An ancient Hindu story about one of Vishnu’s avatars, who challenges the greedy king, Bali.
Bali, with the help of his goading adviser, Shukra, has moved beyond his kingdom to take over the Earth and the galaxy beyond. He is still not content, so Vishnu, the Supreme Person, comes to him in the form of a small human to help him understand himself. When the king, power-hungry but still charitable, sees the childlike person who presents himself as Vamana, he wants to grant his every wish. Vamana makes a modest request: “I do not need much, only a bit of land as wide as my three steps.” Although Shukra is suspicious, Bali grants the wish. Only then does Vishnu reveal himself, growing into a giant. He uses his large steps to take back the Earth and the universe, creating the Ganges River along the way. When there is no other place for Vamana to take his third step, the king graciously offers his own head. Vamana takes his last step, reduces himself in size again and rewards the enlightened king by restoring his original kingdom. (In some versions, Bali is given the underworld to rule.) Full-bleed, vividly colored illustrations, reminiscent of Indian religious posters, show Vamana with his traditional umbrella. The author’s note mentions the original source, a Sanskrit text called the Bhagavata Purana.
A wisdom tale that children of any background can understand. (Folk tale. 7-10)