Bali, the king of demons had, through penance and valor, gained dominance over the three worlds. The gods, deprived of their abode, came to Vishnu for help. At their request Vishnu incarnated himself as dwarf born to the sage Kashyapa and his wife Aditi. One day the dwarf appeared before the virtuous Bali. He begged for alms, and he was promised by the king whatever he might demand. The dwarf demanded as much space as he could encompass with three steps. Once this had been granted, the dwarf with one step covered the earthly world, with a second step the heavens and then, no space being left for a third step, rested his foot on Bali's head and pushed him down to the nether world. Bali, bound by his kingly promise, had to acknowledge his defeat, but in recognition of his virtues, Vishnu left him the dominion of the infernal regions.
This myth teaches us that since even God had to resort to the dwarf's form while begging, one who begs makes himself small! Secondly, a true Brahmin can conquer the three worlds by the power of the spirit.
The image shown here, is in accordance with textual descriptions. Vamana holds a water-pot in his right hand and an umbrella in his left.
Danielou, Alain. The Myths and Gods of India: Vermont, Inner Traditions International, 1991.
Garrett, John. A Classical Dictionary of India: Delhi, Low Price Publications, 1996.
Harshananda, Swami. Hindu Gods and Goddesses: Madras, Sri Ramakrishna Math, 1987.
Jansen, Eva Rudy. The Book of Hindu Imagery, The Gods and their symbols: Holland, Binkey Kok Publishers, 1998.
Mitchell, A.G. Hindu Gods and Goddesses: New Delhi, UBS Publishers, 1998, Eleventh Edition.