“Prahlada was developed simply by the mercy of Narada. When Prahlada Maharaj was within the womb of his mother, she was being sympathetically instructed by Narada about the science of devotional service, and at the same time Narada was wishing that the child within the womb could also take advantage of the instructions. Because Narada, an authorized devotee and great associate of the Personality of Godhead, was desiring auspiciousness for Prahlada Maharaj, he developed all the characteristics of a high-grade devotee.” (The Nectar of Devotion, Ch 17)
Such a fine young man. Of good qualities, inside and out. From top to bottom, this is an ideal saint, but not in the typical presentation. Cool, calm, collected, without prejudice, exhibiting model behavior. The parents must be proud.
Ironically, with Prahlada Maharaja, the father was fiercely upset upon witnessing the character in the person who was to succeed him on the throne. Hiranyakashipu’s anger made him lose all intelligence, to the point that he couldn’t understand the Divine until it was staring him in the face in a ghastly form. The occasion of Narasimha Chaturdashi celebrates the day of that meeting.
How can someone mature with so much auspiciousness while facing the greatest inauspiciousness on a daily basis? Externals don’t tell the full tale. Prahlada grew up in a palace. His father was the most feared ruler in the world. It is said that the residents of the heavenly realm, the demigods, would assume disguises in order to hide from Hiranyakashipu.
That king was previously favored by Lord Brahma, the creator. There was immunity against death in so many situations. On land, on sea, in the air, at night, in the daytime, from weapons, from humans, from animals – every condition the boon-seeker could think of was presented in his case. Lord Brahma acted as the judge and agreed to the conditions.
Yet for a devotee of Krishna the atmosphere in the kingdom was inauspicious. This is because the king was a staunch enemy of the Supreme Lord. Not that God necessarily plays favorites. He is inside of every person, witnessing through the expansion known as Supersoul. This means that He resides within both the thief and the priest. He is inside of the worst person we could imagine.
“I envy no one, nor am I partial to anyone. I am equal to all. But whoever renders service unto Me in devotion is a friend, is in Me, and I am also a friend to him.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.29)
Could it get any worse than trying to kill your own son of just five years of age? And multiple times at that, as the boy somehow survived every attempt against his life. This wasn’t a conspiracy, either, like with the Pandava brothers from the Mahabharata. Each attack was conducted out in the open, with Prahlada fully aware of the hostility against him.
How did the atheistic king get such a pious and devoted son? This was a race of demons known as Daityas. They trace their ancestry back to a woman named Diti. Her sister, Aditi, is the person from whom the good guys, the suras, trace their lineage. In other words, it was in Hiranyakashipu’s blood to hate God. Though the Supreme Lord is neutrally disposed, the reaction from the other side can vary. Sometimes people may not like Him.
Prahlada was different in part because of something that occurred prior to birth. While within the womb of his mother, the boy heard instruction on the science of self-realization from the celebrated saint known as Narada. There was a thought amongst some that the birth should not be allowed to take place. Perhaps the son would grow up to follow the father, and thus be a menace to the world.
The instruction of Narada was the secret weapon to undo the king. Prahlada had saintly characteristics right upon exiting the womb, so much so that He is mentioned in the Bhagavad-gita as being the best among the Daityas.
“Among the Daitya demons I am the devoted Prahlada; among subduers I am time; among the beasts I am the lion, and among birds I am Garuda, the feathered carrier of Vishnu.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 10.30)
From the boy’s example we see that auspiciousness can foster, grow and prosper even in the most inauspicious conditions. Prahlada’s devotion was too strong for the father to break. Eventually the Supreme Lord worshiped by the boy emerged from a pillar and killed the king. Those many boons were unable to protect him, as just one percent vulnerability is enough for the undefeated Narasimhadeva to successfully defeat His target.
What to do with boy arriving soon,
Perhaps better to kill in the womb.
Like evil father might become,
Then fate of world sealed and done.
Narada Muni with option of instruction,
So saintly Prahlada his father’s destruction.
Thriving though from inauspicious place,
Devotion protected by Narasimha’s grace.