- Bali, the asura
- Bali is the asura (antigod) who plays the role of villain in the story of VAMANA, the dwarf AVATA R (incarnation) of Vishnu.The story takes many different forms. In the most common version the demon Bali suc-ceeds, through religious austerities, in gaining supreme power over the Three Worlds, Earth, heaven, and the underworld. When he begins to monopolize the offerings that previously went to the gods, they go to Vishnu to ask for assistance. He takes on the form of VAMANA and approaches the arrogant demon with a plan to trick him. The foolish demon king offers the dwarf a boon of ter-ritory—as much as he can cover in three paces. Thereupon the dwarf takes one step to possess the Earth, another to possess the sky, and another to possess heaven itself. In some versions Vamana takes two paces to step over the whole universe and a third step that ends up on Bali’s head. Thus did Vamana return the worlds to the gods.Further reading: Cornelia Dimmitt and J. A. B. van Buitenen, Classical Hindu Mythology: A Reader in the Sanskrit Puranas (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1978); Clifford Hospital, The Righteous Demon: A Study of Bali (Vancouver: University of British Colum-bia Press, 1984).Barry Long Foundation See LONG, BARRY.Basavanna (1106–1167 C.E.) saint who helped found VirashaivismBasavanna was a saint devoted to SHIVA and was the chief founder of the reformist VIRASHAIVA or lingayat community. He was a social reformer who opposed temple ritual and the caste system in favor of an internal religious orientation.Born in the village of Mangavalli in the state of Karnataka to parents who apparently died when he was young, he was raised by his grandparents, and later by foster parents. He became learned in Sanskrit and appears to have had a Brahmanical initiation. Basavanna studied the VEDAS and was a devotee of Shiva from an early age, but he was also a political activist and social reformer. He believed that the caste divisions and ritualism of traditional Indian society should be abolished.Basavanna became a powerful minister to a king, while establishing a new religious movement in which caste, class, and sex were disregarded and only devotion to the Lord was important. He rejected traditional ritualism; in place of temples and icons to Lord Shiva, every Virashaiva was required to wear the LINGAM, or sign of Shiva, around the neck. Basavanna’s vacanas or poems were pure expressions of BHAKTI, or devotion, declaring that one’s own body was the true temple of Shiva, not some stone shrine. Virashaivas decry all external religion in favor of the religion of the heart.Further reading: K. Ishwaran, Speaking of Basava: Lingayat Religion and Culture in South Asia (Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1992); L. M. Menezes and S. M. Angadi, trans., Vacanas of Basavanna (Sirigere: Annana Balaga, 1967); A. K. Ramanujan, Speaking of Shiva (London: Penguin Books, 1973).
Encyclopedia of Hinduism. A. Jones and James D. Ryan. 2007.