The Hindu God Dwarf Vamana, The 5th Avtar of Vishnu
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The Hindu God Dwarf Vamana, The 5th Avtar of Vishnu

The dwarf god Vamana is the 5th incarnate of Vishnu.

A dwarf is a man with a stunted growth. Generally a dwarf is represented in western lore as a man with magical powers who lives to an age of 250 years. In Hinduism however a dwarf is a very important being as the fifth avatar of Vishnu, Vamana was a Brahmin dwarf.

It must be understood that the trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Siva form the essence of Hinduism. Vishnu is the God who is also the preserver and protector of creation. As per Hindu thought the good and evil forces are about evenly matched. However sometimes the evil forces gain the upper hand and when that happens, it necessitates Vishnu emerging on this earth in the form of an avatar to defeat the evil forces. Avatar means "descent from heaven to earth". It is a deliberate descent of a deity from heaven to earth, or a descent of the Supreme Being (Vishnu )to the earth. It can be translated into English as "incarnation".

The Bhagwata Purana tells us that till date Vishnu has appeared on this earth in the form of 9 avatars. The God Rama was the 7th Avatar, Lord Krishna the 8th Avatar and Lord Buddha was the 9th Avatar. The 10th Avatar Kalki (eternity) is yet to emerge.

The Puranic texts of Hindus mention that Vamana was the 5th avatar of Vishnu. He was also the first avatar who appeared in human form, though he took birth as a Brahmin dwarf. His other name is Upendra. The parents of Vamana were Aditi and Kashyapa. Aditi is the mother of all the Devatas while Kashyapa was a sage. He is the twelfth of the Adityas the sons of Aditi and sage Kashyapa. Vamana is also regarded as the younger brother of Indra, the king of Gods.

The reason Vishnu came to the earth as the 5th avatar was at the request of all the gods led by Indra. Legend tells us that the fourth lineal descendent of Hiranyakashyap named Bali was able to defeat all the gods including Indira himself. With these victories the power of Bali spread over the 3 worlds and this alarmed all the gods. As per Hindu philosophy the entire universe is composed of 3 worlds. The First World is the physical universe; the Second World is the subtle astral or mental plane of existence in which the devas, angels and spirits live; and the Third World is the spiritual universe of the Maha devas or great souls , where the Gods live.

All the gods appealed to Lord Vishnu for protection to save them from Bali. Lord Vishnu listened to the pleas of the gods and decided to help them. Accordingly he manifested himself as an Avatar and appeared on earth as the dwarf Avatar Vamana. Having come on earth as Vamana, Vishnu made plans to accost Bali.

Once when the king Bali was conducting a great religious offering, Lord Vishnu in the form of Vamana appeared before him accompanied by many Brahmins. Bali was delighted to see a dwarf as a holy man and as mark of his respect for Brahmins promised Vamana what ever he desired. Lord Vishnu however asked only for as much land as he could measure by three steps. Bali laughingly agreed, thinking a dwarf could not take much from him.

Bali was in for a shock as Lord Vishnu as dwarf stepped over heaven in first stride and earth in the second stride. But lord Vishnu out of respect to Bali's kindness and his grandfather Preload’s great virtues, did not complete the third step. In Hindu mythology Prahlada is acclaimed for his exclusive devotion to Vishnu. Lord Vishnu left Bali in pathal, the subterranean region. Bali's capital was Mahabalipuram.

The ancient Bhagwad Purana attributed to the sage Ved Vysa has 7 chapters dedicated to Vamana.

The dwarf god has temples spread all over India which are dedicated to him. Some of the major temples are located as given below.

- Mithranandapuram Vamanamoorthy Temple, Cherpu, Thrissur in Kerala

- Thrikakkara Temple, Cochin in Kerala.

- Khajuraho Temples, Madhya Pradesh

- Vamana and Ulagalantha Perumal Temple in Viluppuram District, Tamil Nadu.

All these temples are worth a visit. This god is unique in the history of religions as no other religion has such a god.

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