A deep talk about Bali – Elder Brother of Sugriva
The Hindu epic Ramayana is noted for many daring conquests and valiant war heroes. Vali or Bali was one such super powerful character. He was granted salvation by Lord Rama himself. However, the character of Bali is not much interpreted. He was the elder brother of Sugriva. He was the consort of Tara. Though the character of Bali is not much interpreted in Ramayana but he is an important character in the epic. So let’s explore it’s dimensions.
History: Vali or Bali was the King of Khiskinda according to Ramayana. He was the biological son of Vikhsraja. His celestial father was Indra. He was the brother of Sugriv and the husband of Tara. He was the father of Angada. Lord Rama killed him skilfully. He was an invincible warrior and defeated Ravana once in a duel. He was granted a boon by Lord Brahma to obtain half strength of his rival. Even Rama had to kill him hiding behind the trees. He was a very powerful warrior. Even Rama could not distinguish between Vali and Sugriva during the first combat. Next time Sugriva wore a garland which helped Rama to kill Vali. According to the Hare Krishna belief system, Bali was incarnated as Jara, the hunter who caused Krishna’s death with an arrow tipped from iron from a club borne by Samba that is Krishna’s son. He was a very powerful Vanara. According to a myth fourteen types of gems and treasures came out of the Maha Sagar Manthan that is the churning of the ocean. Lord Vishnu took Kurma Avatar during this time. One gem also came out in the form of various Apsharas or the celestial nymphs. Tara was one such Apshara produced from the churning of the ocean. Vali was helping his father Indra and the other gods in the churning of the ocean. He took Tara as his wife. Tales of Bali’s courage are very popular. According to a tale when Sugriva challenged Bali for a duel, he at once agreed even after repeated attempts of stopping him by Tara. His wife told him that Lord Rama is none other than the supreme lord Vishnu and Bali must not accept this challenge. However, Bali did not listen to her and said that even if the Lord challenges him, he won’t step back. He might die during battle but he won’t stay indoors out of cowardice. He even said that if Angada, his son called him for a duel, he won’ hesitate. Bali appeased Lord Brahma by penance. Vali was very powerful with the strength of 70000 elephants. Moreover with the boon of having half power of any of his rivals, he became invincible. No-one could defeat him in a head-on battle.
Ravana and Bali: Narada once told Ravana about the strengths of Bali. Ravana could not tolerate the praises of Vali and went to Kishkindha. Bali was at deep meditation. However, Ravana challenged him for a duel. Sugriva fought with Ravana first but was instantly defeated. Ravana then challenged Bali and a fierce battle followed. Vali finally defeated Ravana and carried him tied to his tail. In some versions, he lifted Ravana up on his shoulders. According to some folktales, Vali captivated Ravana and carried him under his armpit for years. Ravana unable to bear this insult asked for Bali’s friendship. Then Bali freed Ravana. Thus he was the most powerful of all living on earth.
Rama and Sugriva: While wandering in the forests Rama finds Sugriva. They become friends and Sugriva agrees to help Rama find Sita. Rama in turn agrees to help Sugriva defeat Bali and get back his kingdom. According to legends, Bali initially ruled Khiskinda. Once during a combat with a fierce monster Mayavi, Bali went inside a cave. Sugriva was asked to wait outside. The battle continued for years. One day Sugriva noticed blood coming out of the cave. Thinking it the blood of Bali, he closed the entrance of the cave with a rock to stuck the monster inside. He went back to Kishkindha and inherited the throne. When Bali came out to after killing the demon, he misunderstood Sugriva. He went back to Kishkindha and threw out his younger brother. Even after trying to explain him the consequences, Sugriva was not spared. Bali captured Sugriva’s wife Ruma. Sugriva fled to the mountains and stayed there. When Rama promised to slain Bali, Sugriva showed Rama the proofs of Bali’s powers. He showed him a hole in a Saal tree which Bali made with only a shot. However, when Rama killed Bali hiding behind a tree, Vali told him that Rama could have asked his help. Bali could have easily defeated Ravana and brought back Sita. Bali further questioned him that on which crime was his wife made a widow and on what right Rama killed him. Rama in turn answered him that a younger brother is like a son and Bali should have forgiven Sugriva and shouldn’t have captured his wife. Besides, Rama has permission from king Bharata to establish righteousness. Rama showed him his Vishwarup and granted him salvation. Bali asked his son Angad to always follow Rama. Even pleased with him, Rama wanted to grant him a new life but Bali said that this kind of death at the hands of the Lord is peace. He would never get this again. Thus Sugriva became the new King and obtained his wife back. He married Bali’s wife Tara and made Angada the crowned prince of Kishkindha.
Krishna and Bali: According to the ISKCON versions, before dying Rama granted Bali a boon that he will be able to avenge back his death from Rama. Later in Dwapur Yug, when Vishnu incarnated as Krishna, Bali took birth as the hunter and archer Jara from Mahabharata. Once while sleeping, Jara hits an arrow in Krishna’s feet thinking it to be a deer. Krishna then returns to his celestial abode thus fulfilling his boon of getting killed by Bali.
Such was the courage and valour of Bali. He is often misinterpreted but the truth is he was just a victim of fate. He was a great devotee and often performed meditation. He was a very righteous king and ruled for the people. Even Rama understood this and granted him Moksha. So this was the story of the most powerful character of the epic without whom probably Ramayana would have been different. Stay tuned for more such articles. We will be back very soon. Stay safe and healthy.