Narasimha, The Most Fearsome Avatar of Bhagwan Vishnu
In Narasimha Avatar, Bhagwan Vishnu incarnates himself as a semi-man,semi-lion in this world. This is the most fearsome avatar of Bhagwan ever known to mankind. Bhagwan Vishnu had to take this threatening avatar as the situation of that time was totally different.
Bhagwan respects his Bhakts, Demigods and their bhakti and take avatars to fulfill their wishes.
While the Bhagwan’s incarnation was to create fear in Asuras, the Bhagwan also wanted to provoke fear in the Devas which is not so obvious when sage Narada expounded on Narasimha Avatar. The Bhagwan later vanquished the fear in the Devas as well. He didn’t reveal it to anyone. Sage Narada learnt from his father Brahma that the Bhagwan incarnated as Narasimha to create fear in the Devas and also destroy it later when he expounded on Srimad Bhagavatam to Sage Narada which is described below the in the form of shloka and description.
In his previous avatar as Varaha, Bhagwan Vishnu killed the Rakshas (Asur) Hiranyaksha. The brother of Hiranyaksha, Hiranyakashipu, wanted revenge on Vishnu and his followers. He undertook many years of austere penance to take revenge on Vishnu. Brahma thus offers the demon a boon and Hiranyakashipu asks for immortality.
Brahma tells him this is not possible, but that he could bind the death of Hiranyakashipu with conditions. Hiranyakashipu agreed:
“O my Bhagwan, O best of the givers of benediction, if you will kindly grant me the benediction I desire, please let me not meet death from any of the living entities created by you. Grant me that I not die within any residence or outside any residence, during the daytime or at night, nor on the ground or in the sky. Grant me that my death not be brought about by any weapon, nor by any human being or animal. Grant me that I not meet death from any entity, living or nonliving created by you. Grant me, further, that I not be killed by any demigod or demon or by any great snake from the lower planets. Since no one can kill you in the battlefield, you have no competitor. Therefore, grant me the benediction that I too may have no rival. Give me sole authority (like Bhagwan) over all the living entities and presiding deities, and give me all the glories obtained by that position. Furthermore, give me all the mystic powers attained by long austerities and the practice of yoga, for these cannot be lost at any time.”
Brahma said, “Tatha asthu” and vanished. Hiranyakashipu was happy thinking that he had won over death.
The Birth of Divine Soul Prahlad
One day while Hiranyakashipu performed austerities at Mandaracala Mountain, his home was attacked by Indra and the other devatas. At this point the divine sage Narad intervenes to protect Kayadu, whom he describes as ‘sinless’. Following this event, Narad takes Kayadu into his care and while under the guidance of Narad, her unborn child (Hiranyakashipu’s son) Prahlad, becomes affected by the transcendental instructions of the sage even at such a young stage of development. Thus, Prahlad later begins to show symptoms of this earlier training by Narad, gradually becoming recognised as a devoted follower of Vishnu, much to his father’s disappointment.
Unsuccessful Attempt to Kill Vishnu Bhakt Prahlad
Once Holika, sister of Hiranyakashipu, tried to kill Prahlad because he was worshipping the enemy of Daitya-Kul, so she sat on fire taking Prahalad on her lap. She was granted a boon from Bhagwan Shiv that she would remain unaffected by Agni(fire). But by the grace of the supreme personality of Godhead,Bhagwan Vishnu she burnt into ashes while Prahlad remain unaffected.
Hiranyakashipu furious at the devotion of his son to Vishnu, as the god had killed his sister. Finally, he decides to commit filicide but each time he attempts to kill the boy, Prahlad is protected by Bhagwan Vishnu’s maya.
When asked, Prahlad refuses to acknowledge his father as the supreme Bhagwan of the universe and praises that Hari is all-pervading and omnipresent. Hiranyakashipu points to a nearby pillar and asks if ‘his Narayan’ is in it:
“O most unfortunate Prahlad, you have always described a supreme being other than me, a supreme being who is above everything, who is the controller of everyone, and who is all-pervading. But where is He? If He is everywhere, then why is He not present before me in this pillar?”
Prahlad then answers, He was, He is and He will be, he is present everywhere, in every being, in me and in you as well. Hiranyakashipu, unable to control his anger, smashes the pillar with his mace, and following a tumultuous sound, Vishnu in the form of Narasimha appears from it and moves to attack Hiranyakashipu. in defence of Prahlad.
In order to kill Hiranyakashipu and not exclude the boon given by Brahma, the form of Narasimha is chosen. Though Bhagwan Narayan could have killed him the other way but to keep the boon of the demi-gods respectful he acquire that avatar. Narasimha is neither one of these as he is a form of Vishnu incarnate as a part-human, part-lion. He comes upon Hiranyakashipu at twilight (when it is neither day nor night) on the threshold of a courtyard (neither indoors nor out), and puts the demon on his thighs (neither earth nor space). Using his sharp fingernails (neither animate nor inanimate) as weapons, he disembowels and kills the demon.
Description in Shloka Narasimha Avatar
trai-vishTaporu-bhayaha sa nrsimha-rUpam
daityendram Asu gadayAbhipatantam ArAd
Urau nipAtya vidadAra nakhaih sphurantam (Srimad Bhagavatham 2.7.14)
“The Bhagwan’s anger is depicted in the eyebrows which is clearly evident in the exposition of the Virat Purusha of the Bhagwan, akin to how Surya and Chandra are verily the eyes and mind of the Bhagwan, the DigDevathas are the Bhagwan’s ears, the Ashwini Kumaras are the Bhagwan’s nose and the eyebrows represent the Bhagwan’s anger. The Bhagwan tweezed his eyebrows to show his anger and so he purposely took the face of a lion, since the face of a lion depicted his anger perfectly.
When Brahma expounded on Narasimha Avatar, the incarnation happened on the fourteenth day, Narasimha Chaturdashi and hence it is the Bhagwan’s fourteenth incarnation. Pradosha kalam is when Thrayodashi happens in the evening and Chaturdashi and during the Pradosha Kala is when the Bhagwan’s incarnation as Nrisimha happened. The Bhagwan was waiting for a moment to crush Hiranyakashipu and slayed him very quickly. Bhagwan Brahama compares this to Varaha avatar, where the Bhagwan did not kill Hiranyaksha very quickly. The Bhagwan carried his club [Gada] with him and hit Hiranyakashipu with it and then placed him on his laps and tore him apart with his hand finger nails [karajaha].
Jayadevar beautifully portrays the Bhagwan’s hand as a lotus and fondly admires the nails that grew out of the lotus in his Ashtapadi and says that the Bhagwan cut as under Hiranyakashipu who was akin to a bee- daLitha hiraNyakasipu thanu brungam.
The Bhagwan used his toe nails to let Ganga flow through them in Vamana Avatar – “padanakha neerajanitha jana pAvana”
The Bhagwan was seething in anger and no one was able to quench his anger. Prahlad then went and sat on his lap and started singing praises on the Bhagwan to see if the Bhagwan would calm down but were futile efforts.
When Prahlada sang the glory of his SadGuru the Bhagwan was immediately pleased –
“Yevam janam nipathiotham prabhavAhi koOpe,
KAmabhi kAmamanu ya prapathan prasangAth,
KruthwA AthmasAth surarshinA bhagwan gruhEtha,
Soham kadham nu visruje thava bruthya sevAm” (Srimad Bhagavatam 7.9.28)
One should always sing the divine glories of Sadguru in the sanctum sanctorum of the Bhagwan. When in the presence of a Guru, one should sing the glories of the Bhagwan. At that very moment, the Bhagwan’s anger instantly subsided. Prahalda sings the glories of his Guru and he brought out the pitiable state of the people citing him as an example [NaichanusandhAnam]. He degraded himself in bringing out the greatness of something else. Prahlad said that he was in a bottomless pit called Samsara and with the compassion of his Guru, Sage Narada, he was attracted to him. Prahalad extolled the greatness of the Guru and the Bhagwan’s anger was abated immediately.
jnAnam tad etath amalam duravApam Aha nArAyaNa narasakhaha kila nAradAya
ekAntinAm bhagavata tad akincanAnAm pAda aravinda rajasA Apluta dehinAm syAt [Srimad Bhagavatam 7.6.27]
When Prahalada instructed the Asura kids he extolled the glories of Sadguru. He instructed them that it is extremely difficult to get pure and pristine knowledge and dispassion [Vairagyam] and that it was the very advice given to Sage Narada by the Bhagwan himself. Having said that, Prahlada exhorted them to surrender unto the holy feet of a realized soul which is also not very easy and so he says, surrender unto the dust from the holy feet of Mahatmas and cover the entire body with that dust which is sure to bestow one with knowledge and dispassion. The reason being when one is blessed with bhakti, both Jnana and Vairagya follow suit.