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Vamana, avatara of Vishnu, tricks King Bali. Popular Mughal, circa 1600. Opaque watercolour with gold on wasli. 18.5 x 11.5cm
We see here 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 on the our right. In the mythology 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 can 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 on directly on Bali's head pushing him down into the depths of the netherworld.
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Images and text © Peter Blohm