“The demons [Rakshasas], the servants of Hiranyakashipu, thus began striking the tender parts of Prahlada Maharaja’s body with their tridents. The demons all had fearful faces, sharp teeth and reddish, coppery beards and hair, and they appeared extremely threatening. Making a tumultuous sound, shouting, ‘Chop him up! Pierce him!’ they began striking Prahlada Maharaja, who sat silently, meditating upon the Supreme Personality of Godhead.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7.5.39-40)
नैरृतास् ते समादिष्टा
भर्त्रा वै शूल-पाणयः
नदन्तो भैरवं नादं
छिन्धि भिन्धीति वादिनः
आसीनं चाहनञ् शूलैः
nairṛtās te samādiṣṭā
bhartrā vai śūla-pāṇayaḥ
nadanto bhairavaṁ nādaṁ
chindhi bhindhīti vādinaḥ
āsīnaṁ cāhanañ śūlaiḥ
It was not enough that the orders for attack went out. Hiranyakashipu considered the son Prahlada to be an enemy. The child, though only five years of age, had made his allegiance clear. He was on the side of the suras, the demigods. Their leader is Vishnu, who is also known as the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Vishnu as a concept is the detail behind the abstract. Every rational and mature person has some idea of God. Even in the sense of strict denial of the existence, they at least know that which they are denying to exist. Some see Him as an old man residing above the clouds, looking down disapprovingly at the sinful population on earth.
Others understand Him as an energy that pervades the entire space. Heat, light, electricity, magnetism – these are energies of a similar potency found within nature that no one can produce from nothing. No one can point out the origin. This gives way to understanding the Almighty.
Prahlada understood the personal side to this amazing force. Vishnu the person resides in the spiritual land of Vaikuntha. This place, as the name suggests, is free of anxieties. The residents are at peace since they get to associate with Vishnu in their preferred mood of exchange. There is no hankering for wealth, beauty and fame. There is no lamentation at lacking any of those features. The lone desire is to please God the person, and for this there is ample opportunity.
The mood of Vaikuntha descended to the great devotee named Prahlada. The son of a Daitya king was as worry-free as the residents of Vishnu’s spiritual abode. He could not be made to turn his back on the preference since birth, despite the threatening nature of the father’s attendants.
1. Fearful faces
The Daityas were a demon clan. Both in terms of a race and also inherent qualities, they were a menace to society. They created their own community of cheaters, cheated and those driven by the senses. Hiranyakashipu was their leader, and so the people working for him were similar in nature.
One kind of demon is known as Rakshasa. This is like a man-eating ogre. They get an appropriate visage to complement the behavior. In other words, their faces are fearful. This is what Prahlada saw prior to the attacks. The combatants were not suggesting any leniency or kindness.
2. Sharp teeth
As a Rakshasa is a man-eater, they need appropriate teeth in order to enjoy their preferred delicacy. The servants showed their sharp teeth, indicating a willingness to kill. There would be no mercy in these attacks. The people employed by the king were made for this kind of work.
3. Reddish, coppery beards and hair
It is only natural that a person with a beard is considered more threatening, especially if they are of evil intent to begin with. Remove the facial hair and a person automatically looks less menacing. The long hair also indicates a lack of cleanliness. These Rakshasas had the look to accompany the nature.
The specific targets were the tender parts of Prahlada’s body. Hit the child where it would hurt the most. His response was to sit quietly and meditate. The dichotomy was striking. Sharp, powerful weapons and soft, delicate parts of the body. The side of Vishnu won the encounter, as Prahlada was not harmed.
Attackers coming at him,
Rakshasas of visages grim.
Reddish beards and hair,
With evil-intent to scare.
But Prahlada just quietly sitting,
Despite his soft body hitting.
Not harmed from strike,
In peace to Vaikuntha alike.