“The demon father employed all his weapons to kill the devotee son, Prahlada, but by the grace of the Lord he was saved from all sorts of dangerous actions by his father. He was thrown in a fire, in boiling oil, from the top of a hill, underneath the legs of an elephant, and he was administered poison.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.15.16 Purport)
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Just how desperate was Hiranyakashipu to get rid of his five-year old son? Just how upset was the Daitya king at the exercise of devotion seen in Prahlada? Just how angry was the menace of the three worlds that his son proudly proclaimed allegiance to Vishnu, the Supreme Personality of Godhead?
There are some emotions and sentiments which no proper words exist to describe. Rather, one has to see to believe, or in the case of Hiranyakashipu one has to study the resulting actions. Witness what the person in charge, the superior authority figure, employed as a means of mitigation. The severity of the attempts aligned with the degree of resistance to godly principles.
1. Thrown in a fire
If you toss something into a raging flame, there is a good chance it won’t come back intact. Pieces of paper will disintegrate. If there is incriminating evidence for a company involved with insider trading of securities, better than shredding the documents is setting them on fire.
If there is a photograph that gives away the identity of the main culprit to a crime, the nearby fireplace is perfect for making the evidence disappear. Hiranyakashipu thought this was a way to remove Prahlada from the world, so that people in the kingdom wouldn’t have to hear about Vishnu anymore.
2. Tossed into burning oil
The fire is particularly potent against substances which can act as fuel. It is not a perfect means of destruction, however. Some objects just won’t change much. They may increase in temperature. They may get discolored in the process, but the evidence remains.
Burning oil works in a sort of chemical reaction. Like putting the correct substances together to trigger something more potent, if Prahlada were hurled into the oil there was no way to survive. The fire perhaps gives way, but the oil will be unforgiving.
3. Thrown from the top of a hill
There is a reason someone would take up rock-climbing as a hobby. The reality television competition series often have daily challenges involving heights. Walking across a beam held aloft by a crane, with just a basic anchor to protect against falling. The thrill is in the danger, of plummeting hundreds of feet to the ground.
Prahlada had no harness. No magical wings to create drag and lift. No cargo-net to soften the blow. Hiranyakashipu threw the five-year old from the top of a hill, expecting gravity to do the work.
4. Placed underneath the legs of elephants
Let the animal community do the deed. The elephants wouldn’t know any better. They are known to ruin gardens by walking through them. All the care and attention that goes into creating the perfect space – destroyed in an instant.
Surely Prahlada wouldn’t survive such an attack. This was the weight of the world placed on top of his body. A single blow would do the trick, but repeated steps would make sure that no stone was left unturned.
5. Administered poison
Quick and painless. Sort of like the injection forced upon the population, in the name of public health, there was no telling what was inside the concoction. The person administering the treatment knew. So did the person ordering it, Hiranyakashipu.
Let the substance work its way through the body. What could the five-year old do to protect himself? It was not like he could induce vomiting. There was no control over the life airs, to entirely halt the digestive system.
As desperate as Hiranyakashipu was, the protective force on the other side was stronger. Prahlada had the shelter of the Supreme Lord, the person he worshiped dearly since the time of birth. Prahlada could see Vishnu everywhere, while the father was bewildered by something so plainly evident, right in front of his eyes.
This is not to expect that every devotee of Vishnu will be able to withstand similar attacks against them, but the long-term result is identical. The devotion will never perish, no matter how much the opposition tries. And no matter how strong Hiranyakashipu and the Daityas think they are, they are never a match for the source of all potency, Shri Vishnu.
Despite a predictable course,
Stymied by original source.
Who to Prahlada giving strength,
Against horrors immeasurable length.
That father evidence trying to erase,
But in futility that aim to chase.
Vishnu assuring this way,
That devotion always to stay.
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