“Desiring to kill his son Prahlada, who was a great devotee of Lord Vishnu, Hiranyakashipu tortured him in many ways.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7.1.42)
जिघांसुर् अकरोन् नाना
jighāṁsur akaron nānā
Friend1: All glories to Narasimha. All respectful obeisances offered at the lotus feet of this amazing avatara of Vishnu, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Friend2: The half-man/half-lion incarnation. The transcendental form matched specifically to the boons of protection offered to the Daitya king, Hiranyakashipu.
Friend1: It would be more accurate to say that Narasimha was there to meet the vulnerabilities in that protection.
Friend2: As immortality is not possible, Hiranyakashipu could not very well create the same through component parts. He sure did try, and Brahma was willing to oblige. The creator, pleased with the devotee’s level of austerity and penance, was ready to offer anything asked for.
Friend1: Up to the point of immortality, which even Brahma does not possess. I always find it interesting when someone is afraid of the image of Narasimha.
Friend2: You do?
Friend1: It is just that I have never had that reaction. I completely understand the purpose of that amazing avatara, who we celebrate on the auspicious occasion of Narasimha Chaturdashi.
Friend2: Seeing a lion holding an adult male on its lap and tearing it apart using nails doesn’t concern you in the slightest?
Friend1: Absolutely not. If you accidentally come upon the image, I guess that reaction is understandable. If you know the backstory, however, you wonder what took Vishnu so long to appear.
Friend2: And what is that backstory?
Friend1: That the king of the Daityas had the misfortune, as he saw it, to produce a son whose allegiance was to Vishnu. The devotion showed at an early age, and by five years Hiranyakashipu was fed up.
Friend2: What did he do?
Friend1: He tried peaceful means, at first. A sort of deprogramming attempt, of ancient times, the teachers were ordered to get Prahlada’s mind right. The boy should be focusing on ruling a kingdom, on concentrating power, on maintaining the treasury, on keeping enemies in check, and so forth.
Friend2: In other words, the family business.
Friend1: It didn’t work. Prahlada kept talking about Vishnu and the importance of the human birth as it relates to succeeding in spiritual life. The child even lectured other students in school. This led Hiranyakashipu to attempt lethal force.
Friend2: Kill Prahlada.
Friend1: Except it didn’t work. The demon employed a variety of measures precisely because Prahlada kept surviving. What kind of sick person would do that to their own son?
Friend2: Someone sick enough to maintain their hold on the illusion of their atheistic way of life. If Prahlada was telling the truth, it meant that Hiranyakashipu lived in a house of cards, one that was destined to crumble.
Friend1: One thing led to another, and eventually Vishnu appeared from a pillar. He technically wasn’t a beast or a human. He ended up killing Hiranyakashipu, but in a way that did not violate any of the boons previously offered by Brahma.
Friend2: In that gruesome image you see Prahlada Maharaja offering a garland of flowers to Narasimha. While everyone else was afraid, the devoted Daitya child was not.
Friend1: In the aftermath, everything was forgiven. Prahlada himself asked that Hiranyakashipu be pardoned. This is something I have a difficult time understanding. In the news today, we hear of horrible things happening to the defenseless, such as women and children. The people who are justifiably outraged demand justice; they want the offenders punished to the severest extent.
Friend2: Makes sense.
Friend1: Yet no one was violated more than Prahlada. No one was tortured in such a way; not before and not since. Prahlada asked for forgiveness for the father. Vishnu agreed. It is a little difficult to understand.
Friend2: To understand Prahlada, this is in the nature of a saintly person. They understand how material desire [kama] can interfere with better judgment. They know that a person acts according to their nature, and Hiranyakashipu was born in the race of demons.
Friend1: Why would Vishnu forgive, though? This was a great offense against His dear and innocent devotee.
Friend2: There is a backstory. Hiranyakashipu is actually an eternal servant, a doorkeeper in the Vaikuntha realm. His falling to the material world due to a curse is not actually a fall in the typical sense. The doorkeeper descends to play a role in a dramatic play, where the protagonist is Vishnu. Therefore, the whole affair is something like out of a dream; there is no substance to it.
Friend1: I think people might have a difficult time understanding that.
Friend2: Narasimha also sat on the throne of Hiranyakashipu. This is the Supreme Lord accepting something offered by the devotee. There are many such intricacies to these dealings, and on auspicious occasions we have the chance to remember, contemplate, and appreciate moving forward.
For servant so dear,
From pillar to appear.
In that Daitya kingdom where,
With nails of lion to tear.
The boons previously to gain,
Brahma’s word to maintain.
But Prahlada that time to save,
And liberation to father gave.