Do you remember when Bali was doing the Yagya by which he would defeat the Devas eternally? He was the king of the asuras, and he wanted to perform the Yagya by which the asuras would occupy heaven for all eternity, and the Gods would have no place to live. And the God’s were thrown out of heaven and they came to the earth and they propitiated Vishnu, “Vishnu, please you’ve got to help us. You’ve got to find a way to stop Bali’s Yagya.”
And Vishnu said, “Ok.” And He became a little dwarf. And the dwarf was dressed as a brahmin. He walked right up to the Yagyasala where Bali was making the last of the Yagyas by which he would become the king of heaven for all eternity. He said, “Biksham Dehi” (A brahmin has come to your door, give me some alms). And the king sent his minister and said, “Give that brahmin whatever he wants.” Brahmin said, “No, I will only accept it from the hand of the king.”
King got up from his seat at the dais where they were making Yagya. And Bali said, “What a beautiful brahmin boy you are, you’re so small and cute, I’ll give you anything you want. What do you want?” And Vaman, the little dwarf, he said, “I’m a brahmin by nature, all I want to do is meditate. I don’t want jewels and I don’t want gold, and I don’t want anything, I just want to meditate. And I want a place to meditate where nobody has the authority to disturb me, I have complete authority. I want three steps of land.”
And Bali the king said, “I am the king of the earth. I am soon to be the king of earth and heaven! I mean ask for something substantial, don’t insult me! I will give you villages for your support, and I will give you communities that you can call your own. I will give you a treasury filled with riches.”
And Vaman said, “King, I’m a brahmin, I just want to meditate. I don’t want to be a politician, I don’t want to be an administrator, I don’t want to be a tax collector, all I want to do is sit and meditate. You keep your treasury, you keep your villages, you keep your cities, all I want is three steps of land.”
The King said, “Well, I already said you could have anything you want, and if this is what you want. Please ask for something that when you receive it, you won’t have to come back to me again. I know I’m going to give you three steps of land and your going to come back to me at the next Yagya and say, â€œit’s not enough’, ask for something substantial!”
The Brahmin said, “No, no, no king, I don’t want anything more than three steps of land.” The king said, “Ok. I grant you the three steps of land.” The Vamana avatar said, “Please take the sankalpa.” The king took the sankalpa and said, “I promise to give you three steps of land.”
And then the little dwarf started to grow. And He grew and grew, and his body went through the clouds until his foot covered the entire earth. And he said, “Oh King, my first step, the whole earth is mine.”
Then he raised his foot, and he raised his foot through the clouds, and through the atmosphere, and up through heaven and past Indraloka and he raised his foot until it came to Brahmaloka. And Brahma was sitting in Brahmaloka, and He said, “Oh my God, it’s Vishnu’s foot!” And He took the water from his water pot; Ganga was in the water pot. He said, “The Supreme Divinity has come to my home, I have to offer water for washing his feet.
And He poured the water over Vishnu’s foot, and Ganga started to fall off of Vishnu’s foot. And She raced through the heavens and She raced through the atmosphere, and the seven Rishis and all the stars were running out of the way, getting out of the way because Ganga was coming down with a real force of the river.
And they said, “Only Shiva would have the capacity to stop the fall of Ganga, otherwise she will wash everything away.” So Shiva came, and He took Ganga on his head. And Ganga landed on his head and trickled down his locks and into the Himalayas, and She came down to earth. And that’s how Ganga descended to earth, from the water pot that Brahma was holding in the Brahmaloka. So on one hand He’s got the water pot with Ganga, and the other hand, He’s got the Sruva offering ghee to the sacred fire.
I want to tell you about the third step. Vishnu said to the king, “Hey Bali, with my first step the earth belongs to me, and with my second step all the heavens belong to me, what’s left? Where should I put my third step?” And the king bowed down and said, “Right here Lord, please put your step on my head, let my head belong to you as well.”
And so, Vishnu gave him the boon. And Bali’s head became Vishnu’s property as well.