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Bali, the king of monkeys, was the elder brother of Sugreeva. He was born by the grace of Lord Indra who had given him a celestial necklace. It was a necklace with special properties for, after wearing it, if Bali battled with anyone, half the strength of his opponent would be transferred to him. Hence Bali became invincible as his opponents lost half their power and energy as soon as they faced him in a fight. He had never lost a fight or battle. Bali’s wife was Tara and his son was Angad, who became a favorite of Shri Rama. The capital of Bali’s kingdom was Kishkinda.
When he heard the tales of Bali’s immense prowess, Ravana once came to challenge him to battle. At that time Bali was busy with his Sandhyavadan (evening prayers). Without moving from his sitting posture, Bali caught hold of Ravana and tucked him under his armpit and continued with his prayers. Later, Bali forgot about Ravana, who stayed tucked in Bali’s armpit for six months. Disgusted with the odor of sweat in the armpit, Ravana bit Bali hard. Bali thought it was a body louse that had bit him and raised his hand to scratch his armpit. As soon as he raised his arm, Ravana jumped off and began to run away but Bali caught hold of him and gave him to his son Angad to play with, as a toy. Finally Bali’s wife Tara, felt sorry for Ravana and let him go. In the end Ravana befriended Bali.
Once the demon named Dundubhi took the form of a wild buffalo and arrived at Kishkinda, challenging Bali to fight him. Bali caught hold of his two horns and swung him around in circles. Then he hurled him away with such strength that he fell far away on the Rishyamukha mountain at the hermitage of Rishi Matanga and died there. Some drops of his blood splattered on Rishi Matanga. Enraged to be thus defiled, he cursed Bali, “If you ever approach the boundary of my ashram on the Rishyamukha Mountain, you will die instantly.” From then on, fearing the curse, Bali did not go near the Rishyamukha Mountain.
Once Durmad, the son of the demon Maya, arrived at Bali’s door, drunk by the disillusioning power of his own strength. He yelled and shouted for Bali to fight him. Bali gave him one blow and sent him running off with fear. Bali and his brother Sugreeva followed him to finish the fight but the demon ran into a cave. Bali too was about to follow him but before he did so, he declared to Sugreeva; “If I do not come out of the cave by the end of one month, consider that I have been killed at the hands of Durmad.” Bali then ran into the dark cave.
One month passed and instead of Bali, Sugreeva saw a stream of blood flowing out of the cave. Sugreeva thought Bali had been killed so he placed a huge rock across the mouth of the cave so that Durmad would be locked in. Then he returned to Kishkinda. The monkey clan persuaded him to take the place of his brother and much against his will he was crowned King of Kishkinda.
Meanwhile Bali had killed Durmad but when he tried to come out of the cave, he found the exit blocked. Somehow he managed to move it and reached Kishkinda. When he saw Sugreeva seated on the throne, his anger knew no bounds and he lunged at Sugreeva to kill him. Sugreeva took to his heels and ran for his life. But wherever in the world he ran, Bali was just behind him. It was Hanuman who suggested a safe spot, the Rishyamukha Mountain, where Bali would not come for fear of death. Sugreeva took his vanar (monkey) followers and began to live on Rishyamukha Mountain.
Rama and Lakshman arrived at Rishi Katanga’s ashram. Seated atop the Rishyamukha Mountain, Sugreeva and Hanuman espied the two brilliant young men from afar. They were filled with a doubtful thought. Could these two be spies sent by Bali? To ascertain that, Hanuman decided to find out about the two visitors, and took the guise of a Brahmin. After he was assured about their identity he introduced them to Sugreeva. Sugreeva narrated the tale of his rivalry with Bali.
Rama said, “I will kill Bali and rescue your wife Rumba.” Bali had kidnapped and taken away Sugreeva’s wife by force. Rama told Sugreeva to challenge Bali to a duel. “While you are fighting, I will kill Bali”, said Rama. At the first duel, Rama could not distinguish between Bali and Sugreeva, as they looked so similar in appearance and form. To tell them apart, Rama put a garland of flowers around Sugreeva’s neck and asked him to resume the fight with Bali.
Bali’s wife Tara cautioned him against the duel but he did not pay any heed and attacked Sugreeva. Rama took aim and hit Bali on his back with a sharp arrow that felled him with a fatal blow. Bali cursed Rama at first but Rama said that helping a friend was his duty. Moreover Bali had taken away Sugreeva’s wife by force, although the wife of a younger brother should be treated like a daughter.
Bali apologized for his mistake and placed his son Angad in Rama’s care. Rama promised to protect and care for Tara and Angad. On Bali’s death, Sugreeva was made king of Kishkinda and Angad was declared as the Yuvraj, the prince designate and heir apparent. Bali breathed his last at Rama’s feet and found peace in death.
Bali – Ramayana Characters