Half Man and Half Lion, Narasimha, The fourth incarnation of Vishnu

Half Man and Half Lion, Narasimha, The fourth incarnation of Vishnu
Half Man and Half Lion, Narasimha, The fourth incarnation of Vishnu

Vishnu the savior of the universe took this fourth incarnation of Half Lion and Half Man. Why did he incarnate as Narasimha or Narsingh? The story of Narsingh Avatar.

Hiranyakashyap or Hiranyakashipu

Hiranyaksha and Hiranyakashipu were 2 demon kings. In his 3rd Incarnation as Varaha, Vishnu killed Hiranyaksha. We will discuss it in another post.

Hiranyakashipu or Hiranyakashyap was a pitiless and a cruel demon king. He had a hostile feeling for Vishnu as he killed his brother Hiranyaksha. In his kingdom, no one was allowed to worship Vishnu.

To avenge Vishnu and to be immortal, he performed a penance to Brahma. With his hard penance, Brahma came to him and asked, “What do you wish?”

Hiranyakashipu said, “I want to be immortal”.

As no one can become immortal, Brahma asked him to choose any other wish.

Clever Hiranyakashipu thought for a while and asked his wish.

“I do not die a natural death. No man or Animal could kill me. I could not be killed inside or outside the house. Either day or Night, I could not be killed. No Astra (which you throw on enemy to attack, like “Bow and Arrow”) or Shastra (which you hold in hand while attack, like: Sword) could kill me. I could not be killed on ground or in the sky.”

I do not die a natural death. No man or Animal could kill me. I could not be killed inside or outside the house. Either day or Night, I could not be killed. No Astra (which you throw on enemy to attack, like “Bow and Arrow”) or Shastra (which you hold in hand while attack, like: Sword) could kill me. I could not be killed on ground or in the sky.

– The boon that Hiranyakashyap asked

Brahma had to fulfil his wish.

With the wish granted, Hiranyakashipu became almost immortal. He started his atrocities recklessly and captured the three lokas (Earth, Heaven, and Atmosphere). His cruelty reached its peak. Nobody could kill him because of the boon that he got from Brahma.

The destiny changed its path. Four sons were born of Hiranyakashipu and his wife Kayadhu. Prahalad, Anuhlad, Sahlad and Halad. Prahalad was the eldest son. To the contrary, he was a great devotee of Vishnu.

Prahlad, The great devotee of Vishnu

Prahlad was a great devotee of Vishnu. The devotion of Prahalad to Vishnu was not acceptable to Hiranyakashipu and hence, he ordered his men to kill him. Many ways were tried to kill Prahalad, however, he always remembered lord Vishnu and survived without a scratch.

He tried throwing his from mountain cliff, put him to hungry and ferocious lions. Many ways were tried to kill Prahlad. He was always remembering Vishnu.

Vishnu had to help his devotee everytime. Prahlad not only survived, he came survived without a scratch on his body.

Vishnu could have taken incarnation earlier and killed Hiranyakashipu, however, he waits for the high time. He takes incarnation when the time is ripe.

Holika, Holika Dahan, Why Holika is burnt before the Holi festival?

Holika, the sister of Hiranyakashipu had a blanket with which she can enter a fire without being burnt. To help his brother in killing Prahalad, she sat on a pyre with Prahalad in her lap. She had covered herself with the blanket. Prahalad was continuously remembering lord Vishnu.

The pyre was lit. Suddenly, with a strong wind, the blanket fell on Prahalad. It covered Prahlad and Holika was uncovered. Prahalad was saved. However, Holika got burnt in the fire.

Before the festival of Holi, Holika is burnt as symbol. This is symbol of good winning over the bad. The victory of good over bad. This is celebrated in Holika dahan. Vishnu and devotion of Prahalad towards Vishnu is celebrated. A message is sent to people, that if we keep trust in Vishnu. He will never let you down.

The next day of Holika, the festival of colors, Holi is celebrated in India.

Vishnu incarnated as Narasimha, Half Man and Half Lion

The time was ripe. It was the time for Vishnu to take incarnation to save the universe and to save his devotee Prahlad.

With his sister being killed, Hiranyakashipu got furious. He called Prahalad and asked “Where is your Vishnu? Bring him to me and I will kill him.”

Prahalad said: “My Vishnu is everywhere.”

Pointing towards a pillar in his court, asked Hiranyakashipu “Is he there in this pillar?”

“Yes”, said Prahalad.

“Ask him to come out from the Pillar.” Shouted Hiranyakashipu.

He hit the pillar with his mace breaking it.

With a loud noise there appeared a creature. Half Man and Half Lion. Nara – Man and Singh – Lion. He was Narsingh (Narasimha).

Looking at this creature coming out of the pillar. Hiranyakashipu was terrified.

Narsingh then lifted Hiranyakashipu and took him to the doorway. It was evening time. He kept him on his lap. With his nails he tore his abdomen and killed him.

He was killed by Narasimha, so he did not die a natural death.

He was killed on the doorway – neither inside nor outside of the house.

It was evening – neither day nor night.

Narsingh killed him on his lap – not in sky and not on the ground.

Narsingh tore him with his nails – no weapon used. Neither Astra nor Shastra.

Most important, he was not killed by a man or an animal. It was Narsingh. Half Man and half Lion. Neither a man not an animal.

All the conditions of Hiranyakashipu’s death were fulfilled.

This was the story of the fourth Incarnation of Vishnu.

He did not want to die naturally – He was killed.

He could not be killed inside or outside the house – He was killed on the doorway.

He could not be killed by weapon – He was torn open by nails.

He could not be killed during day or night – He was killed in the evening.

He could not be killed in Sky or on the Earth – He was kept on thighs, in the lap.

He was killed by Narasimha, Half Man and Half Lion – Because no man or animal could have killed him.

– How Narasimha Killed Hiranyakashipu
Narasimha Killing Hiranyakashipu
Narasimha Killing Hiranyakashipu. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

What you get from this post? Narasimha

  • Relevance of Holika Dahan. Story behind Holika dahan.
  • It does not matter how powerful you become. There is an end to everything.

Read more on Incarnations of Vishnu.

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