Q. I have read / heard varying references of Putana’s previous birth. She is sometimes stated as Bali Maharaj’s sister, sometimes as his daughter and sometimes as his wife. I wanted to confirm her identity as per Srila Prabhupada or scriptures.
A. According to Brahma-vaivarta Purana, Putana had been Ratnamala in her previous life, the younger sister of Bali Maharaja. When Lord Vamana came into the assembly in Bali Maharaja’s palace, everyone was astonished by this five-year old brahmachari boy, looking like the epitome of saintliness and sweetness in His deerskin with a belt of straw and an effulgence even
brighter than the sun.
When Ratnamala saw this beautiful little boy, she became overwhelmed with maternal feelings towards Him. Understanding her desire, the Lord spoke to her, giving her the benediction that in her next life she would be able to suckle Him, just like a mother.
However, shortly after this, Lord Vamana took the whole universe from Bali and Ratnamala’s mood of attraction for the Lord changed into one of hatred. Within her mind she thought: “Perhaps I will have you as my son and breast feed you. But if I do, I will then kill You!”