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Paintings > Folk Art > Vaman Avatara (The Ten Incarnations of Lord Vishnu)
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Vaman Avatara (The Ten Incarnations of Lord Vishnu)

Vaman Avatara (The Ten Incarnations of Lord Vishnu)

Vaman Avatara (The Ten Incarnations of Lord Vishnu)

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Watercolor on Patti
Artist Rabi Behera

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Vishnu's incarnation as Vamana is one of his three incarnations which had their origin in Vedic literature. In Vedic texts Vamana seems to have been a mere transform of Vishnu, a form to which Vishnu resorts when gods pray him for freeing their habitation from demons. Here, with his third stride he covers the Vedas and Vak, that is, all manifest and unmanifest, and known and spoken. However, in Puranas Vamana emerges as a regular incarnation born as Aditi's son by sage Kashypa for recovering gods' lost power and position. As the myth has is, Bali, fourth in the line of Hiranyakashipu and grandson of Prahlad, was the king of demons. His exceptional prowess had given him the name Mahabali - the mighty. Once when battling for taking possession of Ambrosia, the nectar, obtained from churning of ocean, Indra beheaded him with his disc. However, his demon-followers picked up his body and carried it to nether world where Shukracharya, demons' teacher, revived him to life. Now he devoted himself to further penance and acquired such powers as would defeat gods. With renewed vigour and powers he not only defeated gods, destroyed their power and position but also evicted them of their habitation. Indra's mother Aditi, sage Kashyapa's wife, heard all about it which filled her with grief. When Kashyapa knew the reason of her sadness, he advised her to observe a particular fast which would please Vishnu who alone could restore to gods their position and power. Aditi did as Kashyapa advised her. Pleased by her fast, Vishnu appeared before her and as she desired he took birth as her son. He was born in dwarfish form and was named Vamana.

At that time Mahabali was celebrating the occasion of his conquest over the world at Narmada's banks by performing sacrifice. In the gathering were a large number of hermits and Brahmins. Vamana also joined them. When his turn came, he prayed Mahabali to grant him a piece of land measuring three strides as alms. Mahabali's teacher Shukracharya warned him against granting the request but Mahabali paid no heed and granted it. He asked Vamana to measure it. Vamana expanded his body to such size that in two steps he covered the entire earth, heaven, and Patala, and asked the demon king for the space to put his third. Mahabali, true to his words, presented his head and asked Vamana to put it there. Vishnu placed his foot on his head and pushed him into the Patala and thus, gods' position and power were restored. Vishnu in this form has been designated in Puranas as Vishnu-kranta, Tri-Vikram or Vikranta, a form widely represented also in early sculptures.


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