Lord Vāmanadeva, the Dwarf Incarnation

Lord Vāmanadeva, the Dwarf Incarnation

This chapter describes how Lord Vāmanadeva appeared and how He went to the sacrificial arena of Mahārāja Bali, who received Him well and fulfilled His desire by offering Him benedictions.
Lord Vāmanadeva appeared in this world from the womb of Aditi completely equipped with conchshell, disc, club and lotus. His bodily hue was blackish, and He was dressed in yellow garments. Lord Viṣṇu appeared at an auspicious moment on Śravaṇa-dvādaśī when the Abhijit star had arisen. At that time, in all the three worlds (including the higher planetary system, outer space and this earth), all the demigods, the cows, the brāhmaṇas and even the seasons were happy because of God’s appearance. Therefore this auspicious day is called Vijayā. When the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who has a sac-cid-ānanda body, appeared as the son of Kaśyapa and Aditi, both of His parents were very astonished. After His appearance, the Lord assumed the form of a dwarf (Vāmana). All the great sages expressed their jubilation, and with Kaśyapa Muni before them they performed the birthday ceremony of Lord Vāmana.
At the time of Lord Vāmanadeva’s sacred thread ceremony, He was honored by the sun-god, Bṛhaspati, the goddess presiding over the planet earth, the deity of the heavenly planets, His mother, Lord BrahmāKuvera, the seven ṛṣis and others. Lord Vāmanadeva then visited the sacrificial arena on the northern side of the Narmadā River, at the field known as Bhṛgukaccha, where brāhmaṇas of the Bhṛgu dynasty were performing yajñas. Wearing a belt made of muñja straw, an upper garment of deerskin and a sacred thread and carrying in His hands a daṇḍa, an umbrella and a waterpot (kamaṇḍalu), Lord Vāmanadeva appeared in the sacrificial arena of Mahārāja Bali. Because of His transcendentally effulgent presence, all the priests were diminished in their prowess, and thus they all stood from their seats and offered prayers to Lord Vāmanadeva. Even Lord Śiva accepts on his head the Ganges water generated from the toe of Lord Vāmanadeva. Therefore, after washing the Lord’s feet, Bali Mahārāja immediately accepted the water from the Lord’s feet on his head and felt that he and his predecessors had certainly been glorified. Then Bali Mahārāja inquired of Lord Vāmanadeva’s welfare and requested the Lord to ask him for money, jewels or anything He might desire.


śrī-śuka uvāca

itthaṁ viriñca-stuta-karma-vīryaḥ

prādurbabhūvāmṛta-bhūr adityām

catur-bhujaḥ śaṅkha-gadābja-cakraḥ

piśaṅga-vāsā nalināyatekṣaṇaḥ



Śukadeva Gosvāmī said: After Lord Brahmā had thus spoken, glorifying the Supreme Lord’s activities and prowess, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is never subject to death like an ordinary living being, appeared from the womb of Aditi. His four hands were decorated with a conchshell, club, lotus and disc, He was dressed in yellow garments, and His eyes appeared like the petals of a blooming lotus.


The word amṛtabhūḥ is significant in this verse. The Lord sometimes appears like an ordinary child taking birth, but this does not mean that He is subject to birth, death or old age. One must be very intelligent to understand the appearance and activities of the Supreme Lord in His incarnations. This is confirmed in Bhagavad-gītā (4.9): janma karma ca me divyam evaṁ yo vetti tattvataḥ. One should try to understand that the Lord’s appearance and disappearance and His activities are all divyam, or transcendental. The Lord has nothing to do with material activities. One who understands the appearance, disappearance and activities of the Lord is immediately liberated. After giving up his body, he never again has to accept a material body, but is transferred to the spiritual world (tyaktvā dehaṁ punar janma naiti mām eti so ’rjuna [Bg. 4.9]).


śyāmāvadāto jhaṣa-rāja-kuṇḍala-

tviṣollasac-chrī-vadanāmbujaḥ pumān

śrīvatsa-vakṣā balayāṅgadollasat-




The body of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, blackish in complexion, was free from all inebrieties. His lotus face, decorated with earrings resembling sharks, appeared very beautiful, and on His bosom was the mark of Śrīvatsa. He wore bangles on His wrists, armlets on His arms, a helmet on His head, a belt on His waist, a sacred thread across His chest, and ankle bells decorating His lotus feet.


madhu-vrata-vrāta-vighuṣṭayā svayā

virājitaḥ śrī-vanamālayā hariḥ

prajāpater veśma-tamaḥ svarociṣā

vināśayan kaṇṭha-niviṣṭa-kaustubhaḥ



An uncommonly beautiful garland of flowers decorated His bosom, and because the flowers were extremely fragrant, a large group of bees, making their natural humming sounds, invaded them for honey. When the Lord appeared, wearing the Kaustubha gem on His neck, His effulgence vanquished the darkness in the home of the Prajāpati Kaśyapa.


diśaḥ praseduḥ salilāśayās tadā

prajāḥ prahṛṣṭā ṛtavo guṇānvitāḥ

dyaur antarīkṣaṁ kṣitir agni-jihvā

gāvo dvijāḥ sañjahṛṣur nagāś ca



At that time, there was happiness in all directions, in the reservoirs of water like the rivers and oceans, and in the core of everyone’s heart. The various seasons displayed their respective qualities, and all living entities in the upper planetary system, in outer space and on the surface of the earth were jubilant. The demigods, the cows, the brāhmaṇas and the hills and mountains were all filled with joy.


śroṇāyāṁ śravaṇa-dvādaśyāṁ

muhūrte ’bhijiti prabhuḥ

sarve nakṣatra-tārādyāś

cakrus taj-janma dakṣiṇam



On the day of Śravaṇa-dvādaśī [the twelfth day of the bright fortnight in the month of Bhādra], when the moon came into the lunar mansion Śravaṇa, at the auspicious moment of Abhijit, the Lord appeared in this universe. Considering the Lord’s appearance very auspicious, all the stars and planets, from the sun to Saturn, were munificently charitable.


Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura, an expert astrologer, explains the word nakṣatra-tārādyāḥ. The word nakṣatra means “the stars,” the word tāra in this context refers to the planets, and ādyāḥ means “the first one specifically mentioned.” Among the planets, the first is Sūrya, the sun, not the moon. Therefore, according to the Vedic version, the modern astronomer’s proposition that the moon is nearest to the earth should not be accepted. The chronological order in which people all over the world refer to the days of the week—Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday—corresponds to the Vedic order of the planets and thus circumstantiates the Vedic version. Apart from this, when the Lord appeared the planets and stars became situated very auspiciously, according to astrological calculations, to celebrate the birth of the Lord.


dvādaśyāṁ savitātiṣṭhan

madhyandina-gato nṛpa

vijayā-nāma sā proktā

yasyāṁ janma vidur hareḥ



O King, when the Lord appeared—on dvādaśī, the twelfth day of the moon—the sun was at the meridian, as every learned scholar knows. This dvādaśī is called Vijayā.


śaṅkha-dundubhayo nedur



nirghoṣas tumulo ’bhavat



Conchshells, kettledrums, drums, paṇavas and ānakas vibrated in concert. The sound of these and various other instruments was tumultuous.


prītāś cāpsaraso ’nṛtyan

gandharva-pravarā jaguḥ

tuṣṭuvur munayo devā

manavaḥ pitaro ’gnayaḥ



Being very pleased, the celestial dancing girls [Apsarās] danced in jubilation, the best of the Gandharvas sang songs, and the great sages, demigods, Manus, Pitās and fire-gods offered prayers to satisfy the Lord.

TEXTS 9–10



cāraṇā yakṣa-rakṣāṁsi

suparṇā bhujagottamāḥ

gāyanto ’tipraśaṁsanto

nṛtyanto vibudhānugāḥ

adityā āśrama-padaṁ

kusumaiḥ samavākiran



The Siddhas, Vidyādharas, Kimpuruṣas, Kinnaras, Cāraṇas, Yakṣas, Rākṣasas, Suparṇas, the best of serpents, and the followers of the demigods all showered flowers on Aditi’s residence, covering the entire house, while glorifying and praising the Lord and dancing.


dṛṣṭvāditis taṁ nija-garbha-sambhavaṁ

paraṁ pumāṁsaṁ mudam āpa vismitā

gṛhīta-dehaṁ nija-yoga-māyayā

prajāpatiś cāha jayeti vismitaḥ



When Aditi saw the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who had appeared from her own womb, having accepted a transcendental body by His own spiritual potency, she was struck with wonder and was very happy. Upon seeing the child, Prajāpati Kaśyapa exclaimed, “Jaya! Jaya!” in great happiness and wonder.


yat tad vapur bhāti vibhūṣaṇāyudhair

avyakta-cid-vyaktam adhārayad dhariḥ

babhūva tenaiva sa vāmano vaṭuḥ

sampaśyator divya-gatir yathā naṭaḥ



The Lord appeared in His original form, with ornaments and weapons in His hands. Although this ever-existing form is not visible in the material world, He nonetheless appeared in this form. Then, in the presence of His father and mother, He assumed the form of Vāmana, a brāhmaṇa-dwarf, a brahmacārī, just like a theatrical actor.


The word naṭaḥ is significant. An actor changes dress to play different parts, but is always the same man. Similarly, as described in the Brahmasaṁhitā (5.33, 39), the Lord assumes many thousands and millions of forms (advaitam acyutam anādim anantarūpam ādyaṁ purāṇapuruṣam). He is always present with innumerable incarnations (rāmādi-mūrtiṣu kalāniyamena tiṣṭhan nānāvatāram akarod bhuvaneṣu kintu [Bs. 5.39]). Nonetheless, although He appears in various incarnations, they are not different from one another. He is the same person, with the same potency, the same eternity and the same spiritual existence, but He can simultaneously assume various forms. When Vāmanadeva appeared from the womb of His mother, He appeared in the form of Nārāyaṇa, with four hands equipped with the necessary symbolic weapons, and then immediately transformed Himself into a brahmacārī (vaṭu). This means that His body is not material. One who thinks that the Supreme Lord assumes a material body is not intelligent. He has to learn more about the Lord’s position. As confirmed in Bhagavad-gītā (4.9), janma karma ca me divyam evaṁ yo vetti tattvataḥ. One has to understand the transcendental appearance of the Lord in His original transcendental body (sac-cid-ānandavigraha [Bs. 5.1]).


taṁ vaṭuṁ vāmanaṁ dṛṣṭvā

modamānā maharṣayaḥ

karmāṇi kārayām āsuḥ

puraskṛtya prajāpatim



When the great sages saw the Lord as the brahmacārī-dwarf Vāmana, they were certainly very pleased. Thus they placed before them Kaśyapa Muni, the Prajāpati, and performed all the ritualistic ceremonies, such as the birthday ceremony.


According to Vedic civilization, when a child is born in the family of a brāhmaṇa, the birthday ceremony, known as jātakarma, is first performed, and then other ceremonies are also gradually performed. But when this vāmanarūpa appeared in the form of a vaṭu, or brahmacārī, His sacred thread ceremony was also performed immediately.



sāvitrīṁ savitābravīt

bṛhaspatir brahma-sūtraṁ

mekhalāṁ kaśyapo ’dadāt




dadau kṛṣṇājinaṁ bhūmir

daṇḍaṁ somo vanaspatiḥ

kaupīnācchādanaṁ mātā

dyauś chatraṁ jagataḥ pateḥ



Mother earth gave Him a deerskin, and the demigod of the moon, who is the king of the forest, gave Him a brahmadaṇḍa [the rod of a brahmacārī]. His mother, Aditi, gave Him cloth for underwear, and the deity presiding over the heavenly kingdom offered Him an umbrella.


kamaṇḍaluṁ veda-garbhaḥ

kuśān saptarṣayo daduḥ

akṣa-mālāṁ mahārāja

sarasvaty avyayātmanaḥ



O King, Lord Brahmā offered a waterpot to the inexhaustible Supreme Personality of Godhead, the seven sages offered Him kuśa grass, and mother Sarasvatī gave Him a string of Rudrākṣa beads.


tasmā ity upanītāya

yakṣa-rāṭ pātrikām adāt

bhikṣāṁ bhagavatī sākṣād

umādād ambikā satī



When Vāmanadeva had thus been given the sacred thread, Kuvera, King of the Yakṣas, gave Him a pot for begging alms, and mother Bhagavatī, the wife of Lord Śiva and most chaste mother of the entire universe, gave Him His first alms.


sa brahma-varcasenaivaṁ

sabhāṁ sambhāvito vaṭuḥ


atyarocata māriṣaḥ



Having thus been welcomed by everyone, Lord Vāmanadeva, the best of the brahmacārīs, exhibited His Brahman effulgence. Thus He surpassed in beauty that entire assembly, which was filled with great saintly brāhmaṇas.


samiddham āhitaṁ vahniṁ

kṛtvā parisamūhanam

paristīrya samabhyarcya

samidbhir ajuhod dvijaḥ



After Lord Śrī Vāmanadeva set a sacrificial fire, He offered worship and performed a fire sacrifice on the sacrificial field.


śrutvāśvamedhair yajamānam ūrjitaṁ

baliṁ bhṛgūṇām upakalpitais tataḥ

jagāma tatrākhila-sāra-sambhṛto

bhāreṇa gāṁ sannamayan pade pade



When the Lord heard that Bali Mahārāja was performing aśvamedha sacrifices under the patronage of brāhmaṇas belonging to the Bhṛgu dynasty, the Supreme Lord, who is full in every respect, proceeded there to show His mercy to Bali Mahārāja. By His weight, He pushed down the earth with every step.


The Supreme Personality of Godhead is akhilasārasambhṛta. In other words, He is the proprietor of everything essential in this material world. Thus although the Lord was going to Bali Mahārāja to beg something, He is always complete and has nothing to beg from anyone. Indeed, He is so powerful that in His full opulence He pressed down the surface of the earth at every step.


taṁ narmadāyās taṭa uttare baler

ya ṛtvijas te bhṛgukaccha-saṁjñake

pravartayanto bhṛgavaḥ kratūttamaṁ

vyacakṣatārād uditaṁ yathā ravim



While engaged in performing the sacrifice in the field known as Bhṛgukaccha, on the northern bank of the Narmadā River, the brahminical priests, the descendants of Bhṛgu, saw Vāmanadeva to be like the sun rising nearby.


te ṛtvijo yajamānaḥ sadasyā

hata-tviṣo vāmana-tejasā nṛpa

sūryaḥ kilāyāty uta vā vibhāvasuḥ

sanat-kumāro ’tha didṛkṣayā kratoḥ



O King, because of Vāmanadeva’s bright effulgence, the priests, along with Bali Mahārāja and all the members of the assembly, were robbed of their splendor. Thus they began to ask one another whether the sun-god himself, Sanatkumāra or the fire-god had personally come to see the sacrificial ceremony.


itthaṁ saśiṣyeṣu bhṛguṣv anekadhā

vitarkyamāṇo bhagavān sa vāmanaḥ

chatraṁ sadaṇḍaṁ sajalaṁ kamaṇḍaluṁ

viveśa bibhrad dhayamedha-vāṭam



While the priests of the Bhṛgu dynasty and their disciples talked and argued in various ways, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vāmanadeva, holding in His hands the rod, the umbrella and a waterpot full of water, entered the arena of the aśvamedha sacrifice.

TEXTS 24–25

mauñjyā mekhalayā vītam


jaṭilaṁ vāmanaṁ vipraṁ

māyā-māṇavakaṁ harim

praviṣṭaṁ vīkṣya bhṛgavaḥ

saśiṣyās te sahāgnibhiḥ

pratyagṛhṇan samutthāya

saṅkṣiptās tasya tejasā



Appearing as a brāhmaṇa boy, wearing a belt of straw, a sacred thread, an upper garment of deerskin, and matted locks of hair, Lord Vāmanadeva entered the arena of sacrifice. His brilliant effulgence diminished the brilliance of all the priests and their disciples, who thus stood from their seats and welcomed the Lord properly by offering obeisances.


yajamānaḥ pramudito

darśanīyaṁ manoramam


tasmā āsanam āharat



Bali Mahārāja, jubilant at seeing Lord Vāmanadeva, whose beautiful limbs contributed equally to the beauty of His entire body, offered Him a seat with great satisfaction.



pādau bhagavato baliḥ

avanijyārcayām āsa




Thus offering a proper reception to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is always beautiful to the liberated souls, Bali Mahārāja worshiped Him by washing His lotus feet.


tat-pāda-śaucaṁ jana-kalmaṣāpahaṁ

sa dharma-vin mūrdhny adadhāt sumaṅgalam

yad deva-devo giriśaś candra-maulir

dadhāra mūrdhnā parayā ca bhaktyā



Lord Śiva, the best of demigods, who carries on his forehead the emblem of the moon, receives on his head with great devotion the Ganges water emanating from the toe of Viṣṇu. Being aware of religious principles, Bali Mahārāja knew this. Consequently, following in the footsteps of Lord Śiva, he also placed on his head the water that had washed the Lord’s lotus feet.


Lord Śiva is known as Gaṅgādhara, or one who carries the water of the Ganges on his head. On Lord Śiva’s forehead is the emblem of the half-moon, yet to give supreme respect to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Śiva placed the water of the Ganges above this emblem. This example should be followed by everyone, or at least by every devotee, because Lord Śiva is one of the mahājanas. Similarly, Mahārāja Bali also later became a mahājana. One mahājana follows another mahājana, and by following the paramparā system of mahājana activities one can become advanced in spiritual consciousness. The water of the Ganges is sanctified because it emanates from the toe of Lord ViṣṇuBali Mahārāja washed the lotus feet of Vāmanadeva, and the water with which he did so became equal to the Ganges. Bali Mahārāja, who perfectly knew all religious principles, therefore took that water on his head, following in the footsteps of Lord Śiva.


śrī-balir uvāca

svāgataṁ te namas tubhyaṁ

brahman kiṁ karavāma te

brahmarṣīṇāṁ tapaḥ sākṣān

manye tvārya vapur-dharam



Bali Mahārāja then said to Lord Vāmanadeva: O brāhmaṇa, I offer You my hearty welcome and my respectful obeisances. Please let us know what we may do for You. We think of You as the personified austerity of the great brāhmaṇa-sages.


adya naḥ pitaras tṛptā

adya naḥ pāvitaṁ kulam

adya sviṣṭaḥ kratur ayaṁ

yad bhavān āgato gṛhān



O my Lord, because You have kindly arrived at our home, all my forefathers are satisfied, our family and entire dynasty have been sanctified, and the sacrifice we are performing is now complete because of Your presence.


adyāgnayo me suhutā yathā-vidhi

dvijātmaja tvac-caraṇāvanejanaiḥ

hatāṁhaso vārbhir iyaṁ ca bhūr aho

tathā punītā tanubhiḥ padais tava



O son of a brāhmaṇa, today the fire of sacrifice is ablaze according to the injunction of the śāstra, and I have been freed from all the sinful reactions of my life by the water that has washed Your lotus feet. O my Lord, by the touch of Your small lotus feet the entire surface of the world has been sanctified.


yad yad vaṭo vāñchasi tat pratīccha me

tvām arthinaṁ vipra-sutānutarkaye

gāṁ kāñcanaṁ guṇavad dhāma mṛṣṭaṁ

tathānna-peyam uta vā vipra-kanyām

grāmān samṛddhāṁs turagān gajān vā

rathāṁs tathārhattama sampratīccha



O son of a brāhmaṇa, it appears that You have come here to ask me for something. Therefore, whatever You want You may take from me. O best of those who are worshipable. You may take from me a cow, gold, a furnished house, palatable food and drink, the daughter of a brāhmaṇa for Your wife, prosperous villages, horses, elephants, chariots or whatever You desire.
Thus end the Bhaktivedanta purports of the Eighth Canto, Eighteenth Chapter, of the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, entitled “Lord Vāmanadeva, the Dwarf Incarnation.”



What do you think?

25 Points

Leave a Reply

Letter to Bob | The Hare Krishna Movement

Srila Jiva Gosvami Appearance Day