Vamana dev or the dwarf is an incarnation of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Sri Krishna. He is one of the leela avatars and popularly known as one of the Dashavatars, the ten prominent incarnations of Godhead.
He appeared in this world on the twelfth day of the bright fortnight of the month of Bhadrapada i.e. Shukla paksha dwadashi of Bhadrapada.
Lord Vamanadeva 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 Vishnu appeared at an auspicious moment on Sravana-dvadasi 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 brahmanas and even the seasons were happy because of God’s appearance. Therefore this auspicious day is called Vijaya. When the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who has a sac-cid-ananda body, appeared as the son of Kasyapa and Aditi, both of His parents were very astonished. After His appearance, the Lord assumed the form of a dwarf (Vamana). All the great sages expressed their jubilation, and with Kasyapa Muni before them they performed the birthday ceremony of Lord Vamana. At the time of Lord Vamanadeva’s sacred thread ceremony, He was honored by the sun-god, Brihaspati, the goddess presiding over the planet earth, the deity of the heavenly planets, His mother, Lord Brahma, Kuvera, the seven rishis and others. Lord Vamanadeva then visited the sacrificial arena on the northern side of the Narmada River, at the field known as Bhrigukaccha, where brahmanas of the Bhrigu dynasty were performing yajnas.
Wearing a belt made of munja straw, an upper garment of deerskin and a sacred thread and carrying in His hands a danda, an umbrella and a waterpot (kamandalu), Lord Vamanadeva appeared in the sacrificial arena of Maharaja 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 Vamanadeva. Even Lord Siva accepts on his head the Ganges water generated from the toe of Lord Vamanadeva. Therefore, after washing the Lord’s feet, Bali Maharaja 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 Maharaja inquired of Lord Vamanadeva’s welfare and requested the Lord to ask him for money, jewels or anything He might desire.
When Bali Maharaja, thinking Vamanadeva to be the son of a brahmana, told Him to ask for anything He liked, Lord Vamanadeva praised Hiranyakasipu and Hiranyaksha for their heroic activities, and after thus praising the family in which Bali Maharaja had been born, He begged the King for three paces of land. Bali Maharaja agreed to give this land in charity, since this was very insignificant, but Sukracarya, who could understand that Vamanadeva was Vishnu, the friend of the demigods, forbade Bali Maharaja to give this land. Sukracarya advised Bali Maharaja to withdraw his promise. He explained that in subduing others, in joking, in responding to danger, in acting for the welfare of others, and so on, one could refuse to fulfill one’s promise, and there would be no fault. By this philosophy, Sukracarya tried to dissuade Bali Maharaja from giving land to Lord Vamanadeva.
After hearing the instructive advice of Sukracarya, Bali Maharaja became contemplative. Because it is the duty of a householder to maintain the principles of religion, economic development and sense gratification, Bali Maharaja thought it improper to withdraw his promise to the brahmacari. To lie or fail to honor a promise given to a brahmacari is never proper, for lying is the most sinful activity. Everyone should be afraid of the sinful reactions to lying, for mother earth cannot even bear the weight of a sinful liar. The spreading of a kingdom or empire is temporary; if there is no benefit for the general public, such expansion has no value. Previously, all the great kings and emperors expanded their kingdoms with a regard for the welfare of the people in general. Indeed, while engaged in such activities for the benefit of the general public, eminent men sometimes even sacrificed their lives. It is said that one who is glorious in his activities is always living and never dies. Therefore, fame should be the aim of life, and even if one becomes poverty-stricken for the sake of a good reputation, that is not a loss. Bali Maharaja thought that even if this brahmacari, Vamanadeva, were Lord Vishnu, if the Lord accepted his charity and then again arrested him, Bali Maharaja would not envy Him. Considering all these points, Bali Maharaja finally gave in charity everything he possessed.
Lord Vamanadeva then immediately extended Himself into a universal body. By the mercy of Lord Vamanadeva, Bali Maharaja could see that the Lord is all-pervading and that everything rests in His body. Bali Maharaja could see Lord Vamanadeva as the supreme Vishnu, wearing a helmet, yellow garments, the mark of Srivatsa, the Kaustubha jewel, a flower garland, and ornaments decorating His entire body. The Lord gradually covered the entire surface of the world, and by extending His body He covered the entire sky. With His hands He covered all directions, and with His second footstep He covered the entire upper planetary system. Therefore there was no vacant place where He could take His third footstep.