The Asura brothers Hiranyaksha and Hiranyakashipu had wrought devastation in the three worlds. Hiranyaksha, in particular, had grown extremely vicious after attaining magical abilities from Lord Brahma via hard penance. But he went too far when he abducted Mother Earth and threw her into the cosmic ocean. Lord Vishnu incarnated as the Varaha Avatar, putting a stop to the demon’s fear. This enraged his elder brother Hiranyakashipu, who grew to despise Vishnu and persecuted everybody who worshipped him.
Hiranyakashipu, following in his brother’s footsteps, began to focus intently on Lord Brahma, asking him for the blessing of immortality. Lord Brahma respectfully declined, but not to be outdone, the asura requested for what he felt would be a very bullet-proof blessing, that he not be slain at night or in the day, outdoors or within, by man or beast, or by weapons or divine forces. Brahma, in his goodness, bestowed this blessing. This empowered the asura, who was already ruthless, and marked the beginning of a new chapter in his reign of terror.
While he was away, the devas assaulted his realm in order to secure themselves against future invasions. Rishi Narada rushed to the aid of his pregnant wife, Kayadhu, and provided her with a sanctuary at his ashram. The yet-to-be-born kid, influenced by the divinity of Narada’s presence and listening to his talks, absorbed his attributes and grew up to be Prahlada. To his father’s dismay, the little kid was extremely dedicated to Vishnu.
Hiranyakashipu lost patience with the kid after attempting various antics, including trying to burn him alive in his sister Holika’s lap. He challenged him by asking him to show him his so-called Vishnu. To avoid being tormented, tiny Prahlada responded that he was everywhere, even the pillar in front of them. When Hiranyakashipu shattered the pillar in rage, Lord Narasimha, the most magnificent form of Vishnu, arose. Narasimha seized him, held him up on one thigh, and tore him apart with his naked claws before he could respond. Neither man nor beast, the man-lion shape, could destroy him in the passage, neither inside nor outside, at dusk, when it was neither day nor night, and with his claws, weapons, or heavenly abilities.
Today is Narasimha Jayanti, the day Lord Vishnu took on this fierce avatar in order to protect his devotee, Prahlada. This grace is still available to us now. As we strive to navigate life in these difficult and frightening times, meditating on this incredibly protective form of Vishnu is extremely useful, especially for people suffering from illness or other psychosomatic difficulties.