Narasimha Chaturdashi-The Appearance Day of Lord Narasimha
Narasimha Chaturdashi or Narasimha Jayanti is celebrated on the fourteenth day of Shukla Paksha (Waxing Moon period) in the month of Baishakh. According to the Puranas, on this date Lord Vishnu killed the demon king, Hiranyakashipu in the incarnation of Narasimha. He is the fourth incarnation of Vishnu. According to the Padma Purana, worshipping this Rudra form of Lord Vishnu (Narasimhadev) leads to Moksha (liberation from sins).
Lord Narasimha And His Forms
Narasimha is half-man, half-lion in shape. He has a human body, but he has a lion’s head and claws. In Matsya Purana and Agni Purana Narasimha is pictured with eight arms and six arms respectively, but he can also have two or sixteen arms. He is worshipped in several Vaishnava communities. Narasimha Puja (worship) is very popular in South India. According to Hindu belief, Narasimha is the ‘Maha Rakshak’ (Great Saviour). He always protects his devotees in their time of need.
At least seventy-four different forms of Lord Narasimha are found in Hinduism. These forms are pictured with different postures and weapons that he holds in his hands. Of all these, nine forms are called together Nava-Narasimha. These are: Ugra-Narasimha, Krodha-Narasimha, Vira-Narasimha, Vilamba-Narasimha, Kopa-Narasimha, Yoga-Narasimha, Aghora-Narasimha, Sudarshana-Narasimha and Lakshmi-Narasimha. Lakshmi-Narasimha is the most commonly worshipped form of Lord Narasimha. In this form, Goddess Lakshmi is depicted as sitting on the lap of Narasimha.
The Story Of Prahlad
God performs various pastimes in various forms to please his devotees. Therefore, on a day like Narasimha Chaturdashi, the incarnations of Vishnu, such as Varaha, Vamana, Matsya, Kurma, etc., can be remembered. But for the devotees, the form of Narasimhadev is of special glory, because the devotees actually try to follow the footsteps of Prahlad. When we want to glorify God, the best way to do so is to glorify his beloved devotee. So today, on this day of Narasimha Chaturdashi, as an appropriate way to glorify Lord Narasimha, we can first recall the wonderful qualities of Prahlad.
The circumstances under which Prahlad obtained the grace of Narada Muni are well known. From the mother’s womb Prahlad was listening and understanding every instruction of Narada Muni. So when Prahlad was born, he was already full of knowledge of Vishnu. Due to his devotional attitude towards Vishnu, he was in the opposite direction of his father from birth and whenever his father asked him a question, he would always give a very general answer, a pure devotional answer, which would have enraged his father Hiranyakashipu. So his father wanted to kill him. It reminds us of the firm determination in devotional activities that devotees must have throughout their life.
In the story of Ramayana, when Ravana kidnapped Sita Devi, Jatayu, a bird and devotee of Lord Rama (the seventh Avatar of Lord Vishnu), fought with Ravana to save Sita. It (Jatayu) was already old. But it could not sit still when it saw Sita Devi being taken away. Despite knowing that it could not be equal to Ravana, it attacked Ravana fearlessly to rescue Sita Devi. It attacked Ravana with its claws, wings and beak inflicting many wounds on his body. Certainly, Ravana was very confused by this attack and was prevented from taking Sita Devi. First he drew his sword and cut off Jatayu’s wings. Of course Jatayu survived until the arrival of Ramachandra and the news of who had taken Sita Devi. Jatayu’s attitude teaches us that no matter what situation arises, regardless of whether he wins or loses, the devotee simply performs his duty, even at the cost of his life. We see the same determination in Prahlad.
Prahlad was preaching the glory of God in such a difficult hostile environment, which is beyond anyone’s imagination. Accoding to the Hindu scriptures, Prahlad’s father, Hiranyakashipu was the king of the Daityas (Demons) who wanted to conquer the world and be worshipped by everyone. Prahlad was a devotee of Lord Vishnu. Hiranyakashipu did not like this but Prahlad was unmoved in his devotion. So, Hiranyakashipu decided to kill Prahlad in many ways. He tried to get a giant serpent to crush Prahlad, but Prahlad prayed to Vishnu and was saved. Then Hiranyakashipu tried to throw Prahlad from a cliff, but Prahlad escaped. Besides, Hiranyakashipu ordered his ministers to kill Prahlad with sword but they could not leave even a scratch on his body. Subsequently, Hiranyakashipu asked his ministers to kill his son, Prahlad by adding poison to his food but Lord Shiva saved him consuming poison from his food.
Finally, Hiranyakashipu called his sister, Holika to kill Prahlad. Holika had been given a boon that fire could not perish her. She decided to take Prahlad in her lap and sit on a burning bonfire. As the flames engulfed them, Prahlad called aloud for Lord Vishnu’s help. To everybody’s surprise, the fire slowly consumed Holika and she burned to death But Prahlad was safe and sound by the grace of Vishnu. Holika Dahan that symbolizes the victory of good over evil is celebrated before the day of Holi festival. However, when all else failed, Hiranyakashipu wanted to take the law into his own hands. Prahlad told his father that God is omnipresent. Showing a pillar, Hiranyakashipu asked his son whether God is present in that pillar. Prahlad replied in the affirmative. Hearing this, Hiranyakashipu kicked the pillar. Then Lord Vishnu came out of the pillar in the form of Narasimha and killed Hiranyakashipu. Thus Lord Vishnu saved his devotee Prahlad, as well as Dharma (Religion).
Narasimha Chaturdashi Rituals
Narasimha Chaturdashi is one of the most significant Hindu celebrations. This celebration includes fasting, puja, chanting the holy names of Lord Vishnu, distribution of prasadam etc. A devotee should observe this auspicious day properly.
Ugram Viram Maha Vishnum Jvalantam Sarvato Mukham
Nirisimham Bhishanam Bhadram Mrutyur Mrutyum Namamy Aham
उग्रं वीरं महाविष्णुं ज्वलन्तं सर्वतोमुखम्।
नृसिंहं भीषणं भद्रं मृत्युमृत्युं नमाम्यहम् ॥
[Meaning: I bow down to Lord Narasimha who is highly ferocious and brave and the incarnation of Lord Maha Vishnu. He is full of radiance, ferocious and auspicious and the death of death.]
By Krishna Das