Mahabali stands for the cultural lingering of the egalitarian Sramana (the ascetic tradition which gave rise to Buddhism and Jainism) among the people of various parts of India from Maharashtra to Kerala. Bali is the unconquerable spirit of equality and justice for the common folk. This ethical and egalitarian culture formed the foundation of the Bahujan or people’s culture of much of India.
It is interesting to note that the Bali myth is alive from Maharashtra to Kerala, regions of India that had enjoyed prolonged sea links with the rest of the world, especially with the Buddhist world. The legend speaks of Vamana’s triumph over Bali, which signifies the defeat of Buddhism by Vaishnavite Brahmanism in the early Middle Ages in India.
The ‘problem’ with Bali was that he was a just ruler and a leader of the people. He was known for charity and selflessness. The proponents of Brahmanism could not tolerate this humanitarian and ethical legacy of the Buddhist Bahujan ruler, and they used the ethical commitment of Bali to trample him down. It is also vital to remember that brahminical agents like Vamana were employed in this kind of usurpation throughout the Indian peninsula, especially in the southern kingdoms, to oust the Sramana rulers and to capture power.