Mahabali (IAST: Mahābalī), also known as Bali, Indrasenan or Māveli, is a Daitya king found in Hindu texts. He is the grandson of Prahlada and a descendant of sage Kashyapa. There are many versions of his legend in ancient texts such as the Shatapatha Brahmana, Ramayana, Mahabharata, and Puranas. According to Hindu mythology, he was banished beneath the Earth into the patala or the netherworld by the Vamana Avatar of Lord Vishnu.[2][3][4]

Mahabali (Maveli)
Mahabali serves Vamana, while a suspicious Shukra tries to stop him. Painting from Mankot, Jammu and Kashmir, c. 1700-25
AffiliationDaitya, Bhagwan
Personal information
ParentsVirochana (father) and Devamba (mother)
ChildrenBanasura, Ratanamala and Vajrajwala

In Hinduism, Mahabali is considered one of the Chiranjivi, a group of seven immortals. It is believed that he will become the King of Swarga (Heaven) in the next yuga. In Kerala, King Mahabali is considered to be the noblest and most prosperous ruler, who transformed his kingdom into a heavenly place. His legend is a major part of the annual festival Onam in the state of Kerala, and Balipratipada (the fourth day of Deepavali and first day of Kartika month) festival in North India & Tulunadu.[2][5]


Vamana avatar of Lord Vishnu stomps on Bali's head, and sends him to Patala

Mahabali is described in early Hindu myths as a benevolent and generous king. He ruled without discrimination, and his people were honest, healthy, and happy under his rule.[6] Mahabali also temporarily possessed the amrita (nectar for eternal life) obtained by the asuras.[7] The amrita allowed his subjects to bring him back to life after his death in one of the wars between suras (devas) and asuras.[8][7] Mahabali was, thus, immune from death. After many wars, the invincible Bali had conquered heaven and earth. The suras (Devas) approached Vishnu to save them from complete obliteration. Vishnu refused to join the war or outright kill his own devotee Mahabali. To restore the natural order, he incarnated as the dwarf Brahmin avatar, Vamana. While Mahabali was performing the ashvamedha sacrifice to celebrate his victories and giving away gifts to everyone, Vamana approached him and requested "three steps of land".[8][9] Mahabali granted him this gift, despite warnings from Shukra, who had realised Vamana's true identity. Vamana then metamorphosed into Vishnu's colossal trivikrama form, the first foot encompassing all of heaven in one step and the earth with the second foot. When rhetorically asked where he might take his promised third step, Mahabali accepted his fate and offered his own head. Some Hindu texts state that Mahabali was banished to patala (netherworld), some state he was dragged there by Garuda, in others he entered heaven with the touch of Vishnu, while another version states he became Chiranjeevi (immortal).[8] Others even have Bali admitted into Vaikunta, which was an even higher place than the realm of the devas.[10]

According to Hindu mythology, Vishnu granted Bali a boon whereby he could return back to his homeland once every year. The harvest festivals of Balipratipada and Onam (which is mostly celebrated by people of all faiths within Kerala) are celebrated to mark his yearly homecoming.[2][5][11] Literature and inscriptions in Hindu temples suggest that these festivals, featuring colourful decorations, lighted lamps, gift giving, feasts and community events, have been popular in India for more than a millennium.[2][12] Bali is also featured in the Ramayana where Ravana tries to free him from Patala, but is unable to.[8]

Mahabhali had a wife named Vindhyavalli, who was also referred to as Ashrama. With her he had many sons, including the Shiva devotee Bana (Banasura). It is believed that Vindhyavalli once saved Bana from the wrath of Krishna.[13]


King Mahabali is also found in the mythologies of Jainism. He is the sixth of nine Prativasudevas (Prati-narayanas, anti-heroes).[14] He is depicted as an evil king who schemed and attempted to rob Purusha's wife.[15] He is defeated and killed by Purusha. In Jain mythology, the antagonists to Mahabali are the two sons born to King Mahasiva (Mahasiras): Ananda (the sixth Baladeva) and Purusapundarika (the sixth Vasudeva).[15]

Mahabali is also mentioned in Jain inscriptions, where the patron compares the defeated evil opponents of the current king to Mahabali. For example, in the Girnar inscriptions of Gujarat dated to about 1231 CE (1288 Vikrama era), minister Vastupala of the Chaulukya dynasty is praised as a great king by Jains, and the inscriptions connect him to Mahabali because Vastupala gave much charity. Some excerpts from the inscriptions are:

In olden times Mahabali was pressed down by the foot of Vishnu, the enemy of the demons, from the earth; now the same is done by the hand of Vastupala,...[16]
O Vastupala, Mahabali has sent thee a message that he has been much pleased by hearing from Narada, who visits the three worlds, that though frequently solicited thou dost not extend thy anger to the needy,...[17]
By the famous minister Vastupala watering the earth with nectarial charities, the pride of Mahabali and Kalpataru has been greatly lowered...[18]
Let there be continuous salutation to holy Mahabali and Karna, whose charity though unseen has been the object of so much fame; consequently the people are worthy of worship, and the great minister Vastupala's charity which the people see with their eyes so great that even the world itself can scarcely contain it.[19]

Mahabali is a common name and found in other contexts. For example, in Jain history, Mahabali is the name of the son of Bahubali, who was given Bahubali's kingdom before Bahubali became a monk. [20]


Bali appears in several Buddhist sutras, such as the Dānapāramitā Sūtra, the Ratnamegha Sūtra, and the Lotus Sutra; where he is seen among the audience who listens to the Buddha's discourses.

The Kāraṇḍavyūha Sūtra features an extensive dialogue between Bali and the bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara that occurred during the life of the Buddha Viśvabhū. Bali relates his story of being imprisoned in the underworld by Nārāyaṇa. The asura king repents for his misdeeds and praises the qualities of Avalokiteśvara and the pure land Sukhāvatī. Avalokiteśvara bestows a prediction that Bali will someday become a fully awakended buddha named Śrī who will lead the asuras in the Dharma.

Bali offers Avalokiteśvara "strings of pearls worth a hundred thousand silver coins and diadems adorned with various jewels." Before leaving his abode, Avalokiteśvara gives a teaching about how humans must leave Jambudvīpa upon death and are subject to the punishments of King Yama in hell. He then tells Bali of the importance of cultivating merit in this life.[21]

Cultural sitesEdit

In Kerala, Mahabali is remembered fondly as a great and benevolent king and the state happens to also be his most likely place of origin.

In Tulunadu also, people believe that Mahabali is the king of ancient times of the land and they offer special pooja during the 4th day of Deepavali. i.e., 'Bali Padyami'. They call it 'Balindra Pooja' which involves offering a special dish to the Balindra on a plate prepared by bamboo tree sticks along with a lamp, followed by requesting him by telling folklore song in Tulu which goes like " Oh Balindra... Bontel poyina mooji dinataani Bali Bala...Koo...Koo" which literally translates to " Hey Bali, After 3 days of Diwali (which usually comes in Tulu Month 'Bonthel'), Come and accept the food". People believe that on that day King Balindra comes out of Pathala for a day to see his Kingdom.

The town of Mahabalipuram in Tamil Nadu is also associated with him and considered his capital.[1]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ also known as Ashrama[1]


  1. ^ a b Roshen Dalal (2010). Hinduism: An Alphabetical Guide. Penguin. pp. 229–230. ISBN 978-0-14-341421-6.
  2. ^ a b c d PV Kane (1958). History of Dharmasastra, Volume 5 Part 1. Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute. pp. 201–206.
  3. ^ Nanditha Kirshna (2009). Book of Vishnu. Penguin Books. pp. 58–59. ISBN 978-81-8475-865-8.
  4. ^ Narayan, R.K (1977). The Ramayana: a shortened modern prose version of the Indian epic. Mahabali story. Penguin Classics. pp. 14–16. ISBN 978-0-14-018700-7.
  5. ^ a b Constance A Jones (2011). J. Gordon Melton (ed.). Religious Celebrations: An Encyclopedia of Holidays, Festivals, Solemn Observances, and Spiritual Commemorations. ABC-CLIO. pp. 634, 900. ISBN 978-1-59884-205-0.
  6. ^ "About Onam".
  7. ^ a b D Dennis Hudson (2008). The Body of God: An Emperor's Palace for Krishna in Eighth-Century Kanchipuram. Oxford University Press. pp. 163–174. ISBN 978-0-19-970902-1.
  8. ^ a b c d George M. Williams (2008). Handbook of Hindu Mythology. Oxford University Press. pp. 73–74. ISBN 978-0-19-533261-2.
  9. ^ D Dennis Hudson (2008). The Body of God: An Emperor's Palace for Krishna in Eighth-Century Kanchipuram. Oxford University Press. pp. 207–219. ISBN 978-0-19-970902-1.
  10. ^ George M. Williams (2008). Handbook of Hindu Mythology. Oxford University Press. p. 274. ISBN 978-0-19-533261-2.
  11. ^ Gopal, Madan (1990). K.S. Gautam (ed.). India through the ages. Publication Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India. p. 74.
  12. ^ A.M. Kurup (1977). "The Sociology of Onam". Indian Anthropologist. 7 (2): 95–110. JSTOR 41919319.
  13. ^ Dalal, Roshen (2010). Hinduism: An Alphabetical Guide. Penguin Books India. ISBN 978-0-14-341421-6.
  14. ^ von Glasenapp 1999, p. 288.
  15. ^ a b von Glasenapp 1999, p. 308.
  16. ^ Burgess 1885, p. 285.
  17. ^ Burgess 1885, p. 291.
  18. ^ Burgess 1885, p. 292.
  19. ^ Burgess 1885, p. 294.
  20. ^ Vijay K. Jain 2013, p. xi.
  21. ^ Roberts 2013.


External linksEdit

Preceded by Daityas
Succeeded by