Tag Archives: Significance of Onam

Vamana Avatar: Onam and its Significance

From mortality to Immortality: Vamana Avatar:
The virtuous and noble King Bali was the grandson of Prahlada. Just like his grandfather he too was very devoted to Lord Vishnu. Bali had established his sovereignty over earth and heaven. Under the guidance of his Guru Shukracharya, Bali decided to perform a yagna, and he undertook a sankalpa or vow that whatever anybody sought from him, he would give away as charity, and he strictly adhered to it. The Gods wanted the terrestrial and celestial planes back from Bali, and they prayed to Lord Vishnu to help them.

Lord Vishnu as Vamana, appeared as the son of Sage Kashyapa and his wife Aditi. Short in stature, but most charming to look at, the young brahmachari, Vamana proceeded to Bali’s yagnasala with an umbrella in one hand and a kamandalu in the other. Everyone was wonderstruck at the compelling personality of Vamana and rose from their seats to offer their salutations.

Bali received the divine guest with all respect and reverence and asked the young vatu (brahmachari) to put forth his request. Vamana asked Bali for three measures of land as measured by his little foot. Bali was astonished. A piece of land as measured by three little steps of the young vatu would not serve any purpose! Guru Shukracharya intervened and tried his best to stop this dana because he knew that it was Lord Vishnu alone who had come in the form of a brahmchari. But for Bali it was living upto his vow of dana. He insisted on giving more land, but Vamana said that the land measured by his feet would suffice. Finally Bali agreed. He took a little water in his hand, took the sankalpa of dana, and poured the water on the earth in front of him. 

To the astonishment of all assembled there including Bali, the dwarf Vamana grew and grew to become Trivikrama – “Lord of three divine steps”. With the first step he measured all of the terrestrial plane. With the second step he measured the celestial spheres. There was no place to keep the third step. Bali was overwhelmed at the darshan of the Lord’s cosmic form. The Lord asked him where to place his third step. Bali knelt down in utter surrender to the Lord and asked him to place the third step on his head. The Lord took the third step and placed his sacred feet on Bali’s head and sent him to the realm called Sutala to rule over. The Lord also assured Bali that he himself would be there to guard and protect his kingdom. The Lord told Bali that on Vamana Jayanti, he could visit the kingdom he once ruled over which is celebrated as ONAM.

Bali represents a seeker who is on the spiritual path. “Bali” means sacrifice – a knower and performer of karma yoga. His sovereignty over earth and heaven indicate that he is a master of the outer world of circumstances and the inner world of thoughts and emotions, and therefore the Master of his Jnanendriyas and Karmendriyas. He becomes eligible for “Indrapadavi” – the throne of Indra. “Indra” means “indriyaanaam raja Indra” (the Master of all the Indriyas). To such an advanced seeker, the Guru, represented by Vamana (One who has transcended his mind) enters his life and inspires him to move beyond just mastering the physical, mental and intellectual equipments. Lord Vishnu appeared as Vamana in the Sravana Nakshatra or Thiruonam Star (sravana indicates listening to scriptures) in the month of Bhadrapada (State of Auspiciousness).

Shukracharya representing the “standard of living – materialism” tries to dissuade the seeker. But the seeker surrenders totally to his Guru. With the grace of the Master, he transcends his equipments – the body, the mind and the intellect, which is represented by the Lord’s three steps, to cover the earth (body), space (mind) and head (intellect). At this juncture, the Guru¬† guides the seeker’s attention “within himself in contemplation,” which is represented by the Lord placing His foot on Bali’s head. This is “sparsha deeksha” (initiation through touch). Bali is “sent down” (to turn the attention inwards) to “Sutala” (the domain of auspiciousness) which is the region beyond our comprehension – the inner world of peace and quietude. The seeker turns his attention totally within, and through meditation comes to discover the inner kingdom of everlasting freedom and peace!

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