rejoicing.

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