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Narasimha


Narasinmha statute at Vijayanagara Temple complex Hampi India


  • Narasimha means man-lion. It’s an avatar of the Hindu god Vishnu and among most popular deities of Hinduism, as verified in temple and festival worship for more than a millennium, iconography and early pictures.
  • Narasimha is thought about as having a human-like upper and lower body, with a lion-like claws and face. A substantial number of Vai??ava groups worship this image widely in deity form. Vishnu held this form on peak of Himvat mountain (Harivamsa). Primarily he is known as the 'Great Protector' who particularly protects and defends his followers in times of need. It is believed that Vishnu has taken the avatar to abolish the demon king Hiranyakashipu.

 




Narasimha clawing Hiranyakasipu bas relief at Banteay Srei Angkor


Etymology

  • The word Narasimha means 'lion-man' that means 'half man and half lion'. Other names of Narasimha are:
  1. Baladeva - the great form
  2. Mrigendra - king of animals or lion
  3. Sinhavadana - the whose face is of lion
  4. Nakhastra - the one for whom nails are his weapons
  5. Hiranyakashipudvamsa - the one who killed Hiranyakashipu
  6. Karala - the one who has a wide mouth and projecting teeth
  7. Bhairavadambara - the one who causes terror by roaring
  8. Agnilochana - the one who has fiery eyes

Scriptural sources

  • There are references to Narasimha in a number of Puraṇas, with 17 different versions of the main narrative.




Narasimha statute at Hoysaleswara Hindu Temple Halebidu India


References from Vedas

  • The ?g Veda has an epithet which has been attributed to Narasimha.

Lord Narasimha and Prahlada  

  • Bhagavata Pura?a explains that Vi??u killed theasura Hira?ayak?a in his earlier avatar as Varaha. Hira?yakasipu, younger brother of Hir?ayak?a wanted revenge.



India painting of Narasimha Killing Hiranyakashipu


Narasimha and Adi Sankara

  • Narasimha is a defender of his devotees in times of danger. There is a forest called Hatakesvanam, near Sri Sailam, that no man enters. Sankaracarya entered this place. Kirakashan, a Kapalika appeared before him.
  • He told Sri Sankara to give his body as a human-sacrifice to Kali. Sankara agreed. His followers requested him to change his mind, but he declined saying that it was an honuor to give up his body as a sacrifice for Kāli. Just when Kapalika raised his axe to detach the head of Sankara, Viṣṇu as Narasimha got into the body of Padmapada, the follower of Sankaracarya and Narasimha devotee. Then he fought the Kapalika, killed him and liberated the forest of Kapalikas. Adi Sankara created Lakṣmi-Narasimha Karavalambam Stotram on the spot in front of Lord Narasimha.


Mode of worship

  • Because of the nature of Narasimha's form, it’s necessary that worship be given with a high level of care as compared to other deities. In a number of temples only lifelong religious persons will have the capability to have the possibility to serve as priests to perform the daily puja.

Prayers

  • Several prayers have been written to dedicate to Narasimha avatar. These include:
  • Sri Lakshmi Narasimha Karavalamba Stotram by Sri Adi Sankara
  • Divya Prabandham 2954
  • Kamasikha Aṣṭakam by Vedanta Desika
  • Dasavatara Stotra by Jayadeva
  • Narasimha Praṇama Prayer
  • The Narasimha Maha-Mantra

Symbolism

  • Narasimha is known by the epithet Mṛga-Sarira which means Animal-Man. From a philosophical viewpoint, Narasimha is the icon of Vaiṣṇavism.
  • Prahlada's devotion shows that pure devotion isn’t among birthrights but of character.
  • Narasimha shows God's ability and willingness to come to the help of His devotees, regardless of how impossible or difficult the circumstances might appear to be.