At a fortunate moment, Lord Vishnu took birth as the dwarf Brahmachari. His parents, mother Aditi and Rishni Kashyap, revelled in his angelic appearance.The gods quickly recognised the bright dwarf as an incarnation of Lord Vishnu and began worshiping him.
Shukracharya, the guru of the demons, became aware of this new incarnation of Vishnu through his meditation and rushed into the private apartment of King Bali to tell him about Vishnu and his intentions.
“Lord Vishnu has taken birth as the dwarf Brahmachari and is on his way to trick you to obtain back the kingdom of Swarga Loka for the gods and Bhu Loka for humans,” Shukracharya said. “King, do not be deceived by his false form. He will be coming as a beggar because he knows of your vow of charity. But you cannot give charity to enemies. Please do not give him any alms.”
Bali was unconcerned by this news. He said he was honoured that Vishnu, the unchallenged Lord of the three worlds, was coming to him as a beggar to beg. Let him come and beg anytime he wants. I cannot break my vow. I am obliged to give whatever is asked of me and is within my domain. l am sorry Shukracharya, my most respectable teacher. I cannot refuse Vishnu. Yet l am thankful to you for bringing me this information…
Shukracharya pleaded, “Vishnu is a famous trickster. He will deceive you, O King, and you will be deprived of all your belongings. He will make you helpless. As your teacher, I beg you to listen to my advice and save yourself from the disaster that Vishnu brings for you.” “No.” said Bali.
“I have made a vow of charity. I will not hesitate even if Vishnu asks for my life. I will not break my vow. As my teacher, it is your duty to help me keep my word.” “Then do as you please,” Shukracharya said. “What-ever is destined will happen. Who can stop it? I only followed my dharma and warned you. Now you must follow your dharma and do as your conscience guides you.”
After some time, when Bali was sitting on his throne and all his ministers and Guru Shukracharya were in their respective asanas (seats), the dwarf Brahmachari appeared in Bali’s presence. The ministers and Guru Shukracharya were so overwhelmed by Brahmachari’s divine presence that they all stood up to welcome the young Brahmin boy, who arrived in the assembly hall with a bewitching smile.
King Bali immediately recognised Brahmachari as Lord Vishnu and asked, “What brings you here son?” “O respected King, I am a young Brahmin student with no place to live. I need a place to construct a little hut, where I can continue my studies unobstructed. I need very little land, only as much land as I can cover with my little feet in three steps so that I can build my own place.”
“Ask me for more, young man. l am king of three worlds. Three steps of land mean nothing to me.” “Thank you for your generosity, but the little piece of land that I have asked for would be more than enough to me,” Brahmachari said. “Please just make the samkalpa (ritual signifying intention) and allow me to measure three footsteps from your vast kingdom.”