Fourth – Narsimha Avatar – The half man- half lion Incarnation
Lord Vishnu incarnated Narshima Avatar in Sat- Yug to help Prahlad, his ardent devotee. Lord Vishnu, in the form of Boar, had killed Hiranyaksha. Devtas were happy & there was a lot of rejoicing in the heaven, but not for long. Hiranyaksha’s elder brother Hiranyakashipu was very angry with his brothers death and wanted to take revenge. He turned towards other Asuras and ordered them, “Go destroy all good people on earth. Put out their sacrificial fires & kill their cows. While I will perform severe meditation and become the master of all the three worlds – Heaven, earth & our own region.”
He went to Mount Mandarachal and began his meditation. He stood there for years & years. Ant Hill and grasses grew on him but he did not move. So intense was his meditation that the rivers & oceans trembled, earth & her mountains shook, stars & planets moved in panic and the fiery smoke which emerged from his head began to burn everything in its wake. Devtas were so terrified that they went to Brahma ji and prayed, “O lord! Do something before the three worlds of your creation are consumed by this fire.”
Moved by their plight Brahma ji visited Mount Mandarachal and asked Hiranyakashipu to open his eyes. He said, “I am very pleased with your prayers. Ask for a boon. Brahma then sprinkled holy water on Hiranyakashipu and he came back to his normal form. He asked Brahma for immortality.
Brahma ji, however, declined, saying “All living beings must face death Hiranyakashipu. You can, however, choose your death wish.”
Hiranyakashipu then asked for three conditions, as his death wish, “O Brahma, no man or beast, nor devil, nor god shall cause my death by day or by night with steel or stone or wood, indoors or outdoors, on earth or in sky. Grant me undisputed lordship over the world. Brahma said,”May it be so!”
Brahmaji agreed and Hiranyakashipu got his death wishes granted. Thus he became practically immortal and more powerful.
After securing such a boon Hiranyakashipu wasted no time in conquering both earth & heaven. Devtas approached Lord Vishnu for help. Lord Vishnu said,” Devtas have patience, Hiranyakashipu’ s son Prahlad is a devotee of me. When Hiranyakashipu seeks to kill my devotee I will slay him.”
After becoming master of the world Hiranyakashipu proclaimed, “None should ever worship Vishnu because no one is greater than me not even Vishnu!”
While Hiranyakashipu was busy in his meditation, Devtas attacked his city and killed asuras. Many asuras fled for their life. At that time Hiranyakashipu wife Kayaadi was pregnant and she too tried to run to save her and her unborn child’s life but devtas caught her and thought of taking her to Indra’s court. On their way they met Narad ji who felt pity for Kayaadi and told devtas to release her as she is carrying a great Lord Vishnu devotee in her womb.
Devtas left her with Naradji who in return took her to his Ashram and took great care of her. During her remaining pregnancy period Naradji gave her knowledge about Vedas and narrated her stories from Puraan. He also sang glory of Lord Vishnu and as a result of this Prahlad, a great bhakt of Lord Vishnu was born in asura’s family.
Hiranyakashipu’s wife Kayaadi gave birth to Prahlad in the Ashrama of Naradji. Prahlad grew up to be a lovely boy. His father was unaware of the fact that Prahlad was a ardent devotee of Vishnu. Hiranyakashipu, however, wanted his son to be the king of Asuras, strong and ruthless. One day Hiranyakashipu lovingly asked his son, “Dear Son, what do you think is the best thing in life?”
Prahlad replied, “To renounce the world and seek refuge in Vishnu.” Hiranyakashipu was shocked to hear this. He could not tolerate the idea that his son loves sworn enemy of Asuras, Lord Vishnu. He felt that someone was deliberately trying to brainwash his son. To find this out, Hiranyakashipu took his son to Shanku and Amarka, the sons of Shukracharya, for schooling.
In school, guru teacher lovingly asked Prahlad, “Who has taught you about Vishnu?” Prahlad calmly replied, “Vishnu himself.” The teacher was furious. He called for his cane and beat Prahlad mercilessly. Prahlad stayed quiet and completed his education. After his graduation, Prahlad returned to his father. Hiranyakashipu expected his son to behave like an Asura prince.
So he loving asked, “My son, What did you learn in Guru’s Ashrama?” Prahlad replied, “One must take the name of Vishnu.” Infuriated Hiranyakashipu shouted. “Beware! Don’t utter such words again!” Hiranyakashipu instantly called for Shanku and Amarka. They came to his court and asked, “What made you remember us, O Lord?”
Hiranyakashipu shouted, “Do you really teach Prahlad what I don’t like?” Both said, “It’s not our fault, Your Majesty! We tried to teach him but he kept on telling – The essence of all learning lies in Vishnu’s name!”
Hiranyakashipu criticized his son for his actions. Prahlad stood before his father with his hands folded and said, “O father! You have unnecessarily developed enmity against Vishnu. If you wish well of yourself you too should adore him!”
Hiranyakashipu raged in anger and call for his subordinates. Two horrible attendants appeared there and he ordered them, “Take this boy away. Carry him to the peak of the mountain and throw him down from there!” Servants took him out. They tied Prahlad’s body with ropes, carried him to the top of the mountain and threw him down from here. But prahlad rolled down the mountain softly. During his fall he chanted the name of Lord Vishnu and he walked away unhurt.
Hiranyakashipu got angry when he learned about Prahlad. He sentenced him to death by drowning. Prahlad was thrown into the ocean but he was saved as the ocean lifted him over the waves and landed him safely on the shore.
Again, Hiranyakashipu pronounced a severe punishment for Prahlad, “Mix deadly poison in his sweet dish and serve him.” But even poison did no harm to him. The demon grew even more furious. He set poisonous snakes at him but none could hurt him. Snakes entwined his body as if they were ornaments. Some of them raised their hoods over his head and Prahlad looked like Lord Shiva himself.
The demon king sent a mad elephant but the elephant lifted Prahlad in his trunk and placed him on its back. As the demon king failed, his fury increased and he thought of even more rigorous punishments for Prahlad.
The king decided to throw his son into fire and burn him alive with the help of his sister, Holika. Holika was a dare – devil and she had a boon that fire would not hurt her. She was made to sit on a big bonfire on an open ground with Prahlad in her lap. The pyre of wood was lit, and its flame encircled their bodies.
Onlookers held their breath with anxiety, but when the fire extinguished they were amazed to see Prahlad walking out safely chanting Lord Vishnu’s name while Holika was burnt to ashes. TILL TODAY THIS DAY IS OBSERVED AS HOLIKA DAHAN IN THE MONTH OF MARCH – APRIL.
Now Hiranyakashipu thought of various plans to kill Prahlad but none was successful.Next day Hiranyakashipu challenged his son in the open court, “Prahlad! Is my enemy, whom you worship, present anywhere here?” Prahlad replied, “Vishnu is omnipresent. There’s not a single place where he’s not found. You don’t know the power of Lord Vishnu.” Hiranyakashipu’s fury was at its climax. He got an iron pillar heated and asked Prahlad, “Do you think your God Vishnu dwells even in this red-hot iron pillar?”
Prahlad did not hesitate even for a moment but rushed towards the pillar and embraced it. The heated iron did not burn him. Hiranyakashipu got up from his throne in fury and hit the pillar with his mace.
And to his surprise! The pillar cracked with a thundering sound and Vishnu appeared there in the form of Narsimha. One half of his body was of a lion and the other half of a man. He had matted hair on his head, large moustaches on his face and terrible teeth in his mouth. His paws had terrible nails on them.
Hiranyakashipu remembered his first death wish, “To be killed by some one who is neither human nor beast.”
It was also the twilight hour, neither day nor night, the second death wish.
Hiranyakashipu hit Narsimha with his mace but Narsimha brushed it aside swiftly. Narsimha caught hold of Hiranyakashipu and placed him on his thighs. He sat on the threshold of the court-room, and pierced his nails into the body of Hiranyakashipu. The demon was killed on the spot. The place was neither inside nor outside. This was Hiranyakashipu’s third death wish.
Prahlad was heartbroken at his fathers dead but Lord Vishnu assured him that Hiranyakashipu was my door keeper and he has to take three births in order to return to Vaikunth. This was his first birth. Lord Narsimha then coronated Prahlad as the king of asuras in place of Hiranyakashipu. Prahlad became a caring and kind hearted ruler and in his reign every asura gave up their old cruel habits and prosperity prevailed.
In this avatar, Lord Vishnu, saved his devotee, prevented the triumph of evil and established virtue.