Sanskrit Wisdom

Story of Narasimha Avatar

Learn the story of Narasimha Avatar, the incarnation of Vishnu who killed the Asura king Hiranyakashyap to save his devotee Prahlada .

Story of Narasimha Avatar

The History / Story of Narasimha Avatar

The Fourth avatar that Bhagwan Vishnu took was that of the Narasimha in the first Yuga i.e., the Satya Yuga.  The name Narasimha is made up of two parts, Nara which means man and Simha which means lion.

So, from the name, you can figure out, that this avatar is half man and half lion. There was a specific reason for Bhagwan Vishnu to incarnate in this form, which will become clear in the story below.

Who is Hiranyakashyap?

Hiranyakashyap also known as Hiranyakashipu was an asura and brother of the asura king Hiranyaksha.

Hiranyaksha was killed by the Varaha (Boar) avatar of Bhagwan Vishnu when he had tried to take over control of earth. This had angered Hiranyakashyap very much and had vowed to kill Bhagwan Vishnu.

As Hiranyakashyap lacked the power to defeat Bhagwan Vishnu he meditated in the name of Bhagwan Brahma (one of the three holy trinity) to gain the powers he needed.

After many years of meditation by Hiranyakashyap, Bhagwan Brahma was pleased with his austerities. He appeared before Hiranyakashyap and asked him for a boon. Seeing that Bhagwan Brahma was pleased with him, his joy knew no bounds.

He asked that, he should not be killed in the following conditions 1. By an animal or a human, 2. By any weapon, 3. During the Day or Night, 4, Neither inside nor outside any dwelling, and lastly 5. neither in the sky nor on Earth.

Bhagwan Brahma said tathastu (So be it).

Birth of Prahlada

After getting the boon from Bhagwan Brahma, Hiranyakashyap started challenging the Devas (Gods) in battle. He had to fight many battles with the Devas.

During this time, Kayadu the wife of Hiranyakashyap who was pregnant, decided to move to a peaceful place to give birth to her child. She decided to take refuge in sage Narada’s Hermit.

Here, every day, prayers and hymns were sung in the name of Bhagwan Vishnu. This got imbibed in the unborn child of Hiranyakashyap.

After some time, queen Kayadu gave birth to a boy. He was named Prahlada.

The Great Devotee Prahlada

After returning from battle with the Devas, Hiranyakashyap got the news that he had become a father of a baby boy. Hiranyakashyap was happy to hear that and decided to bring his wife and son back to his palace.

While Prahlada was growing up, Hiranyakashyap had defeated the Devas many times. He considered himself to be the greatest and wanted everyone to worship him. Most of them, worshipped Hiranyakashyap due to fear of dying.

However, his own son Prahlada did not worship him and was a staunch devotee of Bhagwan Vishnu. Whatever Hiranyakashyap did, he could not convince Prahlada to stop worshipping Bhagwan Vishnu.

One day to frighten Prahlada, Hiranyakashyap told him, that he will throw him off the cliff if he did not stop chanting Bhagwan Vishnu’s name. This did not deter young Prahlada. He continued his chanting. Angry and Irritated, Hiranyakashyap asked his soldiers to throw his son off the cliff.

The soldiers did as they were instructed. But to everyone’s astonishment, young Prahlada was safe and sound even after being thrown from such a height. Bhagwan Vishnu had saved Prahlada’s life.

Death of Holika

After various attempts to kill Prahlada for not obeying his diktats, Hiranyakashyap decided to take the help of his sister Holika. Gods had given her the power of not getting harmed by fire to help others in need.

Hiranyakashyap asked Holika to take Prahlada in her lap and told his men to burn them with the intent of killing Prahlada. Prahlada started chanting Bhagwan Vishnu’s name from the moment he sat on Holika’s lap.

Hiranyakashyap waited for Prahlada to die and Holika to come out of the fire unscathed. However, when the fire subsided, to his astonishment, the opposite had happened. Prahlada was unharmed and was seen chanting the name of Bhagwan Vishnu. Holika had died as she intended to harm someone and not use her powers to help.

Incarnation of Bhagwan Narasimha

Hiranyakashyap was devasted by his sister’s death. He became furious and started cursing Bhagwan Vishnu. He asked Prahlada “where is your Vishnu, whose name you keep on chanting?” Prahlada replied, He is everywhere.

Hiranyakashyap was infuriated by this answer and asked “Is he in this pillar?” pointing towards it. Prahlada replied “Yes, the way he is everywhere, he is also in the Pillar”.

Hiranyakashyap in a fit of anger picked up his mace and smashed it against the pillar with the intent of destroying it.

The moment the pillar was destroyed, Bhagwan Narasimha appeared in front of Hiranyakashyap, picked him up and kept him on his thigh while being in a kneeling position. The place where Bhagwan Narasimha picked up Hiranyakashyap was right at the threshold of the palace door and was during twilight.

Then, using his finger nails (claws) he tore Hiranyakashyap’s stomach. This killed Hiranyakashyap. Even though Hiranyakashyap had the boon that was given by Bhagwan Brahma.

All of this was possible as Bhagwan Narasimha was neither a man nor an animal, the time when Hiranyakashyap’s stomach was torn was twilight, neither day nor night. He was killed at the threshold of the palace door i.e., neither inside nor outside. He was killed using claws which is not a conventional weapon. Lastly, Hiranyakashyap was killed on Bhagwan Narasimha’s thigh which is neither on earth nor in the sky.

This was how the world was rid of Hiranyakashyap’s terror by Bhagwan Narasimha. Later, when Bhagwan Narasimha was placated by his devotee Prahlada, he calmed down and made Prahlada the king. Prahlada ruled his kingdom in all fairness for a long time to come.

This is the story of Bhagwan Narasimha and his devotee Prahlada. Hope you liked reading it. Please do share your comments.

Itihasa

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