All of us know the greatness of Sri Prahalada's
devotion to God and his undaunted faith in the immeasurable kindness of Lord
Vishnu. To demonstrate His Omnipresence, Lord Vishnu emerged from a pillar
during His incarnation as Narasimha, killed the Hiranyakasipu and protected
Prahalada, His true devotee. The grandson of that Prahalada was the Emperor
Mahabali. He was also an ardent devotee of Lord Vishnu like his grand-father.
He performed severe penance and secured a boon from Lord Brahma that he should
never deviate from the path of Dharma in thought, word and deed. He ruled over
the Kindgom strictly observing the code of royal conduct. Inspite of his
erudition, he succumbed to the instigation of other demons and decided to annex
the heavens, once belonging to his ancestors, from Indra the Lord of
celestials. He sent word to Indra commanding him to give up the possession of
the heavens. Not getting any reply from Indra, he decided to wage a war with
him. Afraid of his prowers, Indra left the heavens. without offering any
resistance. Mahabali, then usurped the Swarga Loka.
Indra, the son of Kasyapa, reported the matter to his
mother Adhiti. She prayed to Lord Vishnu for succour. In response to her
prayers and desirous of restoring the heavens to Indra, Lord Vishnu incarnated
as the son of Adhiti in the form of a dwarf. Hence his name Vamana. Lord Vishnu
knew fully well that Mahabali strictly adhered to the path of Dharma. There is
an old saying that Dharma protects one who protects it. As Mahabali never
deviated from the path of Dharma, the of his multitude of his virtuous deeds
should certainly stand him in good stead. If he were to be killed in a direct
combact by Lord Vishnu, it would shatter the very foundations of Dharma.
However he had to be subdued in order to restore the heavens to Indra and for
this also, there must be some justification. According to the procedure laid
down in the sastras only person who performs one hundred Aswamedha yagas is
competent to occupy the throne of the Heavens and is considered fit for the
lndrapadavi. One should deserve before one desires to rise up to an exalted
position. But Mahabali did not perform one hundred Asvamedha sacrifices to
enable him to acquire the position of Indra. He annexed the Heavens to his
kingdom by usurping the same from India by sheer prowess and to that extent
Lord Vishnu opined that Mahabali had deviated slightly from Dharma and deserved
to be punished. Hence the Lord hit upon a plan to subdue him not by force but
by an act of Dharma in which Mahabali, who annexed the heavens in a moment,
would forfeit the same likewise.
To execute His plan, Lord Vishnu as Vamana, a bachelor
with a diminutive stature, went to see Mahabali on the banks of the river
Narmada where he was performing a sacrifice called "Vaishnava". He told him
that he wanted to do penance in seclution and requested a dana or grant for
that purpose, so much land as He could cover with his three footsteps. At that
time Sukracharya, the preceptor of Asuras, learning by intution that Lord
Vishnu Himself had come there as a malicious mendicant, cautioned him not to
yield to His request in haste. Mahabali paid no heed to his words because he
thought that if He happened to be Vishnu, it would be a great privilege for him
to provide alms to Him from his own hand held at a higher level to that of His
Varadahastha, renowned for granting boons to the entire creation. He took his
Kamandala, the water-pot and began to offer the holy waters into Vanama's hand
in conformity with the procedure to be followed before making any gift. At that
time, Sukracharya in a last minute bid to save him from the impending calamity,
took the form of a bee, entered the noozle of the Kamandala and obstructed the
flow of water. Noticing this Maha Vishnu pierced the obstruction with a Dharba
grass and as a result, Sukracharya who was in the form of a bee had to lose one
of his eyes.
The diminutive Vamana received the holy waters from'
Mahabali, then assumed a mighty form in which he came to be called Trivikrama
and began to measure the three steps even as the astonished Mahabali was
simply gazing. The first step covered the earth and the second the heavens!
There was no space where he could place his third step!! At that time, the
great and generous Mahabali offered his own head for placing his third step.
Trivikrama planted his foot on Mahabali's head and sent him to Pathala, the
nether world and graced him to be its ruler, thereby restoring Indra to his
Kingdom in the heavens. He had also graced Mahabali with the rare and unique
Previlege of the touch of his foot while the Devas and the sages strive for
yugas to reach that lotus feet of Lord Vishnu and thus rewarded Mahabali also
for' following Dharma.
In response to the prayers of Adisesha, Lord Vishnu
gave in Kacheepuram darshan in that form of Trivikrama or Ulagalanda Perumal.