“The hair on Narasimhadeva’s head shook the clouds and scattered them here and there, His glaring eyes stole the effulgence of the luminaries in the sky, and His breathing agitated the seas and oceans. Because of His roaring, all the elephants in the world began to cry in fear.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7.8.32)
सटावधूता जलदाः परापतन्
ग्रहाश् च तद्-दृष्टि-विमुष्ट-रोचिषः
अम्भोधयः श्वास-हता विचुक्षुभुर्
निर्ह्राद-भीता दिगिभा विचुक्रुशुः
saṭāvadhūtā jaladāḥ parāpatan
grahāś ca tad-dṛṣṭi-vimuṣṭa-rociṣaḥ
ambhodhayaḥ śvāsa-hatā vicukṣubhur
nirhrāda-bhītā digibhā vicukruśuḥ
Friend1: I think many people have this reaction upon first visiting a Vishnu temple. They see the main deities on the altar, for sure.
Friend2: Who are like the revered occupants of the residence. They are the top authority, and at the same time they are compassion personified.
Friend1: Not worshiped merely out of fear.
Friend2: Tremendous love. The real definition of it, meaning that the outpouring of affection is not dependent on reciprocation. The lone desire or boon sought is to continue in that service, to which the Supreme Lord and His energy happily oblige.
Friend1: On the altar there may be other pictures arranged at the front or sides. Pictures of important personalities, like the spiritual master.
Friend2: And those appearing in the disciplic succession prior.
Friend1: Sometimes you get the image of Narasimhadeva. This is Bhagavan in the special incarnation of a half-man/half-lion. In that particular image He is tearing apart an adult male. The victim is on Narasimha’s lap. The weapon of choice is the nails on the hands.
Friend2: A great historical account to accompany the vision.
Friend1: Some people are taken aback. The image is a little gruesome. They acknowledge that God must sometimes punish bad people. The issue is with having the incident remembered and honored on a daily basis, especially through a painting placed on the altar.
Friend2: In the beginning we may not understand so many things. Talk to a seasoned veteran and they will say that the same image gives them comfort and support.
Friend1: Right. They refer to the ferocious form as auspicious. Try to resolve that for me. Ferocious and auspicious are generally on opposite sides. Narasimha’s is an awe-inspiring visage. Why would anyone consider that auspicious?
Friend2: So many ways to explain this. Imagine living in a city. You have just committed some sort of crime. It doesn’t have to be major. Something basic like parking your car in an illegal spot.
Friend2: When you see a police officer patrolling the vicinity, there is a little apprehension. The fear is because you will get caught on the parking violation.
Friend1: Absolutely. Same applies if you are driving on a highway and see a police car parked on the side. You know they are waiting to ticket passengers for speeding.
Friend2: Now take a different person but in the same scene. They are worried about safety during that time of night. When they see the same police officer, they become assured. They feel safe knowing that someone is there to protect against danger. You have one image, one person, but viewed differently based on the situation.
Friend1: Narasimhadeva is ferocious to those who are afraid of the consequences to sinful activity. He is auspicious to those who want protection against Daityas and the like.
Friend2: Or protection against any source of misery in this world. It could be a dreaded disease, a severe weather event, or harassment brought on by other people. The ferocious vision is necessary. Bhagavan was in that form specifically to deal with an empowered character who had committed the worst crimes against a five year old child. But it is understandable for people to be a little afraid. Even the demigods were not ready to approach Narasimha. Prahlada, on the other hand, had no problem speaking to Bhagavan. He sees God everywhere, and thus certainly also in the angry lion who had just killed Hiranyakashipu.
To sinful father ferocious,
To saintly son auspicious.
When eyes at altar’s direction,
Having this contradictory reflection.
Like when criminal police to see,
The innocent assured to be.
So Narasimha for all a blessing,
Prahlada without fear addressing.