Loopholes and Lions: Narasimha, the Fourth Avatar of Vishnu

Imagine this: your father is a powerful Demon king, made all the more powerful after being granted a magic boon from the creator God, Brahma.

Now, your father, Hiranyakasipu, is no dummy, unlike your uncle, Hirnayaksa.

Hirnyaksa met his end at the tusks of Vishnu’s previous Avatar, the giant boar Varaha.

*

As noted previously, Hirnayaksa, your uncle, had been granted a boon. At first he asked for immortality, but Brahma informed him that not even He, as Creator of the Known Worlds, could grant that wish.

So Hirnyaksa went about making a detailed list of entities and enemies that could not harm him. It included all manner of Gods, animals and plants. It was a thoroughly comprehensive list.

Given his presumed immortality, he went about wrecking havoc across the known worlds.

Soon, even the Elemental Gods, the Devas, led by the Storm God Indra, trembled before him.

The Elemental Gods went to Vishnu, Protector of the Manifest Universe, and asked Him to intercede.

When the time was right, Vishnu decided to intervene, and took the form of a rather fearsome boar, the one creature that Hirnyaksa forgot to put on his list.

And that was the end of his Earthly journey.

When dealing with Gods, there’s always a loophole…

Your father remembered this…

*

When it  was your father’s turn to request a boon, he asked Brahma, Creator of the Known Worlds, for the following:

“Grant me that I not die within any residence or outside any residence, during the daytime or at night, nor on the ground or in the sky. Grant me that my death not be brought about by any weapon, nor by any human being or animal. Grant me that I not meet death from any entity, living or nonliving created by you. Grant me, further, that I not be killed by any demigod or demon or by any great snake from the lower planets.”

Your father, Hiranyakasipu, was not satisfied with dominating Creation; he harbored a blood grudge against Vishnu, one that extended to anyone who openly worshiped the Blue Skinned deity.

This will pose a little problem for you…

*

When your father left his kingdom to pillage the Universe, he left your mother behind. You were still floating in her womb. It was then that the Elemental Gods, led by Indra, waged a counter attack on your father’s palace.

They claimed everything as the spoils of war…including your father’s most beloved “possession”, your mother, the Queen.

This story should not have ended well…enter the Singing Sage.

*

The semi-divine wandering minstrel Narada pops in and out of Hindu myths, especially those that deal with Vishnu and His Avatars. When not dispensing advice, he’s singing songs in praise of Vishnu, weaving himself in and out of the narratives of the Gods.

And so, when the Elemental Gods came to *take* your mother, Narada dropped in.

While Indra is often depicted as haughty and single-minded (much like his Mediterranean cognate, Zeus), even he knows when to heed wise counsel; Narada chastised him and the other Elementals, and took your mother under his personal protection. Your mother, and you, still unborn…

but listening…

And so you spent your prenatal life listening to Narada chanting hymns to Vishnu; Vishnu, your house’s sworn enemy, the slayer of your uncle. When you were born, it was to these songs; as you grew from infant to child, and childhood to early adulthood, this was the soundtrack of your life, representing the only faith you would ever know.

And then your father came to re-claim you.

*

Your father is intent on curing you of your religious sentiments.

During the 1970’s/19080’s cult-mania that swept America, it was called deprogramming.

His methods are a little more…extreme (and that’s saying something).

At one point, they include trying to burn you alive (which backfires, commemorated in a Hindu festival called Holi).

After several more botched attempts to make you renounce your faith (trampling by elephants, poisoning by snakes, and much, much more), he takes you into the courtyard, and issues a final challenge:

Ir runs something like this:

“Son, if your God is so great, where is He?”

Pointing to a nearby pillar, he mocks you:

“If He’s everywhere, is He there?”

You respond calmly.

“He’s in every pillar. He’s in every twig.”

Smiling, your father says “Good”, and swings his mace at the pillar, smashing it to bits.

He then turns to face you, and lifts his mace overhead.

You close your eyes, and prepare to meet your Maker.

*

You hear your father scream, and open your eyes.

In front of you is creature that is not a God, a beast or man, but all three combined, shadowed in the twilight.

He stands in the courtyard, and has your father draped over His knee.

You move closer to examine him.

He has the upper body of a lion, the lower body of a man. He raises one arm and extends His claws.

You remember your father’s divine demands:

  • Grant me that I not die within any residence or outside any residence [x] – the courtyard isn’t indoor or outdoors
  • During the daytime or at night [x] – it’s twilight
  • Nor on the ground or in the sky [x] – he’s on Varaha’s knee
  • Grant me that my death not be brought about by any (forged) weapon [x] claws are not forged weapons
  • Nor by any human being or animal [x] Varaha is both, therefore not technically one or the other
  • Grant me that I not meet death from any entity, living or nonliving created by You [x] in Hindu cosmology,  Vishnu and Shiva exist independent of Brahma
  • Grant me, further, that I not be killed by any demigod or demon or by any great snake from the lower planets [x] demigod refers to the Elemental Gods led by Indra, a class of demigods below Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. Vishnu is also neither a Demon nor a Snake.

Having met every requirement put forth by your father, Varaha thrusts His claws deep into the Demon king’s abdomen, disemboweling him.

There are always loopholes…

Vishnu_narasimha

Your name is Prahlada, and the Preserver of the Universe has just saved your life.

*

What’s the upshot of this tale?

Parents: pay attention to what your kids are listening to (Rock’N’Roll is the Devil’s music, and the Illuminati have taken over R&B and Hip Hop!)

Kids: pay attention to what you’re listening to (Rock’N’Roll is the Devil’s music, and the Illuminati have taken over R&B and Hip Hop!)

And what of Prahlada, who grew up listening to music that literally proved to be the death of his father? He took over his fathers kingdom, and ruled (mostly) happily ever after.

On that note, I’m going to crank up the stereo…

(It’s the only way I can drown out my kids’ Damned music).

So a recap, and a precap:

We’ve seen Vishnu appear as a fish, a tortoise, and a boar; this time, He was part lion.

Up Next: Vishnu takes up a human form

 

6 thoughts on “Loopholes and Lions: Narasimha, the Fourth Avatar of Vishnu

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