Indian New Year is also known as Bali Pratipada, named after King Bali. On this day, people tell stories about how the holiday got its name. The version my family tells goes like this:
Long ago, King Bali was holding a yajna, a ritual with a sacred fire. During this yajna, he gave many gifts to the Brahmin priests and to the honored guests who were in attendance. One of the guests was Lord Vishnu, who was disguised as a young Brahmin named Vamana and who wished to test King Bali. While King Bali was very generous, he was also prideful in giving gifts.
When it was Vamana’s turn to receive a gift, he asked King Bali for a piece of land the size of three of his own footsteps. Shukracharya, who was King Bali's advisor, recognized that this request was a test, and urged Bali to refuse the young Brahmin’s request. Against his advisor’s wishes, Bali agreed to give Vamana the tract of land.
Once the king had agreed to this gift, Vamana started growing and expanding. His form became so tall that he occupied the entire universe. He placed one foot on earth and another foot on the many galaxies, claiming both as part of his gift from King Bali. He then asked King Bali where he should place his third footstep.
King Bali recognized that Vamana was, in fact, Lord Vishnu himself. The king knelt before Vamana with great reverence and asked Vamana to place the third footstep on his head. The pride that had previously colored the king’s offerings of gifts during the yajna melted away as he stood before this avatar of the Lord.
Pleased by King Bali’s gesture, Lord Vishnu awarded King Bali dominion over a vast underground paradise known as Patal Loka. Vishnu also granted the king the boon that he could return to earth for one day a year, the first day of the lunar month of Kartik, to be with his people and share his newfound wisdom. This annual return of King Bali to earth is celebrated as Bali Pratipada.