An emperor of the Asuras. He was the son of Virocana and the grandson of Prahlada.
The Asuras or the Daityas are the sons born, of his wife Diti, to Kasyapa Prajapati, son of Marici and grandson of Brahma. There were so many Asuras born as the sons of Diti. But among them Hiranyaksa, Hiranyakasipu, Surapadma, Simhavaktra, Tarakasura and Gomukha were notorious. Of their sisters Simhika and Ajamukhi were famous.
Four sons called Prahlada, Samhrada, Hrida and Anuhrada were born to Hiranyakasipu. Virocana was the son of Prahlada and Bali was the son of Virocana. Bana was born from Bali and four crores of Asuras called Nivatakavacas were born from Bana.
2) The churning of the ocean. Once Bali had stolen the wealth of Devendra. While he was carrying it to his house, it all fell in the ocean. Mahavisnu ordered the devas (gods) to recover the lost wealth from the ocean. It was impossible to churn the ocean without the help of Bali. So the devas went to Bali and sought his help. Bali agreed to help them.
The real aim of the devas was not to regain the lost wealth but to obtain the celestial nectar known as Nectar of Immortality (Amrta) and to defeat the Asuras in battle. On the side of the Asuras there was the knowledge of the Mrtasanjivani (life-restoring remedy). So the dead were being brought to life. But it was not possible for devas to do so. It was to make up this deficiency, by obtaining Ambrosia from the sea, that the devas tried to churn the sea, under the pretence of recovering the lost wealth. Mention is made in the Visnu Purana, Amsa 1, Chapter 9 and Matsya Purana, Chapters 250 and 251 that these events took place during the regime of the Indra named Mantradruma in the Caksusa Manvantara (the period of the manu named Caksusa).
3) War with Indra. The great teacher Sukra again anointed Bali, who was brought to life again, as Indra. After that he performed the sacrifice of Visvajit (conqueror of the world) on behalf of Bali. Assuming the responsibilities of government, Bali performed one hundred Asvamedha yagas (Horse sacrifices) (Bhagavata, Skandha 8) .
After the Visvajit sacrifice, Yajnadeva (god of sacrifice) who was greatly pleased at the sacrifice, presented Bali with a divine chariot, equal in all aspects to that of Indra, a golden bow, two quivers, which would never become empty and a divine armour, and his grandfather gave him a garland that would never fade, and the teacher Sukra gave him a divine conch, and Brahma presented a garland.
(Maha-bharata Santi Parva, Chapter. 216) .
4) Attainment of the Position of Indra. Visnu had not been on good terms with the devas, for a time. Taking, this opportunity, Sukracarya the teacher of the Asuras, persuaded Bali to engage the devas in a battle. Bali defeated the devas completely in a pitched battle.
Thus the realm of the gods came under the sway of Bali. Once, during that period Bali invited his grandfather Prahlada to heaven and requested him to accept the most honourable seat there. Prahlada accepted his invitation and anointed Bali as Indra. Bali enquired of Prahlada as to the method of carrying .on the government of heaven. Prahlada said thus in reply:
“Only virtue will always win. Rule the kingdom without deviating from virtue.” (Vamana Purana, Chapter 74) .
Because Bali had ruled his kingdom according to the advice of Prahlada, he became famous in the three worlds.
(Vamana Purana, Chapter 75) .
According to the version of Bhagavata, Prahlada when he grew old, left his kingdom in the hands of his son Virocana and went to the forest for penance. Virocana was not as famous as Prahlada.
After the period of Virocana, Bali came to the throne. He was a mighty king. Within a short time he became the emperor of the Asuras. It was during this period that the churning of the Milk Sea took place. The Asuras and the Devas (gods) sat on either side and using the mount Mandara as churn-drill, churned the Milk Sea and obtained Amrta (the celestial nectar of immortality). A battle took place between the Asuras and the Devas for the possession of Amrtakalasa (the Ambrosia and the container) and the emperor Bali was killed in the battle. The Auras carried the dead body of Mahlbali to his capital, where Sukracarya (their teacher-priest gukra) brought him to life again by the help of sacred herbs. Bali instantly waged another war, fiercer than the previous ones, with the devas, and having defeated them, he drove them out of their realm and brought it under control.
(Bhagavata, Skandha 8).
5) The curse of Prahlada. As the whole of heaven came under the sway of Bali, the devas began to leave the country one by one. Everybody was happy and comfortable under the rule of Bali. But the devas and Brahmanas were denied the privileges they deserved. They approached Visnu and represented their grievances. Visnu told them thus: “Bali is devoted to me. Still, to redress your grievances I shall take the incarnation of Vamana shortly.”
In course of time the Asuras and their countries began to be weakened. Seeing the approach of destruction emperor Bali became thoughtful. He approached Prahlada to learn the reason. Prahlada told Bali thus: “Lord Visnu is now staying in the womb of Aditi for his incarnation as Vamana. That is why the country and the Asuras are subjected to destruction. Hearing this Bali said:
Our Raksasas are more powerful than that Visnu.”
Hearing these haughty words of Bali, Prahlada got angry and cursed Bali “Let your country be destroyed.”
Bali requested Prahlada to pardon him. Prahlada advised Bali “You will get salvation only by relying on Visnu”. (Vamana Purana 77).
6) Defeated by Vamana. The defeated devas had taken refuge in forests. Aditi the mother of the devas was very sorry at this. She shed tears before her husband Kasyapa Prajapati, who advised his wife to take a fast of twelve days, and taught her the rules and rituals of the fast. Accordingly she took the fast, Visnu appeared before her and asked her what boon she wanted. She requested Visnu to take birth as her son, to drive away Bali and to restore her sons, the devas (gods), to their kingdom of heaven. Visnu agreed.
Aditi became pregnant and gave birth to the son Vamana. He was an incarnation of Visnu. [The 5th incarnation (avatara) of Visnu
At this time Bali was performing a sacrifice on the bank of the liver Narmada. Vamana came to the place of sacrifice in the dress of a hermit boy and told Bali that he was a helpless hermit boy and requested that he might be given three steps of ground. Bali was pleased with the boy and told him that he was willing to give the boy even the country called Bhrngaraka and that he was prepared to forego the kingly pleasures for the boy. The hermit boy did not show any desire for them. So many gathered round them to witness this sight. The teacher Sukracarya called Bali and said that the boy was a cheat and that his request should not be granted. But Bali decided to grant the wish of the boy and as a token of his gift he began to offer the boy water from a waterpot. Then the teacher got into the mouth of the pot in the shape of a mote and water would not flow freely out of the mouth of the pot. Knowing this Vamana took a grass of Darbha and pushed it at the mouth of the pot. The grass pierced one eye of Sukracarya. From that time onwards Sukracarya had only one eye. Water flowed freely into the hands of Vamana. Sukra got angry and cursed Bali. Vamana began to measure, the ground and simultaneously began to grow. The asuras who were horrified at this, began to attack Vamana with anything they could lay hands on. Still Vamana was growing. Finally he became an immensely large being. With one step he measured the whole of earth and with the second step he took the whole of heaven. Then he asked Bali, where to place the third step. Bali said that he had only his body left, as his own, and that Vamana might take it and complete three steps. Vamana placed his foot on the head of Bali and pushed him down to Patala (the Netherworld). Thenceforward the asuras became the inhabitants of Patala.
(Bhagavata, Skandha 8).
7) Bali and Ravana.
Once Ravana visited Bali who was under custody in Patala, and said to him, “I have come to save you from here. So get yourself free from the custody of Visnu, with my help.”
Hearing this, Bali asked Ravana to fetch the two earrings of Hiranyakasipu, which were shining like blazing fire a little away from them. Ravana moved forward to take them. But he fell unconscious. Bali caused him to recover and said: “These earrings were worn by my great grandfather Hiranyakasipu. How could you, who are not even capable of taking his earrings, save me from his slayer, Visnu? Visnu is Almighty and All-powerful and Supreme Lord of everything.”
Hearing this, Ravana was filled with shame and he returned.
(Valmiki Ramayana, Uttara Kanda, Praksipta Sarga).
8) Bali born as a Gardabha (Ass). Bali, who was fallen from power took birth in the womb of an ass and roamed about. Brahma instructed Indra to find out Bali. (M.B., Santi Parva, Chapters 216-218) .
9) Other information.
(1) Bali shines in the durbar of Varuna. (M.B., Sabha Parva, Chapter 9, Stanza 12).
(2) Once Bali went to Prahlada and repented of his sins and begged for pardon. Then he began to make enquiries on spiritual matters. (M.B., Vana Parva, Chapter 28, Stanza 3) .
(3) From his childhood Bali was a hater of the Brahmanas. (M.B., Sand Parva, Chapter 90, Stanza 24).
(4) Once Bali was engaged in a serious contest with Indra (M.B., Santi Parva, Chapter 223) .
(5) After having lost his kingdom Bali ridiculed Indra in various ways. (M.B., Santi Parva, Chapter 225, Stanza 30)
(6) Once #Bali talked with Sukracarya about giving gifts of flower, smoke and light. (M.B., Anusasana Parva, Chapter 98, Stanza 15) .
(7) Laksmi Devi had forsaken #Mahabali because he behaved haughtily towards Brahmanas. (M.B., Santi Parva, Chapters 216-218) .
(8) In the religious Books such as Yogavasistha the story of Bali is given to illustrate disinterestedness (Anasakti).
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