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For the 1983 Indian film, see Mahabali (film).
Not to be confused with Mahaabali.
Vamana with Bali Maharaj
Avatara Vamana splashes Bali’s head, and sends him to the Patala

Mahabali (IAST: Mahābalī, Devanagari: महाबली, Malayalam: മാവേലി, മഹാബലി) is also known as Bali or Māveli or"Vairochana" was a benevolent Asura King, and the grandson of Prahlada in Indian scriptures. The festival of Onam, celebrated by the people of Kerala, commemorates his yearly homecoming after being sent down to the underworld Sutala by Vamana, a dwarf and the fifth incarnation avatar of Vishnu.[1] The Government of Kerala declared Onam as the ‘State Festival’ of Kerala in 1960. ]

Conquest of the Universe and banishment[edit]

Onappottan, a symbolic representation of King Bali.[2] Onappottan visits houses during the onam and gives blessings. Of late onappottan has become a rare sight, confined to villages.

Bali, an Megha-vanshi asura, was the son of Devamba and Virochana. He grew up under the tutelage of his grandfather, Prahlada, who instilled in him a strong sense of righteousness and devotion.

Bali succeeded Virochana as the king of the Asuras, and his reign over the realm was characterized by peace and prosperity. He later expanded his realm – bringing the entire world under his benevolent rule – and was even able to conquer the underworld and Heaven, which he wrested from Indra and the Devas. The Devas, after their defeat at the hands of Bali, approached their patron Vishnu and entreated him to restore their lordship over Heaven.

In Heaven, Bali, on the advice of his guru and advisor, Sukracharya, began the Ashwamedha Yaga so as to maintain his rule over the three worlds. Vishnu, meanwhile, adopted the avatar of Vamana, a small Brahmin boy, and, during the rite, approached Bali and requested a grant of land – although only as much land as he could cover with three paces.

Despite the warnings of his advisor, Bali granted this boon. Vamana then grew to an immense size, and, with his first pace, traversed the all of the earth and the underworld. With his second pace, he covered Heaven in its entirety. Admitting defeat, and seeing that Vamana has no more room for his last step, Bali offered his own head as a stepping-stone. At this time the asuras spoke out in protest, but Bali explained that all living and non living things are God's creation, and so it was God's right to have them back. Lord Vishnu step his third foot on Mahabali's head and Mahabali was drown to the netherworld, that is traditionally called Patala. Lord Vishnu, seeing the devotion of Mahabali, blessed him to be the Indra of the next Manvantra.[3]

Mahabali made a request to the Lord Vishnu that he wants to meet his people once in a year. And Lord Vishnu grant his wish and allow him to meet his people once in a year.

Preceded by
Succeeded by

Genesis of Onam[edit]

See also: Onam

Folk song about Maveli says "Maveli nadu vaneedum kalam, manushyarellarum onnu pole". The song says that all people were equal when Maveli ruled.

The story goes that the beautiful state of Kerala was the capital of the Asura (demon) king, Bali. However, he was very religious, was respectful to priests[4] and performed Vedic Aswamedha ritual to enlarge his kingdom and like his grandfather (Prahlada), was one of the greatest devotees of Lord Vishnu on Earth as he sacrificed his kingdom for the Lord. The King was greatly respected in his kingdom and was considered to be wise, judicious and extremely generous. It is said that Kerala witnessed its golden era in the reign of King Bali. Everybody in his kingdom was very happy, there was no discrimination on the basis of caste or class. There was neither crime, nor corruption. People did not even lock their doors, as there were no thieves in that kingdom. There was no poverty, sorrow or disease in the reign of King Bali and everybody was happy and content. Banan was the only son of Bali.

However, because he was a Daitya (descendant of Diti), he was viewed by the Devas as unsafe. Otherwise, as the Vamana Purana reads, the rule of Mahabali was righteous.[5]

Onam celebrations are marked in Thrikkakara, a place 10 km from Kochi (Cochin). Thrikkakara is said to have been the capital of the mighty King Mahabali. A temple with a deity of Thrikkakara Appan or Vamanamurthy who is Lord Vishnu himself in disguise is also located at this place.

This fascinating legend is artistically depicted at the Suchindram Temple in Kanyakumari district, where Lord Shiva is believed to have slain Banasura, the evil child of the holy Mahabali.

Onam is observed by all Malayalees as the return of the pious Mahabali to Kerala.[6] Colorful aquatic festivals (e.g., boat races) are held on this occasion on the banks of the river Pampa.[7] The celebration occurs all over Kerala and in the Malayalee diaspora.[8] Mahabali is worshipped even in Tulunadu which consists of coastal region of Karnataka and northern Kerala. There are many pad-danas or folk songs which describe Mahabali and his deeds. Even today, during Diwali people go to their field and call Bali Chakravarthi. It is said that Bali will come and rule this world again if some conditions are fulfilled, which are impossible in real world.

Traditions on Bali[edit]

Nowadays Maveli or Mahabali is portrayed in cartoons and caricatures for advertisement purpose.

He is thought of by the Hindus as a true devotee of God.[9] Shuk compared the saint-singer Narsinh Metha to Bali.[10] He is one of the twelve Mahajans, the authorities on the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

Because of the fact that Bali was such as great devotee of Vishnu, his son Bana was not slain by Lord Vishnu.[11]

In the Yoga Vasistha, Lord Rama inquires about King Bali and he is told by his Guru Vasistha that Bali was a great king and is always protected by Lord Vishnu.[12]

In Sikhism[edit]

Vamana is discussed in the Guru Granth Sahib, the sacred text of Sikhism.[13]

satjugi tai maNiO ChaliO bali bAvan bhAiO
In Satyayuga, you sported as the dwarf incarnation, and fooled Bali.

On page 1330 of the Guru Granth Sahib, Vamana is mentioned as the "enticer" of Baliraja.[14]


When Bali Became Pious[edit]

Mahabali offering boon to Vamana.

According to the Yoga Vasistha, after inquiring about the realm beyond the universe, heaven, devas and asuras, which is ruled by the mind, Bali thus concentrates on the mind and being satisfied in himself, and teaches the asuras to do so likewise.[15] From then on, he became a devotee.[15]

He is hailed to be a supreme example of the highest and the ultimate Sadhana of Nava Vidha Bhakti, namely Atmanivedanam.[16]

It is believed that Bali was a practitioner of the Raja Yoga.[17]

Battle with Indra and Acquiring Indra's Possessions[edit]

Other versions describing the first battle between Bali and Indra indicate that Bali was not beheaded and that the Brahmin Sukracarya performed the "Mrityu sanjeevani" (wherein only non-beheaded bodies can be revived.)[18]

It is believed in texts such as Abhinanda's Rāmaćarita[19] that Bali had not yet achieved Indra's throne, and as a result was performing the Aswamedha Yagna (which Indian kings have historically performed to enlarge their kingdom) to finally achieve it. He attempted to perform as many as Indra.[20] Then Vamana intervened and in the sacrifice asked for 3 strides of land.[15]

Vishnu Supported Bali to Teach Indra[edit]

According to the Brahma-Vaivarta Puranam, it was Lord Vishnu who positioned Bali in power to curb the pride of Indra.[21]

The Bhagavata Purana reads "He (Vishnu) will take the kingdom away from Purandara (Lord Indra) and give it to Bali Maharaja."[22]

Composition of song: King Mahabali had composed a beautiful song 'Hari Nama Mala Stotram" in honour of Lord Vishnu. Pandit Jasraj has a famous Bhajan by the name of 'Om Namo Bhagwate Vasudevaya' which is this poem.

Shiva Blessed Bali[edit]

A Shaiva tradition declares that a rat, by coming into contact with a lamp (and thus making it burn brighter) in a Siva temple was born subsequently as the famous emperor, Mahabali (P. 180 Philosophical Series by University of Madras, 1960). According to this legend, first Lord Shiva said to his consort Paravati that anyone who would make the "deepa" (lamp) burn brighter would become the ruler of the three worlds.[23] A rat approached it, wanting to drink the ghee (melted butter) but as it attempted to drink, the flame was rekindled into its mouth.[23] Parvati asked Lord Shiva to keep his promise and so Lord Shiva did.[23]

The Skanda Purana, a Saivite text also reads that Bali worships Shiva everyday.[24]

Vishnu grants a boon to Mahabali[edit]

As he was pushed down into Patala (a good[25] colony of demons), King Bali made a last request. He requested that he be allowed to visit Kerala once in a year to ensure that his people were still happy, well fed and content. Lord Vishnu was pleased to grant Mahabali his wish. Also, by the boon of Vishnu, Bali will be the next, that is the eighth Indra (King of Devas) (Purandara is the current Indra[26]) during the time of the eighth Manu, Savarni Manu.

Before he left for Patala, he bowed to Vishnu, Brahma and Shiva.[27]

The theme of the story has been (repeatedly theorized in texts) is that whether Ravana or Bali, all things animate are endowed with great potentialities for both good and evil.[28]

Scholar Veermani P. Upadhyaya writes that even divinity cannot protect a person from accumulating sin by acting as owner of all, or "mahasriman".[29]

It is notable that even though Vishnu, God, tested Bali, the king retained his faith in God.[30]

Ganesha Blessed Vamana's Mission[edit]

Some hold that it was Ganesha who gave the blessings to Vishnu in his avatar of Vamana.[15]

Bali Bound in Ropes[edit]

Although Bali was true to his word on giving whatever Vamana requested, in some legends, he is said to have been bounded with the ropes of Varuna by Garuda since Vamana could not place his foot anywhere on the earth and Bali requested Vamana place it on Bali's own head.[31] In the Bhagavata Purana. Brahma then asks Vamana to release Bali.[32] Bali was released from the ropes and bowed before Vishnu.[32]

According to the Padma Purana, Bali along with his kinsmen, friends and followers were bound.[33]

Bali After Leaving Earth[edit]

It is said that Bali attained Moksha by atmanivedanam.[34] Krishna in the Sri Rūpa Gosvāmīs Bhakti-rasāmrta-sindhu[35] says that Bali came to Him or attained Him. According to the Adhatya Ramayana It is also said that Vamana is the guard of the gate of Bali's planet Sutala[36][37] and will remain so forever.[38] Tulsidas's Ramcharitmanas too declares that Vamana became the Dvarapala (gate-keeper) of Bali.[39] In the Vamana Puranna, it is written that Bali performed the Aswamedha sacrifice in the Kurukshetra, where Bali deprived Indra of his kingdom.[40]

Kings Paying Tribute to Mahabali[edit]

The Bhavishyottara Purana reads that a king should pay respect to King Bali, "the future Indra."[41]

Mahabali visiting Kurukshetra[edit]

Mahabali is said to visit Kurukshetra, bestowing it with gifts.[42]

Asuras versus Devas[edit]

In the days of Rigveda, there were two major groups of Aryans; The Indo-Aryans who believed that Aditi was the true mother of the gods and Irano-Aryans (Dasyu) who believed Diti, the twin sister was. Bali was the descendant of this line. Scholar D. R. Bhandarkar writes in his Some Aspects of Ancient Indian Culture that "Parsus or Persians" was an old term for "Rakshasas" (demons).)[43] He further says that the word is used together with Asuras in Panini's Parshvadi-gana.

Bali and gemology[edit]

Different gems came out from Bali's parts of body according to some astrologers. It is is believed that after Bali was killed by Vishnu, different pieces of Bali's body fell at different places and took the shape of gems and jewels.[44] Thus, origin of different gems and jewels is as follows:

  • Ruby: It originated from the blood drops of Bali, hence it has red or pink colour.
  • Pearl: It is believed to have originated from the mind of Bali.
  • Coral: That part of Bali's blood which flowed down to the sea formed the coral.
  • Yellow Sapphire: It originated from the flesh of Bali.
  • Blue Sapphire: It originated from the eyes of the demon King Bali.
  • Diamond: It originated from the pieces of Bali's brain.
  • Hassonite: This gem originated from the fat of the demon king.
  • Cat's Eye: This jewel originated from the Yagyopavit (sacred thread) of Bali.
  • Turquoise: It originated from the nervous system of the demon king Bali.
  • Moonstone: It originated from the radiance of the eye's pupils.
  • Ghrit Mani: This jewel originated from the pieces of the waist.
  • Tail Mani: Skin of the king Bali formed this jewel.
  • Bheeshmak: This gem was produced from the head pieces of Bali.
  • Upalak Mani: Cough or phlegm of Bali produced this jewel.
  • Sphatik Mani (Rock Crystal): This jewel was formed from the sweat of Bali.
  • Parasmani: Pieces of Bali's heart formed Paras Mani.
  • Ulook Mani: This jewel was formed from the pieces of Bali's tongue.
  • Lapis Lazuli: Bali's hair formed this jewel.
  • Masar Mani: This jewel was produced from the faeces of Bali.
  • Ishiv Mani: This jewel is believed to have from the semen of King Bali.

Another version says[45] that after Indra struck Bāli, the most costly gems dropped from his mouth; he therefore asked for his body, and with his thunderbolt cut it into many parts. "From the purity of his actions, the parts of his body became the germs of the various gems. From his bones came diamonds, from his eyes sapphires, from his blood rubies, from his marrow emeralds, from his flesh crystals, from his tongue coral, and from his teeth pearls."


King Bali had only one son named Bana (or Banasura). Bana's daughter Usha married to Aniruddha son of Pradyumna and the grandson of Krishna. She gave birth to Vajra, whose lineage is traced to the royal family of Jaisalmer. Bana is a gotra (clan) of Jats found in Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Bundelkhand in India. Banas who formed Bana Kingdom are descendants of King Banasura. Balija`s(Bali+Ja(Born) = Balija) of South India claim that they are descendants of the King Bali.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Gopal, Madan (1990). K.S. Gautam, ed. India through the ages. Publication Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India. p. 74. 
  2. ^ M. Nazeer (2010-08-10). "The abiding lore and spirit of Onam". The Hindu. Retrieved 2013-09-26. 
  3. ^ Vishnu Purana
  4. ^ P. 72 Unto Krshna Consciousness: A New Look at Vaishnava Religion as a Religion for gods, sages, saints, devotees, the sinners, the fallen, the outcast, the stupid, and the anti-god demons too by Anayath Pisharath Mukundan, Nārāyaṇabhaṭṭapāda.
  5. ^ P. 10 History of Travancore from the Earliest Times by P. Shungoonny Menon.
  6. ^ P. 372 Castes and Tribes of Southern India by Edgar Thurston, K. Rangachari.
  7. ^ P. 138 Explore Hinduism by Bansi Pandit.
  8. ^ P. 128 Encyclopaedia of India by Ajay Bansal.
  9. ^ P. 254 The Srimad-Bhagavatam of Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa by Evelyn J A Evans, J. M. Sanyal, S. R. Mittal.
  10. ^ P. 223 Gujarat and the Gujaratis by Behramji Merwanji Malabari, Krishnalal M. Jhaveri.
  11. ^ P. 8 The Srimad-Bhagavatam of Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa by J. M. Sanyal.
  12. ^ P. 132 The Yoga-vashishtha-ramayana by Dhirendra Nath Bose.
  13. ^ P. 1390 Guru Granth Sahib.
  14. ^ P. 1330, Sri Guru Granth Sahib, Vol. 4.
  15. ^ a b c d P. 187 The Concise Yoga Vāsiṣṭha by Venkatesananda, Christopher Chapple.
  16. ^ P. 143 Advices on Spiritual Living by Chidananda.
  17. ^ P. 283 Sri Aurobindo: A Biography and a History by K. R. Srinivasa Iyengar.
  18. ^ P. 66 Hrishikesa: Krishna-A Natural Evolution by T. V. Gopal.
  19. ^ P. 242 Rāmaćarita of Abhinanda: A Literary and Socio-cultural Study by Promila Vatsyayan.
  20. ^ P. 207 Srimad Bhagavatam: Eighth Canto by A. C. Bhaktivedanta Prabhupada.
  21. ^ P. 841 The Brahma-Vaivarta Puranam Bhagavatapurana Puranas, Rajendra Nath Sen.
  22. ^ P. 158 Srimad Bhagavatam: Eighth Canto by A. C. Bhaktivedanta Prabhupada.
  23. ^ a b c P. 155 Temples of Tamilnad by R. K. Das, 1964.
  24. ^ P. 1419 The Skanda-purāņa by Jagdish Lal Shastri, Govardhan P. Bhatt, Ganesh Vasudeo Tagare.
  25. ^ P. 124 The Epics Ramayana and Mahabharata by Shripad Dattatraya Kulkarni.
  26. ^ P. 30 Know the Puranas by Pustak Mahal.
  27. ^ P. 162 Śrīmadbhāgavatamāṃ Adbhuta Vijñāna-vihāra: Śrīmad-Vallabhācāryajīnī Najare: with English translation by Navanītapriya Jeṭhālāla Śāstrī by Navanītapriya Jeṭhālāla Śāstrī.
  28. ^ P. 16 Religion, man, and society: from the archives of Dr. C.P. Ramaswami Aiyar: selections from his speeches & writings. by Chetpat Pattabhirama Ramaswami Aiyar, Sir.
  29. ^ P 182 Modern Researches in Sanskrit: Dr. Veermani Pd. Upadhyaya Felicitation Volume by Veermani Prasad Upadhyaya.
  30. ^ P. 109 Complete Works of Gosvami Tulsidas by Satya Prakash Bahadur, Tulasīdāsa.
  31. ^ P. 50 Shrimad Bhagwat Purana.
  32. ^ a b P. 51 Shrimad Bhagwat Purana.
  33. ^ P. 786 The Padma-purāṇa by N. A. Deshpande.
  34. ^ P. 178 Vedanta Established in Its Own Light=: Sushka Vedanta Tamo Bhaskaram by Malayalaswamulavaru.
  35. ^ P. 379 Sri Rūpa Gosvāmīs Bhakti-rasāmrta-sindhuh by Rūpagosvāmī by Rūpagosvāmī.
  36. ^ P. 281 The Adhyatma Ramayana: Concise English Version by Chandan Lal Dhody.
  37. ^ P. 134 Srī Rūpa Gosvāmī's Bhakti-rasāmṛta-Sindhuh by Rūpagosvāmī, Bhakti Hridaya Bon.
  38. ^ P. 134 Sri Rūpa Gosvāmīs Bhakti-rasāmrta-sindhuh by Rūpagosvāmī.
  39. ^ P. 246 Complete Works of Gosvami Tulsidas by Satya Prakash Bahadur, Tulasīdāsa.
  40. ^ P. 90 Kurukṣetra in the Vamana Purāṇa by Sasanka Sekhar Parui.
  41. ^ P. 70 Kalādarśana: American Studies in the Art of India by Joanna Gmn,ottfried Williams.
  42. ^ P. 160History of Kurukshetra by Vishwa Nath Datta, H. A. Phadke.
  43. ^ Some Aspects of Ancient Indian Culture by D. R. Bhandarkar.
  44. ^ [1]
  45. ^ [2]

External links[edit]