This depiction relates to Vishnu in the Vamana incarnation, when he successfully stopped the titan king, Bali from controlling the heavens an earth. Aware of the king's generous nature, Vishnu appeared in a dwarf incarnation begging for alms. The king offered him whatever he wanted; Vishnu asked for as much land as he could cover in three steps. When this was granted, he transformed into a giant and in two steps covered heaven and earth, then stopped for the third step, turning to the king. Realizing he had been outwitted, the king offered his own head for the third step and Vishnu dispatched him to the nether regions.