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
generous, and just.
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.
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."
rushed to Vaikuntha to appeal to Lord Vishnu for help.
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,
indeed, I do," replied Vishnu, gravely, looking down at them from his serpent
throne. "But isn't Bali a kind and just king?"
replied the devas. "Also very generous. But power may go to his head and
make him cruel."
are right," agreed Vishnu. "He must be stopped before he can cause trouble."
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
homes, and the poor and sick had been cared for.
Lord Brahma must be pleased," Bali said to himself. "It's only a matter
of time before he appears to reward me."
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?"
course," replied Bali generously.
one is to be turned away. You can ask for anything and it is yours."
I want is a small piece of land," said the dwarf, bowing low. 'Just three
steps will do."
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
no," said the dwarf, shaking his head. "I have no need of such things.
Just three steps will do."
be it!" pronounced King Bali, waving his hand generously. "Take your
three steps, Dwarf."
dwarf then stretched as tall as he could and took his first step. To everyone's
surprise, it covered the whole earth!
tall once more, the little dwarf took his second step. To Bali's alarm, it covered
the whole sky!
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!
promised me three steps," he said. "Where should I place my foot now?"
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
my head, 0 Lord."
dwarf then placed his foot on Bali's head and pushed him deep into the underworld.
fell from the sky as devas came out to rejoice.
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.
you are a good king and your people love you. Therefore, you may return to visit
once a year," he announced.
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.