*Chalayasi vikramane balim adbhuta-vamana pada-nakha-nira-janita-jana-pavana kesava dhrta-vamana-rupa jaya jagadisa hare*
“O Kesava! O Lord of the universe! O Lord Hari, who have assumed the form of a dwarf-brahmana! All glories to You! O wonderful dwarf, by Your massive steps You deceive King Bali, and by the Ganges water that has emanated from the nails of your lotus feet, You deliver all living beings within this world.”
On Sri Vamana Dvadasi, the appearance day of Lord Vamanadeva, devotees around the world take this opportunity to meditate on the glorious pastimes of Lord Vamanadeva and to glorify Him by celebrating this auspicious day.
The Lord appeared as Sri Vamanadeva in order to honor His devotees – both the demigods, who required His help to gain back their kingdom from the demons, and Bali Maharaja, whose exemplary qualities and characteristics were revealed in his dealings with Lord Vamanadeva. Lord Vamanadeva is the worshipable Lord of the denizens of the heavenly planets, and of Bali Maharaja, who receives the great good fortune of Lord Vamanadeva’s continued presence in his kingdom as his doorkeeper.
Imagine Bali Maharaja’s great good fortune! He gets to associate directly with the Lord eternally. And then, imagine this: devotees in ISKCON Mayapur get a small portion of this good fortune, as they get to experience the association of Lord Vamanadeva once a year on Vamana Dvadasi.
Srila Prabhupada said that to honor festivals such as Rama Navami and Vamana Dvadasi, a small boy could play the part of Krishna’s incarnation and the devotees could worship him accordingly. So every year in ISKCON Mayapur, a young gurukula boy takes on the role of Lord Vamanadeva.
At midday on Sri Vamana Dvadasi, the curtains of the altar are drawn back to reveal that Lord Vamanadeva has appeared. A young brahmachari boy stands on the altar, dressed in a saffron dhoti and deerskin, and wearing a flower garland. He carries a chatram, or umbrella, in one hand and a kamandalu, or waterpot, in the other.
Lord Vamanadeva descends from the altar and is received and honored by the priests and brahmanas, who perform svasti vacanam and then bathe the feet of the young boy playing the part of Lord Vamanadeva. One of the priests then handfeeds Lord Vamanadeva many varieties of delicious prasadam, and He eats until He is fully satisfied. He is further worshipped with a Maha arati, and then, He distributes His maha prasad to all of the assembled devotees, who receive the great good fortune of receiving maha prasad from the hand of the Lord.
This wonderful festival helps devotees to meditate on the form and pastimes of Lord Vamanadeva, whose pastimes demonstrate many important lessons for devotees on the path of bhakti yoga.
The Lord’s reasons for His appearances are always multifarious, as are the lessons we can learn from the pastimes of His different incarnations. His appearance as Sri Vamanadeva is no different, but there is one especially prominent aspect that can be observed in the pastimes of Lord Vamanadeva, and that is the Lord’s honoring and glorifying His devotees.
As Lord Vamanadeva, the Lord fulfilled the prayers of His devotees: He fulfilled the prayers of Aditi, who desired to have a son who would restore the control of the heavenly planets to her sons, the demigods, and thus He also fulfilled the prayers of the demigods, who had lost everything to the demons headed by Bali Maharaja; He also continued to fulfill the prayers that Aditi and Kasyapa had made in their previous lifetime as Prsni and Sutapa, who prayed to have the Lord thrice appear as their son. Thus He honored Aditi and Kasyapa by appearing as their son, and He honored the demigods headed by Lord Indra by defeating the demons and returning the heavenly planets to the demigods.
Although it might appear that the Lord sided against the demons and favored the demigods, who actually received the most mercy from the Lord? Bali Maharaja, the king of the demons, was defeated by the Lord and seemingly humiliated in front of the entire world. But it is Bali Maharaja who is glorified as one of the twelve Mahajanas, or one of the great personalities honored for their exceptional devotion to the Lord. Bali Maharaja represents the quality of atma nivedanam – full surrender unto the lotus feet of the Lord. By putting Bali Maharaja in a difficult situation, Lord Vamanadeva allowed the whole world to see how glorious Bali Maharaja is, and to see what it means to be fully surrendered to the Lord. Bali Maharaja willingly gave up everything at the request of the Lord – including his own self.
By honoring Sri Vamana Dvadasi in such a nice way, devotees are reminded of the Lord’s great mercy and the glorious position of any Vaishnava who surrenders fully at the lotus feet of the Lord.