Narasimha, one of the ten incarnations of the god Vishnu (a Hindu god), incarnates as part man and part lion to conquer evil and bring an end to calamity and religious persecution in the world; as a result, destroying Dharma. Illustrations depict him as having a human body with claws, and the face of a lion, typically in the process of killing the demon Hiranyakashipu on his lap. The demon Hiranyakashipu is a powerful brother of Hiranyaksha, the god that Vishnu killed for his evil deeds, which made the demon Hiranyakashipu hate Vishnu.
Hiranyakashipu had gained powers that made him un-killable, that is;
● He could not be killed by either man or animal.
● He could not be killed in the day or at night.
● No weapon was powerful enough to kill him.
● He could not be killed on the ground or in the air.
● He could not be killed inside his palace or outside it.
Hiranyakashipu’s powers made him extremely greedy, to the extent that he wanted to rule over 3 worlds- the Patala Loka, the Deva Loka and the Prithvi Loka. He became brutal and compelled people to worship him, most of whom gave in to his pressures, except his son Prahalad, who was devoted to Lord Vishnu. Hiranyakashipu made various attempts to dissuade his son from worshiping lord Vishnu but they all failed. Eventually, he became violent, and also failed because Prahalad’s devotion to lord Vishnu shielded him from his father’s threats. Hiranyakashipu went to the extreme of challenging God’s omnipresence, which made Prahalad invoke lord Vishnu.
Hiranyakashipu, in his complacency, used his mace to hit a pillar to ascertain if God was in it, and was surprised when Narasimha appeared. At dusk (which was neither night nor day), lord Narasimha (who was neither man or animal), killed Hiranyakashipu using his claws (no weapon), by laying him on his lap (not on the ground or in the air) at his palace’s threshold (neither inside nor outside). Thus, the arrogance, deceit and bad intentions of Hiranyakashipu resulted in his downfall.
Narasimha is commonly known as the ‘Great Protector’ for defending and protecting those who are devoted to him from evil. His most popular mythology is the legend of him protecting his devotee, Prahlada, by creatively destroying Prahlada’s father, Hiranyakashipu, who was a demon and tyrant. The avatar of Narasimha also represents one of the evolutionary stages, emphasizing the fact that humans evolved from animals and also stressing the importance of peaceful coexistence.
Narasimha is among the major deities of the devotees of Hare Krishna. His legends are deeply respected, and he is a popular deity. He is celebrated in most Hindu temples, festivals, performance art and texts. He is an iconic symbol of creative resistance, bringing hope in desperate situations and victory over evil. Vishnu’s incarnation as Narasimha is among the most popular themes in South Indian Art, which includes paintings, bronzes and sculptures, probably following Rama and Krishna in popularity. Narasimha is also seen as one of Hanuman’s five faces. Hanuman is a significant character, appearing as lord Rama’s devotee in Ramayana.
Narasimha is worshiped in various forms in the states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. Even though most temples have depictions of Narasimha in various forms, Ahobilam has 9 temples of Narasimha, each dedicated to the 9 forms of Narasimha. It is worth noting that despite the central aspect of Narasimha’s incarnations being his killing of demon Hiranyakashipu, the image of this incarnation is depicted but not commonly worshiped in temples. Additionally, Narasimha has attracted a significant religious following in comparison to some of the other avatars. A lot of pilgrimage sites and temples have been erected in dedication to him in India, especially in the state of Andhra Pradesh, which has 7 pilgrimage sites to Narasimha.