Avatar 4: Narasimha

If we recall the last episode, Varaha rescued the Earth and defeated a dreadful asura named Hiranyaksha. Well, he had a brother named Hiranyakshipu who was none too pleased to hear of his dear twin’s demise at the hands of Lord Vishnu. In fact, he was so angry that he developed a powerful hate for Narayana and his devotees. Hiranyakshipu dedicated himself to severe austerities and penances (tapas) to please Lord Brahma. Eventually Brahma appeared to the great asura and offered him a boon. Hiranyakshipu immediately asked for immortality but Brahma explained that it was an impossible wish to grant. The clever asura then asked his boon in a very particular way, rendering him virtually invulnerable.

He asked Brahma that he might not meet death by any of Brahma’s own creations; inside or outside; in daytime or nighttime; on the ground or in the sky; by human, animal or weapon; by god, demigod or great snake. He also asked that he have no rival on the battlefield and for lordship over the three worlds. Lastly, he asked for all the powers gained through yoga and tapas and furthermore that he should never lose those powers. Brahma granted him all this and Hiranyakshipu felt himself to be invincible.

As fate would have it, Hiranyakshipu’s son Prahlada was a great devotee of Vishnu (I will tell his story separately). In his anger, he tried several times to have the boy killed but Narayana always protected his devotee, Prahlada. In a final confrontation between father and son, Hiranyakshipu demanded that his son renounce Narayana and worship him as sovereign of the universe. Prahlada responded that Vishnu alone is Lord of the universe and he is omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent. This further enraged his father, who asked if Vishnu is everywhere, is he also in this pillar? Prahlada responded, “He was, He is and He will be.” In a blaze of fury, Hiranyakshipu shattered the large pillar with a mighty blow with his mace.

What followed was a terrible sound and from the pillar jumped Lord Vishnu, ready to protect young Prahlada. In order to get around the exacting parameters of Hiranyakshipu’s boon, Vishnu came in the form of Narasimha: the body of a man with the head and claws of a lion. In keeping with the boon, at dusk (not day or night) Narasimha (not created by Brahma, nor animal or man) took Hiranyakshipu to the threshold (not in or outside) and placed him on his knees (not earth or sky). Narasimha ended the asura‘s reign by tearing open his stomach with his razor sharp claws (not a weapon as such).

Narasimha’s fury unabated, he destroyed the asura army and killed all of Prahlada’s asura brothers. None of the gods could appease him, not even Shiva. The gods appealed to his consort Lakshmi but even she could not soothe his rage. Finally, Prahlada is presented to Narasimha and the praises and prayers of his beloved devotee calm his anger. Before departing, Narasimha crowned Prahlada as the new king in his father’s place.

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: The Devotion of Prahlada « Sri Satchmo

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