It is human tendency to depict our gods and goddesses larger than life personalities having a number of limbs, multiple eyes, supernatural powers, and mostly of great beauty or attraction.
Even Lord Shiva, who is considered the Destroyer in the Trimurti, is known to have an attractive personality, although he is often smeared with ash and lives in a remote place.
However, one of the beauties of Indian spiritualism is that our gods and goddesses are also known to appear in unattractive forms, such as Maa Kali and Lord Vamana. The tale of Lord Vamana is indeed an interesting one because there is so much to learn from it.
There was a time when Lord Indra was usurped from his position as the leader of the Devas, and he was no longer worshipped by them, nor by the human beings.
Instead, everyone bowed before an asura king, who unlike his ancestors and counterparts, was not at all vicious or unkind, but was, in fact, one of the humblest and kindest creatures on the earth.
Lord Indra and few other devas complained to Lord Vishnu, the protector, to restore power to the Devas and Lord Indra in particular, and Lord Vishnu agreed to do just that. He had assumed various forms or avatars to appear before humankind, and this was his fifth such avatar, the first as a human.
He, however, chose to take birth as a short, dwarf Brahmin, to Aditi and Kashyap. It is said that the dwarf Brahmin, or Lord Vamana, was born during the Second Age, or the Treta Yuga, and as an adult Brahmin, the Lord used to walk clothed in a normal dhoti like other Brahmins carrying a wooden umbrella.
He approached the Asura king Mahabali and asked a boon of him. Being a benevolent king, Mahabali agreed to grant his request although his guru, Guru Shukracharya, had warned him against doing so.
When King Mahabali agreed to the dwarf Brahmin’s request, Lord Vamana assumed his true form and grew into a gigantic form with 6 arms and long feet known as Trivikarma.
With one step, Lord Vamana acquired the whole of the first world, Swarga (Heaven), with the second, he covered the entire Dharti (Earth), and then he asked the king to fulfill his promise and let him place his third step somewhere as there was no other place left.
The clever but humble king offered his head and asked Lord Vamana to place his third step there so that he could fulfill his promise, and thus, he was sent to Patala (Underworld or Hell). However, as King Mahabali was an extremely good person, Lord Vishnu granted him immortality. Some texts suggest that Lord Vishnu allotted the Patala to the king for him to rule over it.
The most common strota dedicated to Lord Vamana, Sri Vamana Stotram, is as follows:
Dhyobhoorasasakala yoga gunasthrivarga,
Jnanam cha kevalamanantha, bhavathithushta,
The Vamana avatara is said to be symbolic of God intervening to restore order in the world and of humility being an important personal trait.