The Hindu god Vishnu manifested himself on earth through ten primary incarnations. Within each of these incarnations are lessons for humanity. The first four incarnations are animal/human hybrids between a man and a fish, a turtle, a boar and a lion. The last six manifestations are people, including for example Krishna, the popular blue god, and Buddha (although this is generally contested by buddhists). The first in the group of the human avatars is a dwarf called Vamana.

The story involving Vishnu’s incarnation as Vamana is an interesting tale of hubris, underestimation and a ruler’s desire to be liked. It is set during the long-running battle between gods (the Devas) and demons (the Asuras). After the battle seems to be decided in favour of the demon king Bali, Vishnu comes to the aid of the Devas. He reincarnates as a dwarf and asks the now ruler Bali to gift him a piece of land the size of three footsteps where he can meditate. Although Bali has been warned of the true nature of Vamana as the incarnation of Vishnu he does not regard him as a threat and grants him his wish. As soon as he does Vishnu/Vamana expands to his cosmic size and spans all of Heaven and Earth in just two enormous steps. Left with no place to put his third step bali offers his head and is pushed back into the underworld. The story shows that prejudice against smallness is ill-informed. The continued debate as to why Vishnu manifested himself as a dwarf seems to originate especially in the general yet mistaken view that dwarfs are inferior to regular-sized people. They’re not, obviously.

For a detailed account of the story visit HERE.