Yudhiṣṭhira Mahārāja asked of Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa, “What is the name of that Ekādaśī that occurs during the light fortnight (shukla paksha) of the month of Bhādrapada (August-September) ? Who is the worshipable Deity for this Ekādaśī, and what merit does one attain in observing it? Kindly reveal all of this to me my Lord.”
The Supreme Personality of God Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa addressed His devoted Yudhiṣṭhira as follows, “This Ekādaśī, O Yudhiṣṭhira, is called Vāmana Ekādaśī, and it bestows upon those who observe it both great merit and ultimate liberation from material bondage. Therefore, because it removes all one‟s sinful reactions, it is also called Jayantī Ekādaśī. Just hearing of its glories frees one from all his past misdeeds. So auspicious is this fast that observing it bestows the same merit as that earned by performing a horse sacrifice. There is no better Ekādaśī than this, because it awards liberation so easily. Thus if one truly desires freedom from the punishing material world, one should fast on Vāmana Ekādaśī.
“While observing this holy fast, a Vaiṣṇava should lovingly worship the Supreme Lord in His form as Vāmandev, the dwarf incarnation, whose eyes are like lotus petals. By doing so, he worships all other Deities as well, including Brahmā, Viṣṇu, and Śiva, and at death he undoubtedly goes to that abode of Śrī Hari. In all the three worlds there is no fast that is more important to observe. The reason this Ekādaśī is so auspicious is that it celebrates the day when the sleeping Lord Viṣṇu turns over on His other side; thus it is also known as Parivartinī Ekādaśī.” Mahārāja Yudhiṣṭhira then asked of the Lord, “O Janārdana, please clear up a question I have. How is it that the Supreme Lord sleeps and then turns over on His side? O Lord, when You are asleep what happens to all the other living entities? Please also tell me how You bound the king of the demons, Bali Mahārāja, as well as how one may please the brāhmaṇas. How does one observe Cāturmāsya. Kindly be merciful to me and answer these questions.”
The Supreme Personality of God Śrī Kṛṣṇa replied, “O Yudhiṣṭhira, lion among Kings, I will gladly narrate to you an historical event that, simply by hearing, eradicates all one‟s sinful reactions. “In the Tretā-yuga there once was a king of the name Bali. Though born in a demonic dynasty, he was very devoted to Me. He sang many Vedic hymns to Me and performed the homa rituals just to satisfy Me. He respected the twice-born brāhmaṇas and engaged them in performing sacrifices daily. This great soul had a quarrel with Indra, however, and eventually defeated him in battle. Bali took over his entire celestial kingdom, which I Myself had given to Indra. Therefore Indra and all the other demigods, along with many great sages, approached Me and complained about Bali Mahārāja. Bowing their heads to the ground and offering many sacred prayers from the Vedas, they worshipped Me along with their spiritual master, Bṛhaspati. Thus I agreed to appear on their behalf as a dwarf Vāmanadev, My fifth incarnation.”
King Yudhiṣṭhira asked, “O Lord, how was it possible for You to conquer such a powerful demon in a dwarf‟s body? Please explain this clearly, for I am Your faithful devotee.”
The Supreme Lord, Śrī Kṛṣṇa replied, “Though a dwarf, I was a brāhmaṇa, and I approached that pious king Bali to ask him for alms in the form of land. I said, „O Bali, please give Me just three steps of land in charity. Such a small piece of land will be good as all the three worlds for Me.‟ Bali agreed to grant My request without lengthy consideration. But as soon as he vowed to give Me the land, My body began to expand into a gigantic transcendental form. I covered the entire Earth with My feet, all the Bhuvarloka with My thighs, the Svarga heavens with My waist, Maharloka with My stomach, Janaloka with My chest, Tapoloka with My neck, and Satyaloka with My head and face. I covered the entire material creation. Indeed, all the planets of the universe, including the Sun and the Moon, were encompassed by My gigantic form.”
“Seeing this astonishing pastime of Mine, all the demigods, including Indra and Śeṣa, the king of the snakes, began to sing Vedic hymns and offer prayers to Me. Then I took Bali by the hand and said to him, „O sinless one, I have covered the whole Earth with one step and all the heavenly planets with the second. Now where shall I place My foot to measure the third step of land you promised Me?‟
“Upon hearing this, Bali Mahārāja bowed down in humility and offered Me his head to place My third step. O Yudhiṣṭhira, I placed My foot on his head and sent him all the way to Pātālaloka. Seeing him thus humbled, I became very pleased and told Bali that henceforth I would permanently reside in his palace. Thereafter, on Parivartinī Ekādaśī, which occurs during the light part of the month of Bhādra, Bali, the son of Virocana, installed a Deity form of Me in his residence.
“O king, until Haribodhinī Ekādaśī, which occurs during the light part of the month of Kārtika, I continue to sleep in the ocean of milk. The merit one accumulates during this period is particularly powerful. One should therefore observe Parivartinī Ekādaśī carefully. Indeed, it is especially purifying and thus cleanses one of all sinful reactions. On this day the faithful devotee should worship Lord Trivikrama, Vāmanadeva, who is the supreme father, because on this day I turn over to sleep on My other side.
“If possible, on this day one should give a qualified person some yogurt mixed with rice, as well as some silver, and then remain awake throughout the night. This simple observance will free one of all material conditioning. One who observes this sacred Parivartinī Ekādaśī in the way I have described will surely attain all kinds of happiness in this world and the kingdom of God in the hereafter. One who simply hears this narration with devotion will go to the abode of the demigods and shine there like the Moon itself, so powerful is observance of this Ekādaśī. Indeed, this observance is as powerful as the performance of a thousand horse sacrifices.”
[Ekadasi, The Day of Lord Hari, by Sri Krsna Balaram Swamiji, KBS0148]