Bhakta (devotee) Prahlad
Prahlad’s story begins during the time of Sri Vishnu’s fourth avatar (incarnation) Varaha. In order to rescue the earth from the captivity of Hiranyaksha, Sri Vishnu had arrived in the avatar (incarnation) Varaha (boar) form and killed him. Hiranyaksha’s elder brother Hiranyakashipu was very angry about this. He resolved to take revenge of his brother’s death. He went to the Himalayas and began to perform severe penance for many, many years. Sri Brahma was pleased by his penance and asked him for a boon. Hiranyakashipu asked that “May I never be killed neither by any weapon nor any creature made by you, neither in the day nor in the night, and neither on earth nor in the sky”. Sri Brahma agreed to Hiranyakashipu’s boon and gave it to him.
While Hiranyakashipu was away, the gods had attacked his kingdom and killed his nephews. Sri Indra had even abducted his wife, Queen Kayadhu, who was expecting a child. Devarishi Narad stopped Indra on his way back to heaven. Indra declared to Devarishi Narad that Kayadhu was pregnant; he would destroy her unborn baby and so he should release her. Devarishi Narad however, assured Indra that the unborn baby was a supreme devotee of Sri Vishnu and that he should not fear him. Sri Indra was convinced and released Queen Kayadhu, who then began to stay at Devarishi Narad’s hermitage. Addressing the unborn baby, Narad daily used to preach Queen Kayadhu about the devotion one should have for God. This was the way the baby would never forget the preaching it received in the pre-natal stage.
At the appropriate time, Queen Kayadhu gave birth to a son, Prahlad. Prahlad was the youngest among Hiranyakashipu’s four sons. He appeared to be the eldest in virtues. He did not have any desires. He was content like the hermits, truthful and always wished well for everyone. He had full control over his senses, mind and body. He was also completely untouched by the demonic virtues of his father and brothers. Since childhood, he remained submerged in devotion to Sri Vishnu.
The demons even tried to use their illusionary powers on Prahlad but none of their powers could stand before him. Two sages, Shand and Amark produced an ogress, Kritya to kill Prahlad if he didn’t follow their ways, but she killed them instead of killing Prahlad. But Prahlad was kind hearted and prayed to Sri Vishnu and brought them back to life.
Hiranyakashipu tried another way to kill Prahlad. He had a sister, Holika who had a boon that she would not die by fire. King Hiranyakashipu asked her to sit on a bonfire with Prahlad on her lap in the hope that this would kill Prahlad. Prahlad was not at all worried and chanted Sri Vishnu’s name and was not hurt, but Holika was burned to her death. All the measures taken by the demons to kill Prahlad proved to be fruitless.
Because of this, Hiranyakashipu began to feel afraid. Once more, he forcibly sent Prahlad to the hermitage of Shand and Amark. Once there, Prahlad did take the education they offered but had no interest in their teachings. When his teachers used to get engaged in minor activities, Prahlad would assemble his fellow disciples around him and preach to them that, “Brothers, this human incarnation is not meant to be wasted. If we don’t find God in this birth, it would be a great loss. We can achieve the means to find God right in our childhood, for when we grow old, we are caught by the material wealth and nothing can be done in old age. It is very easy to find God. He is present in everyone’s hearts. He is in every living being. Hence, we should not torture any creature. We should concentrate our mind in the God”.
At the age of five years, Prahlad was preaching to the demon boys. The demon boys followed him faithfully. His teachers saw that Prahlad’s teachings were against demonic traditions, Prahlad was sent back to Hiranyakashipu. Hiranyakashipu decided to kill Prahlad with his own hands. He tied Prahlad to a pillar. Hiranyakashipu asked in a loud voice: “O fool, with whose powers you have been humiliating me with? Now, I am going to kill you, call your God to save you.”
Prahlad was unconcerned replied humbly: “Father, don’t be angry. Sri Vishnu is the protector of us all. I am not dishonoring you. One’s own mind is his biggest enemy in the world. Sri Vishnu is everywhere. He is in me, in you, in your sword and is also present in that pillar”.
Little Prahlad could not even finish his words when his angry father hit the pillar with his mace. As soon as the mace touched the pillar, it broke with a thundering sound. Everyone who was present in the court panicked. They saw a creature emerging from the pillar. It had the face of a lion and a human body. Emerging from the broken pillar was the avatar (incarnation) of Sri Vishnu as Narsimha. Narsimha roared angrily. The demon king Hiranyakashipu tried his best to escape from Narsimha. But at last, Narsimha caught hold of him and dragged him towards the threshold. There, he put Hiranyakashipu on thighs and tore his belly with his terrifying nails.
Narsimha did not calm down even after killing Hiranyakashipu. He was still roaring repeatedly. Sri Brahma, Sri Shankar and even Goddess Lakshmi prayed to Sri Narsimha from a distance but no one had the courage to go near him. Finally, Brahma sent Prahlad near Narsimha to calm him down. Fearlessly, Prahlad went near Narsimha and laid himself flat at his feet. Affectionately, the Sri in Narsimha form raised Prahlad and embraced him and said: “O son Prahlad, you had to bear the sufferings for so long. Please forgive me.”
Prahlad felt overwhelmed. The god of the universe was standing before him and was stroking his head in assuring way. Prahlad bowed his head faithfully. Sri Narsimha then asked Prahlad to seek some boon. Prahlad said: “You are my true God. If you wish to grant me a boon, kindly bless me that no desire may arise in my mind for anything.”
Prahlad also prayed to Sri Narsimha for his father, asking him, “O God, my father had always criticized you. Please free him from the sins he has committed.” Sri Narsimha replied saying, “Prahlad, your father has now become holy.” Sri Narsimha promised Prahlad that he would never kill anyof his descendents. Sri Narsimha then escorted Prahlad to the throne of his father and made him sit on it, instructing him to follow good conduct and do his duties. Saying those words Sri Narsimha disappeared.