Hiranyaksha (Eye for Materialism) and Hiranyakashipu (Wrapped in Materialism) were brothers born in the Rakshasa clan. When Hiranyaksha was killed by Lord Varaha, Hiranyakashipu was furious and wanted to take revenge on the Lord. Therefore he undertook severe penance. When he was away, Indra and his army attacked the rakshasa kingdom and finding that the rakshasa wife was pregnant, Indra decided to carry her away to his Loka so that when she gives birth to a child he can immediately kill the rakshasa child. However Sage Narada met Indra enroute and convinced Indra to release her saying that her child would not be an enemy of the gods but on the other hand would be one of the greatest devotees of Lord Vishnu. Hearing Narada’s words, Indra released Hiranyakashipu’s wife. Narada took her to his hermitage and she spent her time listening to the Lord’s glories as expounded by the Sage. The child in the womb had picked up all the discourses by Narada (prenatal education)!
Pleased with Hiranyakashipu’s penance, Lord Brahma appeared in front of him and asked him what he wanted. The rakshasa asked for immorality which was not possible. Hiranyakashipu then demanded, “I should not die at the hands of any of Lord’s creations such as, the gods, gandharvas, yakshas, human beings, rakshasas, animals etc. No weapon should destroy me. I should not die in the outer space, nor on earth nor in the waters. I should not die inside the house nor outside. Death should not come to me at day-time nor night-time.” Lord Brahma granted him the boon. The foolish rakshasa failed to realize that the cause of his death was embedded in his own words! Hiranyakashipu came back to his kingdom. He brought back his wife also from Narada’s ashram. She was blessed with a son who was named as Prahlada (one with exceptional brilliance).
Prahlada grew up as an exceptional devotee of Lord Narayana since he was already initiated into Hari Tattwa by Guru Sage Narada when he was in his mother’s womb. At the appropriate time, he was sent to the Guru-kula for education. Hiranyakashipu vain and arrogant with the boons that he had obtained from Brahma, considered himself the supreme lord. Temples were built and his images were worshipped. “Hiranyaya Namaha” (salutations unto materialism in the form of gold) was the mantra! Prahlada on the other hand chanted “Om Namo Narayanaya” (Salutations unto the Supreme Lord, Narayana). The teachers tried to convince Prahlada to worship Hiranyakashipu but he not only politely refused, but initiated the other children into the Narayana Mantra. The terrified teachers brought back Prahlada to his parents and expressed their inability to change him. Hiranyakashipu tried but in vain. Seething with anger, he gave the most cruelest of punishments to his son. Prahlada was thrown down a mountain, tossed into the ocean, put into raging fire, brought under an elephant’s foot, thrown in front of a hungry lion and poisonous snakes, threatened by weapons, made to drink poison – but nothing happened to Prahlada. The Lord protected him and he came out of each test unscathed.
The furious Hiranyakashipu dragged Prahlada to the court and challenged him to show Sri Hari. Little Prahlada said that the Lord was All-pervading, including in the pillar that Hiranyakashipu pointed out. The rakshasa struck the pillar with all his might and strength wanting to see the Lord, his arch-enemy whom Prahlada worshipped. Lo! The pillar split into two and from inside emerged a strange figure. It was neither man nor animal, it was half-man and half-lion. It was dusk – neither day or night. Lord Narayana who had come as Nara-Simha caught hold of Hiranyakashipu and dragged him unto the threshold of the hall – neither inside nor outside. The Lord placed the rakshasa on His lap – neither in space nor on ground nor water. Without using any weapons, Lord Narasimha used his beautiful long claws (nails) to rip apart the wicked rakshasa. Every bit of the boon had been taken care of, and yet Hiranyakashipu was killed by Lord Narasimha. The Lord then gathered his loving devotee, Prahlada to himself. Prahlada invoked and worshipped the Lord with chants while the devatas joyously rained down flowers.
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