Mahabali, the king who was sent to the netherworld by Lord Narayana, was a rare person, one who can be called a mahatma, said B. Sundar Kumar. He may be called a mahatma for many reasons. He had promised Vamana that he would give Him whatever He desired, and when it came to bending his head before the Lord, who had expanded from the little Vamana to the enormous Trivikrama, Mahabali did not hesitate to offer his head as the next place for the Lord to put His foot on.
When Vamana approached Mahabali and asked him for land that He could measure with three steps of His feet, Mahabali washed the Lord's feet. The water that washed the Lord's feet was later to become the sacred Ganga. Mahabali was blessed to wash the Lord's feet. How many are so blessed?
On Mahabali's head the Lord placed His foot. What greater fortune can there be than this?
Mahabali was a man who had great guru bhakti, and never went against his guru Sukracharya's words. Mahabali was so obedient to his guru that the latter gave him a golden chariot.
Yet, when Sukracharya warned him not to pay heed to Vamana for, Sukracharya suspected that something untoward was going to happen, Mahabali did not obey his guru. He, who had never gone against his guru's wishes, ignored him on this one occasion, for to obey his guru would have meant that he would have had to break his promise to Vamana, and Mahabali was never one to break a promise. Mahabali had the support of his wife in his act of generosity to Vamana. She stood by him when he kept his promise to the Lord. How many are blessed with such a wife? Only a mahatma is so blessed.
It is our duty to behave in such a way that we earn the approbation of our forefathers. Mahabali pleased his grandfather Prahlada so much that the latter gave Mahabali a garland of never fading flowers.
He who is indifferent to wealth and women is a mahatma. Mahabali was a king, who was prepared to give away everything he possessed. Only one with supreme detachment to wealth would be willing to part from all that he owned. Thus Mahabali was a mahatma in this sense too.