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Back to Prahlada Charitam Part 1



Hiranya-kashipu, the father, hears about all this drama about his son Prahlada preaching to the student-inmates of the Gurukulam, about Vishnu-Bhakti and Vishnu being the Self of everybody. He decides to put an end to this ‘treachery’ going on under his own roof. He brings Prahlada to his assembly hall and asks the million-dollar question: Little one, Who is your source of strength? (kaste balaM ?)  Prahlada’s reply to this is to be embedded in golden letters:


Not only for me, but, for you as  well as for all this world,

nay, for all the three worlds, Lord Narayana is the strength.


balaM me vaikunThas-tava ca jagatAM cApi sa balaM

sa eva trailokyaM sakalam-iti dhIro’yam-agadhIt   

(NarayaneeyaM : 25 – 9)


The author of Narayaneeyam has condensed in this couple of lines what Shuka reports to us more elaborately as Prahlada’s words: (Actually it is Narada’s telling of the story to Yudhishtira)


Not only for me, Oh King, but for you also and for all those who think of themselves as ‘strong’. All that is animate or inanimate, high or low, from the Creator Brahma downwards, they are all controlled by that single Source of Might & Power. He is the Almighty, the One who calls the tune (even) for Time; He is the source of all our senses and of  the physical and mental strength of us all. He is the Master of all the three guNas. He is the One who creates, sustains and absorbs the entire universe.


Na kevalaM me bhavatashca rAjan sa vai balaM balinAM cApareshhAM /

Pare’vare’mI sthira-jangamA ye bhramAdayo yena vashaM praNItAH // VII – 8 – 8

Sa IshvaraH kAla urukramo’sau ojas-sahaH sattva-balendriyAtmA /

Sa eva vishvaM paramaM sva-shaktibhiH sRRijaty-avaty-atti guNa-trayeshaH //

VII – 8 – 9


Kamban, in Tamil, has this description of the Infinite Absolute, through the mouth of Prahlada, in this context:


His qualities are three (satva, rajas and tamas);

His actions are three (Creation, Protection and Dissolution);

His forms are three (BrahmA, Vishnu and Shiva);

His eyes are three (the Sun, Moon and Fire);

His worlds are three (bhU, bhuvaH and suvaH).

All that have a beginning, a middle and an end

Constitute a monumental proof of His existence.

This is also the bottomline of all the Vedas.


MunRu avan guNangaL cheigai mUnRu avan uruvaM mUnRu

mUnRu kaN chuDar koL joti mUnRu avan ulagaM mUnRu

tOnRaluM iDaiyuM IruM toDangiya poruLgaL ellAM

shAnRu avan iduve veda muDivu idu cadaM enRAn

(Kamba Ramayanam : Iraniyan vadaip-paDalam Verse 251).


Hiranya-Kashipu is at the height of his fury.  With sword in hand, he moves about the hall and asks to know where this Lord of Prahlada is hiding.He is ready to settle the issue then and there. He challenges Prahlada: If he is everywhere as you declare with pride, tell me, do you see him here in this pillar? And he points out to one of the gigantic pillars in that hall. Prahlada with infinite confidence, says: Yes, I see Him. Not seeing what his son was seeing, the King, gives the pillar a forceful kick as if he would break the pillar and see who is within.


Lo and behold! That was the time when the entire world and that assemblage in particular, heard a deafening explosive noise as if the world itself was exploding to pieces with a big bang! Even BrahmA the creator fell down from His seat in distant heavens, it appears, from the shock wave sent by this gigantic noise. The author of Narayaneeyam says at this point, he becomes dumb-founded in his narration of the events, because the scene that followed was so scaring and hair-raising.  The fact of the matter was, the pillar split into two with that explosive noise which the three worlds heard and right there the Lord appeared in a most unusual form. It was the appearance of a half-lion half-man. The roar that the man-lion (nara-simha)  raised at that time sent jitters into the bones of even Hiranya-Kashipu. He did not expect anything of the sort to happen. Much less did he expect to see this unusual figure of the so-called enemy of his. He immediately remembered his own boon  he got from BrahmA that he would not be killed by man or animal. Now right before him there was neither a man nor an animal, but both in one form!


God appeared at that time in that fashion, says VyAsa, for two reasons – one to prove true the words of his favourite and two, to prove to the world His immanence and permeation in everything:


satyaM vidhAtuM nija-bhRRitya-bhAshhitaM 

vyAptaM cha bhUteshh-vakhileshhu chAtmanaH /

adRRishyata atyadbhuta-rUpam-udvahan

stambhe sabhAyAM na mRRigam na mAnushhaM //

(Bh. VII – 8 – 18)


Who was the favourite whose words He had to prove true? First and foremost it is the boy-devotee, Prahlada, no doubt. He asserted with the greatest coinfidence that God is everywhere and therefore also in the pillar. This was to be vindicated. But the vindication, simultaneously, was also of other statements. BrahmA, the Creator, had given the Asura king the unusual boon whereby he will not meet his death with either  a man or an animal. That had to be proved true. Even before Prahlada was born, Narada had assured Indra, the King of the gods, when he was carrying away Hiranyakashipu’s Queen with Prahlada in her womb, that the child in the womb was not going to die at the hands of Indra but on the other hand he was going to be a great devotee of the Lord. Hiranyakashipu himself had predicted on seeing the adamance of Prahlada’s devotion to Vishnu that ‘this boy is going to bring my death if I do not kill him’, and this was to be vindicated too. Thus the words ‘satyaM vidhAtuM nija-bhRRitya-bhAshhitaM’ is pregnant with the secret of the Lord’s avatAra and substantiates that when the Lord comes, He comes not with just a single purpose, but wills that it may serve several causes.


And to vindicate BrahmA’s boon in all its entirety, the Narasimha form of the Lord which was now striking terror in everybody in the assembly except Prahlada, jumped on Hiranya-kashipu and carried him aloft to the gate of the palace so that it was neither inside the house nor outside. All defenses of Hiranyakashipu were of no avail before the fiery Narasimha Swami,who put him on his lap, so that it was neither on the Earth nor in the sky. It was evening time so that it was neither day nor night. The nails of the man-lion pierced the chest of the Asura King, tore open the heart and put an end to his life. The end came therefore by neither the living nor the non-living, because the nails of a body can be classified as neither.


The gods and other divine beings had already assembled in the heavens to watch this scene which put an end to the longest period of humiliation for them and for the world. But the fury of Narasimha avatAra had not subsided. He fought with those warriors who rose up in  defense of the King and killed them all. BrahmA the Creator and all the other Gods  sang praises of the Lord but no one dared go near Him. Every one looked at Prahlada. BrahmA signed to him to go near the Lord and pacify him. Prahlada went near the Lord and prostrated before him. The Lord lifted him up and caressingly touched him on the head.   


 How is it possible for me, says Prahlada,  who have been born in a family of asuras, to offer suitable prayers to the Lord?  One may possess wealth, an aristocratic family, beauty, austerity,education, sensory expertise, lustre, influence, physical strength, diligence, intelligence and mystic yogic power, all these qualifications will not satisfy the Lord if bhakti – dedication and devotion -- is not there. Even if a brahmin  has all these  qualifications  but is not a devotee and is averse to the lotus feet of the Lord, he is certainly lower than that devotee who may be  a dog-eater but who has dedicated everything-- mind, words, activities, wealth and life-- to the Supreme Lord. Such a devotee is better than a brahmin because while the devotee can purify his whole family, the so-called brahmin in a position of false prestige cannot purify even himself. My Lord Nrsimhadeva, please,  cease Your anger now that my father, the great demon Hiranyakasipu, has been killed.  My Lord,  I am certainly not afraid of Your ferocious mouth and tongue, Your eyes bright like the sun or Your frowning eyebrows. I do not fear Your sharp, pinching teeth, Your garland of intestines, Your mane soaked with blood, or Your high, wedgelike ears. Nor do I fear Your tumultuous roaring. But I am very much afraid of my condition of life within this material world. When will that moment come when You will call me to the shelter of Your lotus feet, which are the ultimate goal for liberation from samsAra?


Prahlada goes on like this. The song of praise that poured forth from this little boy in this context is full of Vedanta content. Here are a few shlokas out of the 43 (VII – 9 - #s 8 to 50) that constitutes Prahlada-stuti:


tasmAd-amUs-tanu-bhRRitAM aham-Ashishho’jna

AyuH shriyaM vibhavam-aindriyam-AvirinchyAt /

necchAmi te vilulitAn-uruvikrameNa

kAlAtmanopanaya mAM nija-bhRRitya-pArshvaM // VII – 9 - 24



I do not wish for your benedictions  for long life, or the worldly opulence, mystic power,and other material pleasures enjoyed by all living entities, from Lord Brahma down to the ant.As powerful Time, You destroy them all. I only request You to place me in touch with Your pure devotee and let me serve him.


kutrAshishhaH shruti-sukhA mRRiga-tRRishhNi-rUpAH

kvedaM kalevaram-asheshha-rujAM virohaH /

nirvidyate na tu jano yad-apIti vidvAn

kAmAnalaM madhu-lavaiH shamayan durApaiH // VII – 9 - 25


In this material world, every living entity desires some future happiness, which is exactly like a

mirage in the desert.So where is this happiness? Where is this body, which is merely a generator of various diseases? The so-called learned person does not get satiated and he aspires for more and more of this ‘happiness’. It is very difficult to calm down the blazing fire of lusty desires by pouring drops of honey-like happiness on it.



Ekas-tvam-eva jagad-etam-amushhya yat tvaM

AdyantayoH pRRitag-avasyasi madhyatashca /

sRRishhTvA guNa-vyatikaraM nija-mAyayedaM

nAneva tair-avasitas-tad-anupravishhTaH // VII – 9 - 30


You, a single Person, has become this entire universe; In the beginning, in the end, and also in the interregnum, you exist, independently (of your own creation). By the play of the guNas you create this universe; by your own mAyA this appears as the universe of multiplicity in which you have subtly permeated.



tvaM vA idam sadasad-Isha bhavAms-tato’nyo

mAyA yad-Atma-para-buddhir-iyaM hy-apArthA /

yadyasya janma-nidhanaM sthitir-IkshhaNaM ca

tad-vai tad-eva vasukAlavad-ashTi-tarvoH // VII – 9 -  31


The entire cosmic creation is caused by You,and the cosmic manifestation is an effect of Your energy. Although the entire cosmos is but You alone,Youkeep Yourself aloof from it. The conception of "mine and yours," is certainly a type of illusion [maya] because everything is an emanation from You and is therefore not different from You. Indeed, the cosmic manifestation is nondifferent from You, and the annihilation is also caused by You. This relationship between Your Lordship and the cosmos is like that  of the seed and the tree, or the subtle cause and the gross manifestation.


prAyeNa deva munayaH sva-vimukti-kAmAH

maunaM charanti vijane na parArtha-nishhTAH /

naitAn vihAya kRRipaNAn vimumukshha eko

nAnyaM tvadasya sharaNaM bhramato’nupashye //VII – 9 – 44


Many saintly persons are only interested in their own deliverance. They roam about in solitary places in silence. They are not interested in the well-being of their contemporaries. Leavising aside the feeble ones of the world I don’t want to attain moksha all by myself. I don’t see any other resort for these deluded ones, except Yourself, Oh Lord.



Yan-maithunAdi gRRiha-medhi sukhaM hi tucchaM

kaNDUyanena karayoriva dukha-dukhaM /

tRRipyanti neha kRRipaNA bahu-dukha-bhAjaH

kaNDUtivan manasijaM vishhaheta dhIraH // VII – 9 – 45


The pleasure that a householder obtains from sex is a trivial one; like scratching for  the itching in the hands, it is only a chain of distress. Even after suffering repeated unhappiness, foolish ones do not cry a halt to the scratching-like pleasure. Only the brave soul  overcomes what (lust)  arises in the mind.




vyAkhyA-raho-japa-samAdhaya ApavargyAH /

prAyaH paraM purushha te tvajitendriyANAM

vArtA bhavantyuta  na vAtra tu dAmbhikAnAM // VII – 9 -  46


Silence, austerities, learning, penance, vedic recitation, practice of one’s own dharma, teaching, solitude, japa and samAdhi – are all means towards moksha, no doubt. But mostly they are just professional aids  ( jIvanopAya ) for those who have yet to control their senses. And for those who are given to show themselves off, they do not even serve as such.


rUpe ime sad-asati tava veda-sRRishhTe

bIjAnkurAviva na chAnyad-arUpakasya /

yuktAs-samakshham-ubhayatra vicakshhante tvAM

yogena vahnim-iva dArushhu nAnyataH syAt // VII – 9 – 47


All these created forms either gross like earth, water and fire or subtle like air and space – none of them are distinct from the formless you;  it is like seed and plant; those who are one with you see you through their yoga both externally and internally, like fire in wood, as nothing else than you.


Recall *ahaM bIja-pradaH pitA* (B.G. 14 – 4); *bIjaM mAM sarva-bhUtAnAM* (B.G. VII – 10); *nidhAnaM bIjam-avyayaM* (B.G. 9 – 18).


tat te’rhattama namaH stuti-karma-pUjAH

karma-smRRitish-charaNayoH shravaNaM kathAyAM /

samsevayA tvayi vineti shhaD-angayA kim

bhaktiM janaH paramahamsa-gatau labheta // VII -9-50



I offer my respectful obeisances to You, the most deserving of those to whom we may pray.    Without rendering the six kinds of devotional service, such as singing your praise,  working for you, worshipping you  with spiritual activities, dedicating  the results of all actions, always remembering Your lotus feet and hearing about Your glories--who can achieve that which is obtainable by the paramahamsas?


We may recall here B. G. XVIII – 55: *bhaktyA mAm abhijAnAti ...*  (Only) by bhakti I am known ...

Also recall B.G. VIII -22 : *purushhas-sa paraH pArtha bhaktyA labhyas-tvananyayA*  -- That transcendental purusha, Oh Arjuna, is obtainable only by advaita-bhakti.  At the end of it all the Lord asked him to ask for any boon. Prahlada refused to ask any boon except to say:


Yadi rAsIsha me kAmAn varAmstvaM varadarshhabha /

kAmAnAM hRRidya-samrohaM bhavatastu vRRiNe varaM //

indriyANi manaH prANa AtmA dharmo dhRRitir-matiH /

hrIH shrIstejaH smRRitis-satyaM yasya nashyanti janmanA//  (VII -10 – 7, 8)


If you want to grant me boons please grant me the non-sprouting  of such desires in my heart as vanquish the functioning of the senses, mind, prANa, body, dharma, courage, intelligence, shame, opulence, memory, truth.


Lord Narasimha was so pleased with Prahlada that He granted him a long life of kingship of this world (until the end of the then-Manu) with all material honours and prosperity, a life full of spiritual activity and at the end of it all a  union with the Absolute Divine.


Sage Narada in his narration of this story of Prahlada to King Yudhishtira, winds up with this phal-shruti:


Etad-ya Adipurushhasya mRRigendra-lIlAM

Daityendra-yUthapa-vadhaM prayataH paTheta /

daityAtmajasya cha satAM pravarasya puNyaM

shrutvAnubhAvam-akuto bhayameti lokaM // VII – 10 - 47


Whoever recites or listens to, this story of the Narasimha – leela and his destruction of the Asura king along with his gang, and also hears the story of the meritorious Prahlada, such a one reaches the abode of the Lord. For him there is no fear or anxiety.

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