Bali, the defeated demon king, seeks revenge against the devas by performing a yajna with the help of his teacher, Shukracharya. From the yajna, Bali acquires celestial weapons and lays siege to the devas’ heavenly abode, Indrapuri. However, Brihaspati, the guru of the devas, tells Indra that Bali cannot be defeated and advises him to hide until Sri Hari himself comes to subdue Bali.
Bali successfully takes possession of heaven and performs a hundred Ashwamedha yajnas to strengthen his power. Bhagavan Sri Hari is then born from Aditi’s womb as Vamana Deva, who goes to Bali’s yajna dressed as a brahmachari carrying a water pot and umbrella.
King Bali welcomes Vamana and offers him cows, gold, horses, elephants, chariots, villages, food, and drink. Vamana asks for a small piece of land measured by three of his steps. Bali laughs and agrees to grant his wish. However, Shukracharya cautions Bali that Vamana is none other than Sri Hari himself and warns him that Vamana will deceive him, divest him of his kingdom, fame, and knowledge, and give them all to Indra. Shukracharya urges Bali not to give away his possessions to Vamana.
Despite Shukracharya's warnings, Bali resolves to keep his word and give Vamana the land he asked for. When Vamana assumes his cosmic form, his body fills the whole universe, and Bali realizes that one stride covered the entire earth and the second covered the heavens. The asuras become furious and try to kill Vishnu in the guise of a dwarf, but Bali stops them and advises them to retreat.
Brahma worships the feet of Vishnu, which had measured the worlds in two steps, and the water that washed the feet of the Lord becomes the Ganga, which sanctifies all the worlds. However, there is not even one iota of space left for the third step, and Vamana declares that his first two strides have covered the entire universe.
Vamana said: ‘O King! My first two strides have covered the earth and the heavens. Now give me a place for my third step. You will have to enter the nether regions if you don’t fulfil your promise to give me what I asked for.’ Bali then said: ‘O great Lord, O Man of all men, if you think I have made a false promise, I shall presently establish its truthfulness. My word shall never go in vain. Here I make a place for your third step. My head is that place. I am not afraid of the nether regions, but I am certainly afraid of dishonour. I take your punishment as a boon.’
Vamanadeva, taking the form of the Lord, was greatly pleased by this demon king's unwavering commitment to truth, despite detecting his deception. He acknowledged that this bright jewel of the demon dynasty had triumphed over invincible maya and decided to grant him a boon that would be difficult even for the devas to achieve. The Lord declared that the demon king would be reborn as Indra, the king of the devas, in a future age. For the time being, he could reside in the realm of Sutala, where he would remain unbeatable, protected forever by the Lord's discus, and would always feel his presence.