Among the Dashavatara of Lord Vishnu, the Narasimha is the fiercest one. After killing Hiranyaksha by assuming the form of Varaha Avatar, Vishnu assumed the avatar Narasimha to kill Hiranyaksha’s brother, Hiranyakashipu who was also the father of Prahlad. Prahlad was a great devotee of Lord Vishnu.
Who was Narasimha
Narasimha is a combination of ‘Nara’ and ‘Simha’ which means Man and Lion respectively. He can be seen with Chakra, Mace, and nails. He is a Maharathi which means he can combat 7,20,000 warriors simultaneously. He is a conjunction of man and animal, with man’s body and lion’s face, nails. The fourth avatar was conceived in such a manner that it nullified the boon Lord Brahma had granted to Hiranyakashipu.
Story Behind Narasimha Avtar
Hiranyakashipu was determined on avenging his brother’s death. He went on an austere penance and impressed Brahma. Brahma emerged and offered Hiranyakashipu a boon. Without thinking twice, Hiranyakshipu asked Brahma for immortality. Brahma was put on a spot and he said that he can’t really give him a boon of immortality but can surely bind his death with conditions.
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Brahma Gives Boon to Hiranyakshipu
Hiranyakashipu thus asked Brahma to bless him with certain conditions which are listed under:
- To not be killed by any living entities created by Brahma.
- To not be killed with any residence or outside any residence.
- To not be killed during daytime or night.
- To be killed neither on the ground nor in the sky.
- To be not killed by any weapon, living entity, or non-living.
- To bless him with no rival.
Brahma thus blessed him and vanished. Hiranyakshipu believed that he had won over death.
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Lord Indra Destroys Hiranyakshipu’s Army
Over time, Hiranyakashipu had gathered enemies, and thus one not so very fortunate day, his home was attacked by Indra and other Devtas while he was performing austerities on top of Mandaracala Mountain. Sage Narada intervenes and takes Kayadhu, Hiranyakshipu’s wife away under his care as she was sinless. At that time Kayadhu was expecting. Narada would give transcendental instructions to Kayadhu and this had an impact on the unborn. When the child was born, he came to be known as Prahlad and Prahlad grew a devotee of Lord Vishnu much to his father’s disappointment.
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The failed attempt at killing Prahlad- Holika Dahan
Worshipping the enemy of Daitya-Kul, i.e Vishnu made Prahlad a traitor and thus he invited his death. Holika, Hiranyakashipu’s sister, and Prahlad’s aunt were given a boon by Lord Shiva. The boon let Holika be unaffected by fire(Agni). In order to kill little Prahlad, Holika took him on her lap and sat on a pyre. But things turned out quite unexpectedly and instead of burning Prahlad, the pyre burnt Holika alive and Prahlad remained untouched by the fire.
The killing of Hiranyakashipu
The killing of his sister enraged Hiranyakashipu and he kept getting more furious by the day. He had reached his threshold and after many failed attempts to kill Prahlad, Hiranyakashipu asked Prahlad to worship him instead of worshipping Vishnu.
Lord Vishnu Incarnated as Narasimha Avatar
Prahlad refused to do so and instead told his father that, he would only worship Vishnu, who was the most supreme being and was much above Hiranyakashipu. This infuriated Hiranyakashipu and he asked Prahlad that if Vishnu was the supreme power and was omnipresent, would he present in the pillar that was in front of him. Prahlad said that the Lord was present everywhere, even in Hiranyakashipu.
Hiranyakshipu took his mace and hit hard on the pillar to demolish it. Out emerged from there Lord Vishnu in the avatar of Narasimha which was half-lion, half-man. The lord advanced towards Hiranyakashipu, lifted him and placed him on his thighs, at the courtyard, and ripped his chest apart with his nails. Hiranyakashipu was thus killed by the Lord in order to protect Prahlad, at twilight which was neither day nor night.
Therefore, in killing Hiranyakashipu, the boon was not excluded and he was killed by not a human or an animal or a demi-god but by a half-human, half-animal, without any real weapon as the avatar used his nails and he was killed not on the ground or in the sky but placed on the thigh of the Lord.
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