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The Story of Lord Narasimha, Prahlada and Hiranyakashipu

Updated: Mar 9, 2023

Lord Vishnu is believed to have taken numerous forms to put an end to wickedness on earth and establish peace and prosperity everywhere. One of Lord Vishnu's avatars, Narasimha, is recognized as his fourth incarnation, wherein he took the form of a creature that was half-man and half-lion to protect his follower Prahalad.

According to legends, during the Satya Yuga, Sage Kashyap and his wife Diti gave birth to two sons, Hiranyaksha and Hiranyakshipu. These siblings were notorious for causing destruction and chaos, and they tormented both humans and devas. Tired of their misdeeds, the gods prayed to Lord Vishnu to find a way to stop them.

In response to the prayers of his devotees, Lord Vishnu transformed into a colossal boar called his Varaha avatar, which was his third incarnation, to kill Hiranyaksha. This evil individual had hidden the earth, represented as Bhudevi, in the depths of the ocean. Eventually, Lord Vishnu's Varaha avatar managed to locate the earth, along with Hiranyaksha, and put an end to their nefarious actions. The battle between Varaha Avatar and Hiranyaksha was fierce, causing a massive impact on the world. Ultimately, the boar was successful in defeating Hiranyaksha with its tusks. The earth was then lifted onto the boar's tusks and restored to its proper place in the universe, thereby bringing balance back to the world.

Although this brought relief to both gods and humans, their happiness was brief because Hiranyaksha's brother, Hiranyakshipu, vowed to avenge his brother's death by wreaking havoc in the world and instilling fear in everyone.

He commanded his asura army to eradicate anything virtuous in the world but was confronted by the powerful devas. Upon discovering that the devas were being aided by Lord Vishnu, he vowed to become the reason for Lord Vishnu's downfall.

To achieve this goal, he retreated deep into the forests and began praying to Lord Brahma for the gift of eternal life. In due course, he abandoned all worldly desires and senses and was fully engrossed in his meditation.

During this time, Lord Indra became aware that the asuras were no longer being led by Hiranyakshipu. He viewed this as an opportune moment to launch an attack on the asuras, knowing that their weakened leadership would make it easier for the devas to win the war. Lord Indra unleashed his full might upon the asuras, resulting in the defeat of the majority of their army.

In the process, he demolished the entire capital city of Hiranyakshipu and decided to proceed towards his palace. It was there that he stumbled upon Hiranyakshipu's wife, Kayadhu, and made the decision to take her captive. Lord Indra intended to use her as leverage in case Hiranyakshipu attempted to retaliate.

At that very moment, Narada Muni arrived and prevented Lord Indra from taking the woman as a captive. Expressing his outrage, Narada Muni questioned Indra's motives for forcefully abducting the woman. Indra explained that he intended to use her as a bargaining chip in the event of Hiranyakshipu's future attacks. However, Narada Muni argued that the woman was an innocent bystander with no involvement in the conflict between the asuras and the devas.

Indra had no choice but to release her, and Narada Muni immediately checked on her well-being. She informed him that she was slightly shaken but otherwise unharmed, adding that she was pregnant and had nowhere else to go. She asked to stay with Narada Muni and serve him as if she were his own daughter.

Narada Muni accepted her request, and she began living with him in his hut. Narada Muni regaled her with tales of Lord Vishnu, which piqued her interest, and she developed a deep attachment to Lord Vishnu. Her unborn child also listened to the stories and went on to become one of the most ardent devotees of Lord Vishnu.

The devas were overwhelmed by the intense heat that emanated from Hiranyakshipu's penance and they brought it to the attention of Lord Brahma. They urged him to listen to Hiranyakshipu's prayers, as they could no longer tolerate the intensity of the heat.

Hiranyakshipu requested a boon from Brahma as a reward for his intense devotion. Initially, he asked for immortality, but Brahma denied this request, explaining that it would disrupt the balance of life. After giving it much thought, Hiranyakshipu finally asked for a boon that would make him invincible. He asked that no being created by Brahma, whether man, god or animal, could kill him. Additionally, he asked for immunity from death during day or night, in heaven or on earth, inside or outside of his house, and by any weapon.

After much contemplation, Lord Brahma eventually decided to grant Hiranyakshipu's boon, which made him ecstatic. He returned to his kingdom and was deeply saddened by the state of affairs. Driven by a desire for vengeance against Indra for causing all the destruction, he single-handedly fought against the devas, defeated them, and banished them from Devaloka. Hiranyakshipu then established himself as the ruler of the heavens.

Hiranyakshipu discovered that his son Prahlad was a devoted follower of Lord Vishnu, unlike himself who was evil and wicked. Prahlad would constantly pray to Lord Vishnu. When Hiranyakshipu heard his son singing the praises of Lord Vishnu, he became angry and punished Prahlad's teacher and put him under surveillance. As time passed, Hiranyakshipu became more enraged at Prahlad's devotion to Lord Vishnu. Eventually, he ordered his guards to kill Prahlad. However, despite their attempts to harm him, Prahlad remained unscathed and the swords of the guards shattered upon striking him.

Hiranyakshipu tried several ways to harm Prahlad, such as having poisonous snakes bite him and releasing mad elephants at him, but none of these methods worked, as Prahlad remained unharmed. He then came up with a plan to burn Prahlad to death by having him sit on his sister Holika's lap, who was immune to fire. However, the plan backfired, as it was Holika who burnt to ashes.

Hiranyakshipu was frustrated and didn't know what to do next. He demanded that Prahlad tell him if his Lord Vishnu was present in the room with them. Prahlad replied that the Lord was everywhere, which only fueled Hiranyakshipu's anger. He then pointed to a nearby pillar and asked if Vishnu was inside it. Prahlad confidently replied in the affirmative, which made Hiranyakshipu furious, causing him to kick the pillar. This caused a half-man, half-lion creature to emerge from the pillar.

The being introduced himself as Narasimha, one of the ten avatars of Vishnu, and declared that he had come to earth to put an end to Hiranyakshipu. With a powerful grip, Narasimha seized Hiranyakshipu and carried him to the threshold of the door, a place that was neither inside nor outside his house. There, he placed Hiranyakshipu on his lap, which was neither the sky nor the earth, and tore him apart with his claws at twilight, without employing any weapons.

When Lord Narasimha killed Hiranyakashipu, all the celestial gods, including Brahma and Shiva, were present. They decided to offer thanks and salutations to Lord Narasimha for killing the dreaded demon. However, they were all scared to approach him because of his majestic appearance and the fact that he was covered in blood and intestines. They asked Brahma to lead the welcome delegation since he was the creator of the universe and the son of Lord Narasimha, but Brahma was also scared. They then turned to Shiva, but he was scared as well. Since even powerful gods like Brahma and Shiva were too afraid to approach Lord Narasimha, other celestial gods like Indra were deemed incapable.

In a similar way to how people may feel uneasy if their parents scold someone, the gods were all scared to approach Lord Narasimha after he had killed Hiranyakashipu. They eventually decided that Prahlada, who the Lord had protected, should lead the delegation to thank him. Children are often fearless and this was true of Prahlada, who walked fearlessly up to the Lord with joined palms to thank him. Lord Narasimha, upon seeing Prahlada, immediately abandoned his anger and embraced him with love and affection. The Lord asked Prahlada to ask for a boon, as he does for everyone who sees him, but Prahlada was no ordinary child.

Narada Ji had bestowed upon Prahlada a comprehensive understanding of the scriptures. Remarkably, even at the young age of four, Prahlada was able to deliver a speech to the children of demons regarding the Vedas and Shastras.

Upon hearing that God desired to grant him a boon, Prahlada was uncertain and perplexed. He questioned himself, "Do I have any remaining desires? Why should I request anything from God? Am I in a position of begging? I am God's servant and He is my master. A true servant does not ask for anything from his master but serves Him faithfully." Prahlada then asked, "My Lord, may I speak?" to which the Lord replied, "Of course, go ahead."

"Dear Lord, a servant who requests things from his master is not a true servant but rather a mere businessperson. The very essence of being a servant is to selflessly serve the Lord. A true servant does not ask for anything but instead acts in service to the master. If a servant wishes to ask for something, he is acting more like a master than a servant since only the master has the authority to make demands. As Your devoted servant, why are You compelling me to ask for a boon?"

In response, God said, "Yes, my dear child, I understand your perspective. I appreciate your thoughts, but please do not lecture me. All of my devotees request something from Me when I appear before them, and so I expect the same from you." Prahlada was puzzled by God's insistence and wondered why He was compelling him to ask for a boon.

"Dear Lord, I am the type of servant who never requests anything from You. Moreover, I acknowledge that You have no need for anything from me. What do I have to offer? A tainted body, mind, and intellect. Conversely, everything You possess is pure and blissful. Therefore, neither do You require anything from me, nor do I have any desires towards You. Despite this, why are You compelling me to ask for something?"

God responded, "I understand your perspective, my dear child. However, you still must ask for something from Me, as everyone else does." Prahlada realized that he had no other choice and reluctantly asked,

Prahlada requested a boon from God, asking that he never again request anything from Him and that his intellect would never generate any desires. Despite being all-powerful, God was forced to concede defeat. God recognized Prahlada as a genuine devotee who was steadfast in his convictions. Meanwhile, Prahlada asked the Lord, "May I speak?" to which God replied, "Yes, go ahead."

The emergence of desires in one's mind leads to the decay of all the virtuous qualities of a person, including the strength of their senses, mind, vitality, and body. They lose their sense of morality, determination, comprehension, good fortune, humility, strength, memory, and commitment to truth.

When a person experiences a desire, they become irrational and may resort to deceit and immoral acts to fulfill it. The perils of creating desires are immense, as it can cause significant harm. Even divine beings such as Indra are not immune to this disease of desire.

The ruler of the world desires to possess the heavenly realms. However, upon obtaining it, he a

spires to obtain the status of Indra, who governs those heavenly realms. Even when he becomes Indra, his desires persist, and he aims to govern the entire universe, extending up to the highest realms. Thus, this insatiable longing for more desires has no end.

God patiently listened to Prahlada, who then asked, "May I speak further?" to which God replied, "Yes, my child, go ahead."

The Vedas affirm that when an individual renounces all their earthly desires, they achieve a divine state.

Relinquishing all material desires is a crucial prerequisite for spiritual growth. Aspiring devotees

must make a firm commitment to abandon all worldly desires to embark on the path of love. The pursuit of worldly desires is the greatest danger for anyone seeking spiritual enlightenment. It is paradoxical that we ask God for mundane objects and pleasures when He is the embodiment of divine happiness. We have wasted countless lifetimes in pursuit of worldly enjoyments and have begged different gods and goddesses for these pleasures. Being under the influence of Maya, the disease of desire cannot be eliminated. Initially, the mind may not be absorbed in God, but with constant practice, the mind can be forcefully detached from the world and attached to God. Spiritual happiness can be experienced over time, and the mind will eventually become absorbed in contemplation of God. This is similar to developing bad habits like smoking or drinking, where the habit becomes ingrained and difficult to quit. Similarly, the mind must be forcefully detached from the world to attach itself to God. Once spiritual ecstasy is experienced, the mind will be wholly absorbed in contemplation of God.

The renunciation of worldly desires is crucial, and redirecting those desires towards God is called bhakti. The mind can be directed either towards worldly objects or God since we are not the body. The ultimate goal of achieving divine happiness can only be attained through God, so it is necessary to replace worldly desires with the desire for God. If this is not done, the disease of desire will continue to multiply, and efforts to eliminate it will be futile.

In summary, it is recommended that we train ourselves to substitute our desires for worldly pleasures with the longing for God, who is the manifestation of divine infinite limitless happiness.

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