The Origins of Chaturmaas
King Bali was the grandson of Prahladji, and grew up with the guidance of his grandfather which gave him a good sense of righteousness and bhakti. When King Bali succeeded his grandfather, he became King of the Demons. Bali Raja’s kingdom expanded quickly in all directions, even up towards heavens and this made the Demi-gods (Devtas) very nervous. There was peace and prosperity in Bali Raja’s kingdom, with all the people living happily and without fear from any crime.
With guidance from his Guru (Sukracharya), Bali Raja decided to conduct an Ashwamedh Yagna. The fruits of this yagna included being able to banish Indra and take over his world (lok). Indra and the other demi-gods went to Lord Vishnu and it was at this time that He said that He would take care of everything. During this yagna Bali Raja had vowed that he would not refuse anything that anyone asked from him. It was at this time that Vaaman Bhagwan came to Bali Raja’s kingdom and asked for 3 steps of land from him. Even though his Guru told him not to agree, Bali Raja stuck by his vow and agreed to give the 3 steps of land promptly. Vaaman Bhagwan then increased His physical size to the extent that with the 1st and 2nd step He measured all the worlds and the sky. For the 3rd step Bali Raja offered himself and was banished to Paataal when Vaman Bhaghwan placed His foot on his head. Vaaman Bhagwan was impressed with Bali Raja’s unselfish devotion and unwavering dharma, and so granted him a boon where he was allowed to visit his kingdom once every year to make sure his subjects were still happy. Thus Bali Raja is one of a few who are chiranjivis (lives for eternity).
As Bali Raja was a true devotee of Vishnu, Vishnu Bhagwan brought him back from Paataal and promised to protect him until the next era. Here, Bali Raja would be crowned as Indra. Vishnu Bhaghwan disguised Himself as a doorman and protected Bali Raja from all dangers. As a result of this, Vishnu Bhagwan was not in Vaikunt and Laxmiji became restless. She took on the form of a Brahmin woman and claimed that her husband had gone away for a large length of time for work, and that she has no where to stay. Bali Raja took her in whole heartedly and protected her like she was his sister.
Finally, on the Puranima day of Shravan, the Brahmin woman tied a colourful string of cotton on the wrist of Bali Raja, praying for protection and happiness (this is how Raksha Bandan came to be). Bali Raja was touched by this and granted her a wish. She immediately looked at the guard and asked for Him, as that was her husband. It was at this point that both Vishnu Bhagwan and Laxmiji revealed their true identities. As Bali was a virtuous man, and a protective brother he requested that Lord Vishnu go back to Vaikunt with Laxmiji, but for the Lord to return as a guard for the 4 months of the year during the monsoon months (chatur maas).
Sadguru Manjukeshanand Swami has composed the above saga of King Mandhata in poetry format for the purpose of singing and remembering the Lord’s benedictions. Sadguru Premanand Swami too sings glories of this Ekadashi by composing Kirtans for DevShayani Ekadashi.