NARASIMHA – An incarnation of Vishnu

NARASIMHANarasimha was the man-lion incarnation of Vishnu. He was the fourth of ten incarnations and was half man (nara) and half lion (simha). An appearance of Lord Vishnu was needed to defeat each of the rebirths of the demon twins, Jaya and Vijaya, who sprang from a curse by Vishnu of his doorkeepers in heaven. Vishnu had already incarnated as a boar to take care of Hiranyaksha, and now he incarnated in a special way to kill Hiranyakasiipu.
To begin at the beginning, once again Brahma’s vanity had allowed an asura to gain a boon (vara) of immortality. This demon, Hiranyakasipu, was the brother of Hiranyaksha, whom Vishnu had had to kill to end the rule of evil in the previous age. Since immortality boons are always provisional, not absolute, Hiranyakasiipu asked that he might not be killed by any of the kinds of beings that he could imagine, nor killed in heaven or on earth, not inside or outside, not in the day or in the night. Once his austerities (tapas) and his praise of Brahma had won this boon, he became fearless and invincible. He and his hosts ended goodness, drove the gods (devas) out of heaven, and brought calamity to earth. How would goodness and right order (dharma) be restored and by whom?
These paradoxes were solved by Vishnu alone among the gods (proving him once again to be both the supreme god and the Absolute) when Vishnu took an incarnation that was a combination of beings—a man-lion. There was rich mate­rial in this myth for those who were devoted to Vishnu, since it was a striking example of the way he would come down in any age when evil began to reign. He killed the demonic powers that thwarted the divine order, and—in this instance— that prevented the demon’s own son, Prahlada, from worshipping Vishnu. So Vishnu manifested himself as Narasimha from a stone pillar in the twilight (nei­ther day nor night), took Hiranyakasipu upon his lap (so that he was neither in heaven nor on earth), and disemboweled the demon for his blasphemy. But Vishnu also did this for the good of Hiranyakasipu—so that he could be blessed by the very touch of the Supreme and thereby be readied for another and better rebirth.

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