tava kara-kamala-vare nakham adbhuta-śṛṅgaṁ
keśava dhṛta-narahari-rūpa jaya jagadīśa hare
Translation: “O my lord Nrisimhadeva, Your hands are very beautiful, like the lotus flower, but with Your longs nails You have ripped apart the wasp Hiraṇyakaśipu. Unto You, Lord of the Universe, I offer my humble obeisances.”
(Prayers to Lord Nrisimha from Dasavatara by Sri Jayadeva Gosvami)
The fourth incarnation of Lord Krishna is Lord Nrisimhadeva.
All glories to Lord Nrisimhadeva the half man-half lion incarnation of Lord Krishna. He appeared to save the great saint Prahlada Maharaja from his demonic father Hiranyakasipu.
Lord Nrisimhadeva’s Appearance Pastime
Hiraṇyakaśipu was a powerful demon who was made the king of Asuras because of his prowess and his love of enjoyment. He left his kingdom and went to the mountain known as Mandarācala to execute severe austerities so that he may get power to kill the demigods. Hiraṇyakaśipu’s wife, Kayādhu, was pregnant at that time, and the demigods, mistakenly thinking that she carried another demon in her womb, arrested her. Their plan was that as soon as the child took birth, they would kill him. While they were taking Kayādhu to the heavenly planets, they met Nārada Muni, who stopped them from taking her away and took her to his āśrama until Hiraṇyakaśipu’s return.
In Nārada Muni’s āśrama, Kayādhu prayed for the protection of the baby in her womb, and Nārada Muni reassured her and gave her instructions on spiritual knowledge. Taking advantage of those instructions, Prahlāda Mahārāja, although a small baby within the womb, listened very carefully. The spirit soul is always apart from the material body. There is no change in the spiritual form of the living entity. Any person above the bodily conception of life is pure and can receive transcendental knowledge. This transcendental knowledge is devotional service, and Prahlāda Mahārāja, while living in the womb of his mother, received instructions in devotional service from Nārada Muni. Any person engaged in the service of the Lord through the instructions of a bona fide spiritual master is immediately liberated, and being free from the clutches of māyā, he is relieved of all ignorance and material desires.
Hiraṇyakaśipu’s spiritual master, Śukrācārya, had two sons named Ṣaṇḍa and Amarka, to whom Prahlāda Mahārāja was entrusted for education. Although the teachers tried to educate the boy Prahlāda in politics, economics and other material activities, he did not care for their instructions. Instead, he continued to be a pure devotee.
Once upon a time, Hiraṇyakaśipu inquired from his son what the best thing was that he had learned from his teachers. Prahlāda Mahārāja replied that a man engrossed in the material consciousness of duality, thinking, “This is mine, and that belongs to my enemy,” should give up his householder life and go to the forest to worship the Supreme Lord. When Hiraṇyakaśipu heard from his son about devotional service, he decided that this small boy had been polluted by some friend in school. Thus, he advised the teachers to take care of the boy so that he would not become a Kṛṣṇa conscious devotee. However, when the teachers inquired from Prahlāda Mahārāja why he was going against their teachings, Prahlāda Mahārāja taught the teachers that the mentality of ownership is false and that he was therefore trying to become an unalloyed devotee of Lord Viṣṇu. The teachers, being very angry at this answer, chastised and threatened the boy with many fearful conditions. They taught him to the best of their ability and then brought him before his father.
Hiraṇyakaśipu affectionately took his son Prahlāda on his lap and then inquired from him what the best thing was that he had learned from his teachers. As usual, Prahlāda Mahārāja began praising the nine processes of devotional service, such as śravaṇam and kīrtanam. Thus, the King of the demons, Hiraṇyakaśipu, being extremely angry, chastised the teachers, Ṣaṇḍa and Amarka, for having wrongly trained Prahlāda Mahārāja. The so-called teachers informed the King that Prahlāda Mahārāja was automatically a devotee and did not listen to their instructions. When they proved themselves innocent, Hiraṇyakaśipu inquired from Prahlāda where he had learned viṣṇu-bhakti. Prahlāda Mahārāja replied that those who are attached to family life do not develop Kṛṣṇa consciousness, either personally or collectively. Instead, they suffer repeated birth and death in this material world and continue simply chewing the chewed. Prahlāda explained that the duty of every man is to take shelter of a pure devotee and thus become eligible to understand Kṛṣṇa consciousness.
Enraged at this answer, Hiraṇyakaśipu threw Prahlāda Mahārāja from his lap and asked his assistants to kill him.
The assistants of Hiraṇyakaśipu struck Prahlāda with sharp weapons, threw him under the feet of elephants, subjected him to hellish conditions, threw him from the peak of a mountain and tried to kill him in thousands of other ways, but they were unsuccessful. Hiraṇyakaśipu therefore became increasingly afraid of his son Prahlāda Mahārāja and arrested him. The sons of Hiraṇyakaśipu’s spiritual master, Śukrācārya, began teaching Prahlāda in their own way, but Prahlāda Mahārāja did not accept their instructions. While the teachers were absent from the classroom, Prahlāda Mahārāja began to preach Kṛṣṇa consciousness in the school, and by his instructions all his class friends, the sons of the demons, became devotees like him. After hearing this, Hiraṇyakaśipu decided to kill his son Prahlāda.
Hiraṇyakaśipu, as a typical demon, began to advertise himself as being greater than the Supreme Personality of Godhead, but Prahlāda Mahārāja challenged him, saying that Hiraṇyakaśipu was not God, and began to glorify the Supreme Personality of Godhead, declaring that the Lord is all-pervading, that everything is under Him, and that no one is equal to or greater than Him. Thus, he requested his father to be submissive to the omnipotent Supreme Lord.
Hiraṇyakaśipu asked his Vaiṣṇava son whether his God existed within the columns of the palace, and Prahlāda Mahārāja immediately accepted that since the Lord is present everywhere, He was also present within the columns. When Hiraṇyakaśipu heard this philosophy from his young son, he derided the boy’s statement as just the talk of a child and forcefully struck the pillar with his fist.
As soon as Hiraṇyakaśipu struck the column, there issued forth a tumultuous sound. At first, Hiraṇyakaśipu, the King of the demons, could not see anything but the pillar, but to substantiate Prahlāda’s statements, the Lord came out of the pillar in His wonderful incarnation as Narasiṁha, half lion and half man. Hiraṇyakaśipu could immediately understand that the extraordinarily wonderful form of the Lord was surely meant for his death, and thus he was prepared to fight with the form of half lion and half man.
The Lord performed His pastimes by fighting with the demon for some time, and in the evening, on the border between day and night, the Lord captured the demon, threw him on His lap, and killed him by piercing his abdomen with His nails. The Lord not only killed Hiraṇyakaśipu, the King of the demons, but also killed many of his followers. When there was no one else to fight, the Lord, roaring with anger, sat down on Hiraṇyakaśipu’s throne.
The entire universe was thus relieved of the rule of Hiraṇyakaśipu, and everyone was jubilant in transcendental bliss. After Hiraṇyakaśipu was killed, the Lord continued to be very angry, and the demigods, headed by Lord Brahmā, could not pacify Him. Even mother Lakṣmī, the goddess of fortune, the constant companion of Nārāyaṇa, could not dare come before Lord Nṛsiṁhadeva. Then Lord Brahmā asked Prahlāda Mahārāja to go forward and pacify the Lord’s anger.
Prahlāda Mahārāja, being confident of the affection of his master, Lord Nṛsiṁhadeva, was not afraid at all. He very gravely appeared before the Lord’s lotus feet and offered Him respectful obeisances. Lord Nṛsiṁhadeva, being very much affectionate toward Prahlāda Mahārāja, put His hand on Prahlāda’s head, and because of being personally touched by the Lord, Prahlāda Mahārāja immediately achieved brahma-jñāna, spiritual knowledge. Thus, he offered his prayers to the Lord in full spiritual knowledge and full devotional ecstasy.
Lord Nṛsiṁhadeva was pacified by Prahlāda Mahārāja’s prayers and wanted to give him benedictions by which Prahlāda could procure all kinds of material facilities. Prahlāda Mahārāja said: “If anyone engaged in the devotional service of the Lord prays for personal sense gratification, he cannot be called a pure devotee or even a devotee. He may be called only a merchant engaged in the business of give and take. Similarly, a master who wants to please his servant after taking service from him is also not a real master.” Prahlāda Mahārāja, therefore, did not ask anything from the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Rather, he said that if the Lord wanted to give him a benediction, he wanted the Lord to assure him that he would never be induced to take any benedictions for the sake of material desires. Exchanges of devotional service for lusty desires are always very prominent. As soon as lusty desires awaken, one’s senses, mind, life, soul, religious principles, patience, intelligence, shyness, beauty, strength, memory and truthfulness are all vanquished. One can render unalloyed devotional service only when there are no material desires in one’s mind.
The Supreme Personality of Godhead was greatly pleased with Prahlāda Mahārāja for his unalloyed devotion, yet the Lord provided him one material benediction — that he would be perfectly happy in this world and live his next life in Vaikuṇṭha. The Lord gave him the benediction that he would be the king of this material world until the end of the manvantara millennium and that although in this material world, he would have the facility to hear the glories of the Lord and depend fully on the Lord, performing service to Him in uncontaminated bhakti-yoga. The Lord advised Prahlāda to perform sacrifices through bhakti-yoga, for this is the duty of a king.
The Lord keeps the words of His pure devotees
When Lord Brahmā agreed to give him benedictions, Hiranyakashipu prayed not be killed by any living entity, not to be killed in any place, covered or uncovered, not to die in the daytime or at night, not to be killed by any weapon, on land or in the air, and not to be killed by any human being, animal, demigod or any other entity, living or nonliving. He further prayed for supremacy over the entire universe and requested the eight yogic perfections, such as aṇimā and laghimā.
Lord Nrisimha destroyed Hiranyakashipu without violating the boons granted by Lord Brahma, who had blessed Hiranyakashipu to not be killed:
- inside or outside any residence (the Lord killed him in the doorway)
- during the day or night (the Lord killed him at twilight)
- on the ground or in the sky (the Lord killed him on His own lap)
- by any human being or animal (Lord Nrisimha is half man, half lion)
- by any demigod, demon, or great snake (the Lord is beyond any of these categories)
- by any weapon or any entity, living or nonliving (Lord Nrisimha pierced the daitya with his nails, which are not considered weapons and are neither living nor dead.
Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Srimad-Bhagavatam 7.5.22-34. Los Angeles, May 27, 1972.
“So, in this way Prahlada Maharaja talked with his father, and the father became angrier. Instead of taking the lesson … Murkhaya upadesa hi prakopaya na santaye. If you teach lesson to a foolish person, he’ll be simply angry. He’ll not take your lesson. How it is so? Payah-panam bhujanganam kevalam visha-vardhanam. If you keep a snake and if you want to make friendly behavior with him, that, “My dear snake, don’t bite any more. I’ll give you milk and banana. You eat here and stay here nicely,” he’ll not… His poison will increase, and one day he will… There is a story in the Hitopadesa: one day, one… The same thing. So payah-panam bhujanganam kevalam visha-vardhanam. So, these are lessons, stories. So, his father, Hiranyakasipu, became more and more angry. So, one day… Because after all, son and father… The son was simple boy. So, one day he said, “Prahlada, I shall now kill you. I shall see how your Krishna saves you.” So immediately, Prahlada was seeing to the pillars of the hall. He was king. So Hiranyakasipu asked him, “Is your God, Krishna, in the pillar?” He said, “Yes, sir. Yes, my father, He is there.” So immediately, with anger he broke the pillar and Nrisimhadeva came out.
Now we can honour Him.”
Srila Rupa Goswami mentions some of the benefits of worshipping a Nrsimha shaligram sila in his book, Padyavali:
“A tulasi leaf offered to the lotus feet of the Nrisimha shaligram sila destroys the sin of murder. Water that has washed the lotus feet of the Nrisimha shalagram sila destroys the sin of theft. Foodstuff offered to the Nrisimha shaligram sila destroys the sin of drinking liquor. Sincere surrender to the Nrisimha shaligram sila destroys the sin of adultery with the wife of the spiritual master. Association with the devotees of the Nrisimha shaligram sila destroys the sin of offenses to the devotees. This is the extraordinary glory of the Nrisimha shaligram sila.”
(Srila Rupa Goswami: Padyavali, Verse 116)
Observing Nrisimha Chaturdashi
Nrisimha-chaturdasi is the divine appearance day of Nrisimhadeva, who removes all obstacles on the path of devotional service out of His great compassion.
Narasimhadeva appeared at dusk on the Shukla Chaturdashi (fourteenth day of the bright fortnight) in the month of Vaishakha (May). Devotees fast till dusk on this day.
In the purport of 7.8.51 of Srimad-bhagavatam, Srila Prabhupada writes,
“The Supreme Personality of Godhead in His transcendental form of Lord Nrisimhadeva is always ready to kill the demons who always create disturbances in the minds of honest devotees. To spread the Krishna Consciousness movement, devotees have to face many dangers and impediments all over the world, but a faithful servant who preaches with great devotion to the lord must know that lord Nrisimhadeva is always his protector.”
What should we pray to Lord Nrisimhadeva?
Even though Lord Nrisimha is terrifying toward the sinful souls, He offers great auspiciousness unto the devotees of Lord Krishna headed by Prahlada Maharaja.
Lord Nrisimhadeva is therefore worshipped by the devotees as their Supreme protector and they also pray that He vanquishes all obstacles they may face on the path of devotional service. So it is with much enthusiasm that the devotees come together to worship the Lord on this day of His appearance in the material world.
Anyone can offer prayers to Lord Narasimha on this occasion of Narasimha Chaturdashi. The reason behind this special worship is to request the Lord to guide all of us during the hard times just as He guided, Prahlada Maharaj.
Vighana-vinashak Nrisimha Bhagavan ki jaya!
Bhakta-shiromani Prahlada Maharaj ki jaya!