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Story of Prahlad and Holika

Story of Prahlad and HolikaNarsimha is one of Vishnu’s avatars from his dashavatars (10 forms). In his earlier avatar as Varaha (the boar), Vishnu killed a demon called Hiranyaksha. His brother Hiranyakashyap was greatly angered and decided to have his revenge. He begins plotting and soon realizes that in order to defeat Vishnu, he will have to become immortal. Since, no one can be immortal, he decides to pray to Brahma and ask for a boon that will protect him from all forms of death. He goes to the “Mandaracala Mountains” and begins his penance. At this time, his wife Kayadu is pregnant with their child. Seizing the opportunity of his absence, Indra the king of demi-gods, invades Hiranyakashyap’s kingdom. Narada takes Kayadu and her unborn son Prahlad under his care. Thus, Prahlad is exposed to Vishnu bhakti (devotion to Lord Vishnu) from his very early child hood years of development.

Meanwhile, Brahma is very pleased with Hiranyakashyap’s penance and agrees to give him a boon. Hiranyakashyap asks “Lord, no entity created by you can kill me; I cannot die inside the house or outside, during the day or the night. I cannot be killed by any weapon by any human or beast, living or non living, any demi-god or demon. Grant me this boon.” Brahma granted him the boon “Tathastu”.

Hiranyakashyap became very powerful and ordered every one to pray to him instead of any other God. However, his own son Prahlad who was introduced to Vishnu bhakti by none other than the great sage Narada, sang a different tune “Narayan, Narayan.” Nothing would make Prahlad praise his own father instead of Narayan. Hiranyakashyap was enraged that his own son was a Vishnu Bhakt. Hiranyakashyap’s hatred for Vishnu was greater than his love for his son that he decided to kill Prahlad. “Go throw this wretched child over the cliffs and let us see if his Narayan will save him.” The guards threw Prahlad over the cliffs. Nothing happened to Prahlad, he was saved by Narayan. “Hang him”, but that didn’t kill him either. Hiranyakashyap viewed it as revolt and was beside himself with anger.

Holika, Hiranyakashyap’s sister had a shawl that could protect against fire. Seeing her brother’s distress she offered to sit with Prahlad on her lap on a burning pyre. Prahlad, happily sat on his aunt’s lap chanting “Narayan, Narayan”. As the wood on the pyre began to burn and the intensity of the fire increased, it was Holika who burnt up while Prahlad did not even feel the heat of the fire. This event is celebrated with burning of old rags and wood during the festival of Holi.

With the death of his beloved sister, Hiranyakashyap was at his wits ends. “Where is this Narayan? I will fight him and kill him. That will make you stop chanting his name.” Prahlad replied, “Narayan is everywhere, he is in all living beings as well as non living things.” “Is he in this pillar?” asked Hiranyakashyap. “Yes, he is,” replied Prahlad. Hiranyakashyap picked his mace and struck the pillar breaking it in two halves. Out came Vishnu in Narsimha avatar. He had the head of a lion and the body of a man. The arms were lion’s arms with sharp paws. He picked Hiranyakashyap and took him to the threshold of the courtyard. Just as the sun set and twilight set in, he laid Hiranyakashyap on his lap and killed him using his sharp paws. Hiranyakahsyap’s boon was unable to save him. Narsimha was neither human nor animal, it was neither day nor night, Hiranyakashyap was neither on the earth nor in the sky and the lion’s paws; not any weapon.

The story of Prahlada gives a number of moral instructions such as:

    * God prevails everywhere.
    * God will always save his devotees.
    * Devotion can be practised at any point of time. Age does not matter.
    * Constant faith in God leads to devotion.
    * The people who are practising evil will be punished.
    * Devotion to God is no one’s birth right but of character. Prahlad was born asura but was the greatest Bhakt(devotee) of Vishnu.