The vedic culture does not discriminate on the basis of birth or caste, it distinguishes between civilized and uncivilized, humble and vain, benevolent and selfish. Even an asur can conquer the three worlds by following the path of virtue, righteousness and penance. The story of Bali is a perfect example.
Grandson of Prahlad and a mighty but righteous asur, Bali went on to defeat the devas under the sanidhya of Guru Shukracharya and became the Lord of Heaven. His grandfather advised him to follow the path of virtue while ruling his kingdom. Bali adhered to his advice and became popular in all three worlds for the prosperity he brought to his kingdom and subjects. However, under his rule the devtas and brahmans were denied their rights.
The devas then put forth their grievances in front of Lord Vishnu and requested him for intervention. Lord Vishnu informed them of the impeccable devotion and faith of Bali but assured them that he would take birth as Vaman (dwarf) to help them regain their rights.
In course of time the asurs and their country began to weaken. Bali asked his grandfather the reason for this. Prahlad informed him that Lord Vishnu had manifested in the womb of Aditi and hence the rule of asurs was weakening. Bali, brimming with pride from his past laurels, commented, “asurs are more powerful than Vishnu.” Infuriated, Prahlad cursed Bali that his kingdom will be destroyed and that his salvation would depend on devotion to Vishnu.
Some time passed. Once Bali was performing a yagya when Vaman came to the site guised as a hermit boy and requested Bali to grant him land measuring three steps. The benevolent Bali was pleased with the humility of the boy and offered him a country, but the boy was stuck on his request. Guru Shukracharya warned Bali not to give in to the boy’s request, for he was aware of the reality of the boy. Bali however refused to step back from his promise and asked the boy to go ahead. Hearing this, the dwarf boy suddenly assumed a giant form (Trivikram), in one step he covered the earth and in another the whole of heaven, practically covering the whole kingdom of Bali. He then asked Bali where to keep the third step, as he had promised three steps of land.
Bali was overwhelmed by the leela of the Lord, with his hands folded in reverence, he requested him to place his foot on his head. Lord Vishnu was pleased by the devotion, generosity and strength of character as displayed by Bali. He granted him the rule of Pataal lok. Henceforth asurs became the inhabitants of Pataal lok.
Author: Sneh Chibba