SYMBOLISM: Narasimha story is rich with symbolisms. The transfer of work in each avatara and transforming from one deity to another is not surprising. It is a declaration of the one form of the Supreme Being taking many forms. God is everything and everything is God. ‘Thunilum irrupaan; thurumbilum iruppan’ from Nalatira Divya Prabandham means ‘He is in an iron pillar and also in its rusts.’ There is a long verse in Sapthapatha Brahma explaining the avatars. The condensed version of this principle is contained in Matsya Purana. The Lord manifests when righteousness is at stake. Narasimha avatar is a demonstration of willingness in the face of adverse circumstances.
Brahma’s boon is overcome by the Lord circumventing the boon; the aid expected by the devotee. At the metaphysical level, semi-animal represents the Jeevatma and the semi-lion, the Paramatma. The concept of ‘Mriga-sharira’ shows a wholesome merge between the two; ‘mriga’ meaning animal. Prahalada is a pointer of the bhakti path. He shows unconditional devotion. One may be born as a demon, but there is redemption if one has faith and the willingness to brush up character. Prahalada is a perfect example of saranagathi – surrender. It took much for Mother Lakshmi to cool down Narasimha; the universal motherhood love and balancing by feminine energy of the Lord’s spiritual energy.
NAVA NARASIMHA: Lord Narsimha Himself is recognized in the scriptures by a variety of forms, distinguished by the arrangements of weapons in the hands, His different postures, or other subtle distinctions. Of these more than seventy-four forms are state. Nava Narasimha indicates his nine major forms: 1.Ugra Narasimha – also known as Ahobila Narasimha is his fierce form; 2. Vira Narasimha; 3. Kopa Narasimha; 4. Kruddha Narasimha; 5. Vilamba Narasimha; 6. Yoga Narasimha who blessed Lord Brahma; 7. Aghora Narasimha; 8. Sudarsana Narasimha and 9. Lakshmi Narasimha also known as Malola Narasimha or Prahala-varada Narasimha with Lakshmi on his lap and blessing Prahalada.
AHOVALAM in Andhra Pradesh is the only place in India where all nine forms of Lord Narasimha. Nava Narasimha are worshiped in Narasimha Swami Temple there. Ahovalam is said to be the place where Lord Vishnu accepted the Narasimha avatar and where the Lord killed Hiranyakasipu and saved Prahalada. Goddes Mahalakshmi took avathar as Senjulakshmi among the Senju, tribal hunters of the hills, and married the Lord. The temple consists of nine shrines to Lord Nrisimha located around a 5 KM circle. In addition to the nine shrines, there is a temple for Prahaladavarada Varadhan in the foothills of the mountain. Apparently Garuda wished for a vision of Narasimha avatara. To fulfill his wish, the Lord Nararimha settled in the hills around Ahobilam in the midst of dense forests in nine different forms. Thus the hills are called as Garudadri, Garudachalam, and Garudasailam. Thirumangai Azhvaar has sung ten verses about this temple in Periya Thirumozhi.
VAYU PURANA: Hiranyaksha who was killed by the Varaha Avtar. His brother Hiranyakashipu seeks revenge and the target is Lord Vishnu. He undergoes severe penance on Mount Mandarachala to revenge the Devatas and to become the master of all the three worlds; Heaven, Earth and Pathala. Lord Brahma appeared before Hiranyakashipu who asked for immortality as boon. Brahma, however, declined, saying "All living beings must face death Hiranyakashipu. You can, however, choose your death wish."
Hiranyakashipu then twists the conditions, as given in Vayu Purana, as his death wish, "'O Brahma, let not death come to me either by man or beast, nor devil, nor god shall cause my death by day or by night with steel or stone or wood, indoors or outdoors, or earth or in sky. Grant me undisputed lordship over the world". Brahma gives the boon practically making Hiranyakashipu immortal. After securing such a boon Hiranyakashipu conquered the lokas and terrorizes them. He banned all pujas and yajnas. Side-stepping Lord Vishnu, he declared himself as god of the three lokhas.
KURMA PURANA has a slightly different version. Brahma’s boon excepts Lord Vishnu. ‘When therefore his (Hiranyakashipu) pride, fostered by his supposed immunity from danger had led him to great excesses so that his death was desired by gods and men, Vishnu descended in the form of a living being, hald-man and half-lion, so neither a man nor animal, and slew him.’ By assumption of this form the letter of Brahma’s promise was kept. This Purana goes on to state the demon’s hatred of Vishnu, arising that the deity had slain his brother, and of the wonderful efficacy of the worship of Vishnu.
VISHNU PURANA: The Devtas approached Lord Vishnu for help. Lord Vishnu asked them to be patient and said, "Hiranyakashipu' s son Prahlad is a devotee of me. When Hiranyakashipu seeks to kill my devotee I will slay him." Kayadhu, Hiranyakashipu's wife gave birth to Prahlad in the Ashrama of Narada. Prahalada is given the knowledge of Vishnu’s glory and he becomes an ardent devotee. The king in wanting Prahalada to inherit the asura kingdom is cautioned by his devotion to Vishnu. So Prahalada is taken to Shanku and Amarka, the sons of Shukracharya, for schooling. This was not fruitful as Prahalada was bent on worshipping Vishnu. Forewarning himself, Hiranyakashipu issues an order for Prahalada’s death. “Kill the wretch! He is not fit to live who is traitor to his friends, a burning brand to his own race.”
Prahalada was thrown down a mountain, drowned, poisoned, even burnt. Hundred weapons would not hurt him; neither did venomous serpents. The snakes came back to report “Our fangs are broken; there is fever in our hoods and fear in our hearts but the skin of the lad is unscathed!” Lord Vishnu redeems Prahalada. The whole saga culminates in a challenge in open court. "Prahlad, is my enemy, whom you worship, present anywhere here?” Prahlad replied, “I have learnt to admire Him who is without beginning, middle or end, increase or diminution; the imperishable Lord of the world; the universal cause of causes….He is here and everywhere.”
Hiranyakashipu's fury was at its climax; his eyes red with wrath and lips swollen with indignation.
Referring to Vishnu he said, “Vile Brahman, what is this preposterous commendation of my foe that, in disrespect to me you have thought this boy to utter?” Then the demon got an iron pillar heated and asked Prahlad, "Can you embrace this pillar if your Vishnu is in it also?” There was no hesitation by Prahlad. He rushed towards the pillar and embraced it. The heated iron did not burn him. The king got up from his throne in fury and hit the pillar with his mace. The pillar cracked with a thundering sound and Vishnu appeared there in the form of Narasimha. One half of his body was of a lion and the other half of a man. He had matted hair on his head, large moustaches on the face and terrible teeth in the mouth. His paws had terrible nails on them.
Hiranyakashipu then remembered his first death wish, "To be killed by someone who is neither human nor beast." It was also the twilight hour, neither day nor night - the second death wish. His mace blow did nothing to Narasimha who just brushed it aside swiftly. Narasimha caught hold of the demon Hiranyakashipu. He sat on the threshold of the court room, placed the body of the demon on his thighs, and pierced his nails into the body of the demon and broke open his stomach. The demon was killed on the spot in a moment. The place was neither inside nor outside. This was Hiranyakashipu’s third death wish.
After the demon was slain, Narasimha was still furious as he wanted to wipe away the asura stock. However, he was passified when Prahlad touched his feet and in whom Naramasimha saw the glory of Vishnu meditated upon by the pleader. Mother Lakshmi also calmed down her Husband’s avatar. The Lord was all mercifull and Prahlad embraced and made the new King.
LAKSHMI NARASIMHA KARAVALAMBAN STOTRAM: The great acharaya Adi Shankara, walks the four corners of India to advocate Vedanta philosophy. He entered a remote forest called Hatakeshwanam near Srisailam. There he undertook severe penance for several days, when a Kapalika, by name Kirakashan appeared before him. The Kapilaka sect, then, was given to human sacrifice. They were also against Shankara’s vedanta system shunning violence and preaching love and affection. Kirakashan demands that Shankara surrender his body as a human sacrifice to Mother Kali. To the Kapilalka and his devotees’ surprise Shankara agreed to do so. He felt it was an honor to give up his body to Mother Kali. There was nothing to lament, he told his devotees.
The sacrificial yajna was arranged. Just as Kirakashan lifted his axe to severe Shankara's head, Padmapda, Shankara’s disciple went into a trance, for Lord Vishnu and entered his body as Narasimha. Padmapada fought the Kapilakas and slew Kirakashan. The forest was thus freed from Kapilaka influence. Impromptu, Adi Shankara paid reverence to Lord Narasimha, composed and sang ‘Lakshmi Narasimha Karavalamban Stotra.’ The Stotram is a 17-verse Stotram in praise of Lakshmi Narasimha. The Stotram is so called because each of these verses ends with the same refrain “Lakshmi Narasimha, Mama Dehi Karavalambam” which means "Oh Lord Narasimha, please lend me your helping hand". Verse 1 is thus:
Oh Great God Lakshmi Nrsimha,
Who lives in the ocean of milk,
Who holds the holy wheel as weapon,
Who wears the gems of the head,
Of Adhisesha as ornaments,
Who has the form of good and holy deeds,
Who is the permanent protection of sages,
And who is the boat which helps us cross,
This ocean of misery called life,
Please give me the protection of your hands
PRAYERS: There are powerful mantras for seeking protection from Lord Vishnu's half-lion incarnation and His weapons. These are for protection from such things as malevolent spirits and material desires, as well as increased devotion and a peaceful world. Devotees pray to Lord Narasimhadeva for protection and to kill their material desires. The Narasimha Kavacha is one such mantra. “Lord Narasimha is here and also there. Wherever I go Lord Narasimha is there. he is within the heart and is outside as well. I surrender to Lord Narasimha, the origin of all things and the supreme refuge”
Om Namo Narayana
Yogi Ananda Saraswathi