“My dear King Yudhishthira, when all the attempts of the demons to kill Prahlada Maharaja were futile, the King of the demons, Hiranyakashipu, being most fearful, began contriving other means to kill him.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7.5.42)
प्रयासे ’पहते तस्मिन्
prayāse ’pahate tasmin
No turning back now. The decision was made. The rationale was there, too. This son was siding with the enemy. How bad was the person on the other side, to whom the allegiance was shown? Well, he had killed the father’s brother. The son was essentially aligning with the killer of his uncle.
Prahlada’s was a firm choice. Not something decided out of blind sentiment. This wasn’t the case of a naughty child trying to get a rise out of the parents. When a baby first learns to walk they may discover that stomping with the feet creates a loud sound. The father admonishes the child, understanding that other people live in the building, including in the apartment directly below.
Yet the child continues to stomp. Sometimes they give a quick look after pressing down their foot. They want to see if the mother or father will say anything. It’s a test. There is something described as the “terrible twos,” referencing the tendency to rebel against parental authority starting at around the second year of life.
Prahlada was convinced based on his own introspection. He received the suggestion from Narada Muni while within the womb of his mother. This information transfer had more potency than what would come later with the words of the royal teachers.
Hiranyakashipu could not tolerate his own son siding with the enemy, the Supreme Lord. Therefore, the orders descended loud and clear. The child had to be killed. One slight problem with the plan. Prahlada kept surviving every attack, and without much physical resistance, either. He simply sat in meditation of Vishnu.
One possible reaction from the father was pride. Hiranyakashipu had himself sacrificed to an extreme level to reach the position of king of the world. He supplicated the creator, Lord Brahma, and received boons sufficient for de-facto immortality. Of course, just one percent vulnerability is enough to nullify the condition.
Here the son was displaying his own potency. The royal guards could not kill him, despite using pointed weapons, burning oil, and large and heavy animals. Hiranyakashipu could have been proud:
“See, this is my son. If you had any doubt, look at how well he handles himself. This was merely a test. I knew it all along. One day he will conquer enemies using this fortitude. My anger was not real. I was acting!”
This would actually come later. In the beginning, Hiranyakashipu could have asked what was going on:
“How is Prahlada able to withstand these attacks? There is something happening in the background. Maybe he can share his secret with me. I am interested to learn. Typically, the older generation passes down wisdom to the newcomers, but I am not one bound to etiquette. I can teach Prahlada how to rule a kingdom and he can teach me how to stay safe from enemy attack.”
The father could have taken the occasion to step back and assess the situation objectively. He had made a terrible decision in trying to kill his innocent son. Parents do get fed up every now and then, especially if a child is crying uncontrollably in the middle of the night. Yet there is a big difference between thinking of something severe and actually carrying through with the thought.
Prahlada survived, so perhaps now was the time for remorse. It wasn’t too late. Of a saintly character, the son would have forgiven; instantly at that. He held no grudges, in the same way that the Supreme Lord does not harbor resentment at the countless souls who have forgotten Him since time immemorial.
Unfortunately for Hiranyakashipu, the reaction was focused on the initial objective: killing the son. Use even more force. Perhaps stronger weapons were required. The fever of material pursuit was alive within him. He could not see what was actually going on. In the end the last image would be that of gruesome death in the ferocious and auspicious vision of Narasimhadeva, the protector of Prahlada.
In ways could have reacted,
Like punishment order retracted.
Feeling proud of the son,
Portending triumphs to come.
Or stepping back soberly assess,
That this child the family to bless.
Sadly with same violence to stay,
Until ruthless form to display.