In the Hindu epic Ramayana, the vanara Vali (Sanskrit: वालि, nominative singular of the root वालिन् Valin), also known as Bali (Hindi: बालि, Indonesian: Subali, Malay: Balya, Yuan: Bari, Thai: Phali, Lao: Palichan) was king of Kishkindha, a son of Indra and the elder brother of Sugriva. He was killed by Rama, an Avatar of Vishnu.
Vali was famous for the boon that he had received, according to which anyone who fought him in single-combat lost half his strength to Vali, thereby making Vali invulnerable to any enemy. Once Ravana called Vali for a fight when Vali was doing his regular Sandhyavandanam. He took Ravana in his tail and took him around all the world. Humbled, Ravana called for a truce[agreement to stop war temporarily]. It is said in the Ramayana that Vali was very brave and courageous. Before dawn he used to go from the Eastern coast of sea to the Western coast and from the Northern coast of the sea to the Southern coast to pay his homage to Surya - the sun-god. He was so brave and powerful that on his way to pay homage to Surya, he used to toss the mountain peaks upward and catch them as if they were play balls. Also after completing the tedious task of paying homage to the sun god in all the four directions, when he used to return to Kishkindha he does not feel any tiredness .
Vali was the husband of Tara. As one myth goes, fourteen types of gems or treasures were produced from the churning of ocean. One gem is that various Apsaras (divine nymphs) were produced and Tara was an Apsara produced from the churning of ocean. Vali who was with the devas, helping them in the churning of ocean, took Tara and married her.
Vali was very courageous this can be understood from the fact that, when Tara tried to stop him and begged him to not to go to fight Sugriva, by saying that it is God (Rama) who is helping Sugriva and has come to Sugriva’s rescue; Vali replied to Tara that even if he is fighting against God he can’t ignore a challenge for a fight and remain quiet. He adds that even if the caller for the fight had been his own son Angada he would still go to fight.
Vali had been known as a good and pious vanara-king, but had been too outraged to heed his brother Sugriva after his brother had sealed the entrance to a cave in which Vali was fighting a rakshasa named Mayavi. Sugriva had mistaken the blood flowing out of the cave to be his brother's, blocked the entrance to the cave with a boulder and left for Kishkindha, assuming that his brother was dead. When Vali had emerged victorious over the rakshasa, he had found that the entrance to the cave was blocked. He journeyed back to kingdom to find Sugriva ruling in his place. Sugriva tried to explain the situation to Vali, but Vali, enraged, would not listen. Vali then nearly kills Sugriva, except that Sugriva was able to escape Vali's grasp. Sugriva barely escaped from the kingdom. When Vali chased Sugriva out of his kingdom, he also claimed Sugriva's main wife, Rumā. Sugriva fled into the forest where he eventually meets Rama and Lakshmana.
Rama meets Sugriva
Wandering in the forest with his brother Lakshmana in search of his wife Sita - kidnapped by the rakshasa king Ravana, Rama meets the rakshasa Kabandha and kills him, freeing him from a curse. The freed Kabandha advises Rama to seek the help of Sugriva to find Sita.
Continuing on his journey, Rama meets Hanuman and is impressed by his intelligence and skills as an orator. This also boosts Rama's confidence in Sugriva. Sugriva tells him the story of how Vali became his enemy. In Sugriva's version, he is entirely innocent and Rama believes him.
Sugriva is very scared of Vali and he is full of doubts that Rama could kill him. He tells him many incredible stories of Vali's power. As proof, he shows Rama a hole in a saal tree which Vali had made in one shot. When it is Rama's turn, he penetrates seven trees of saal in a row with one arrow. After going through the trees, the arrow even makes a strike on a huge rock and splits it into pieces. Sugriva is happy and says, "O Rama, you are great."
Rama asks Sugriva to challenge Vali and bring him outside Kishkindha. As Rama explains later, for 14 years he cannot enter a city. Moreover, Rama does not want any unnecessary bloodbath of Vali's army with whom he wants to maintain friendly relations. Despite this, killing Vali would not be impossible for Rama. Just a few days before, Rama had killed Khar and Dushan and their army of 14,000 rakshasas (demons).
Sugriva formed an alliance with Rama. Rama had been travelling the length of India in search of his kidnapped wife, Sita. Sugriva asked Rama's help in return for his help in defeating Ravana and rescuing Sita. The two hatched a plan to topple Vali from the throne.
Sugriva challenged Vali to a fight. When Vali sallied forth to meet the challenge, Rama emerged from the forest to shoot and kill him with an arrow, from the back of a tree.
Now Rama faces the injured Vali. A dying Vali told Rama if you are searching your wife you should have come to me for help and friendship. Whoever took Sita even if it is Ravana I have defeated them and would have taken them at your feet and at your mercy.
So Vali asked the following questions:
- What was my crime?
- Even if I committed a crime (with my brother), what is your right to kill me?
- The third statement shows Vali's disapproval of the way Rama killed him. He says, "I was fighting with some other person and was not careful enough when you shot me."
Rama makes the following replies to Vali:
- The younger brother should be treated like a son. Even if he made a mistake you should forgive him, especially when he promised to respect you for your whole life.
- About his authority he said he had permission from King Bharat to spread righteousness and punish evils.
- The third argument he quoted how great kings did hunting of deers in the past. In fact, Vali in principle could also be kept in the category of deers (as he was a Vanara and not a Human) and a hunting king does not care whether the deer was careful or not.
After Vali's death
Rama's slaying of Vali had a special significance. At the beginning Vali argued with Lord Rama, why he had to kill him in a cowardly way. Rama explained to him about the various purusharthas and showed him his Vishvarupa, and granted him moksha. Vali was then convinced and also asked his son Angada to stand by his uncle Sugriva and assist in the divine work of lord Rama.
It is also said, Rama promised Vali to give him a chance to avenge his unjust murder. Vali was reincarnated as the hunter and archer Jara in Mahabharata (Dwapar Yug). Jara was the cause of the death of Shri Krishna (the reincarnation of Shri Rama) when he struck His feet by an arrow taking them to be a deer. Vali's son, Angada, joined Sri Ram's army and was given important responsibilities in Rama's war against Ravana.
- Valmiki Ramayana Kishkindha Kanda Prose Sagara 11.
- Mahabharata, Book III: Vana Parva, Section 278: online text for the section of the Mahabharata describing Rama's alliance with Sugriva and the killing of Vali.
- Ramayana, Book IV, Canto 16: online text for the section of the Ramayana of Valmiki describing Bali's death at the hands of Rama.
- Photographs of a bas relief at the temple of Banteay Srei in Cambodia depicting the combat between Vali and Sugriva.
- Valmiki Ramayana Kishkindha Kanda Prose Sagara 11