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Folio from a Dasvatara series: Vamana Avatara. Late Mughal style at Delhi, circa 1800. Opaque watercolour with gold on wasli. 27.6 x 17.2cm
We see here wearing a splendid turban King Bali who has gained power over the devas (gods). Vishnu will restore order by appearing as Vamana avatara - his dwarf incarnation who we see here to the our left standing on a low table. He is in the guise of a brahmin so that he is more able to trick King Bali into offering a boon granting him all the land he is able to cover in three paces. Vamana gives Bali his kamandalu(water pot) which he now holds in our picture, and asks the king to pour water from it into his outstretched hand as the signal indicating the boon has been granted. On Bali's doing so (despite the protestations we see from his purohita or counsel, seen with hands raised gesturing unease)Vamana will transform into the gigantic Trivikrama so that two of his steps cover the entire universe whilst the third will land directly on Bali's head pushing him down into the depths of the netherworld.
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Images and text © Peter Blohm