|Pediment of Northern Long room – Narasimha slaying Hiranyakashipu|
The story of Prahalad and Hiranyakasipu which forms the background for the fourth avatara, of Lord Vishnu, is well known to most Indians. However, a brief account of this will be in order here.
Hirayankashipu was a demon king ruling over the three worlds. After severe penance, he had sought a boon of immortality from Brahma. As absolute immortality was not possible, Brahma had granted a boon by which he would not be killed by either man or beast, in the day or in the night, inside the palace or outside. Confident of his immortality he continued his tyrannical rule over all.
Hiranyakashipu abhorred Vishnu as Vishnu had killed his brother in the Varaha avatara. He proscribed all religious activities, especially Vishnu worship. Hiranyakashipu’s son, Prahalad was, however, an ardent devotee of Vishnu. The father’s several attempts, including death threats, to wean the son away from Vishnu worship, did not deter the son from his devotion.
Infuriated, Hiranyakashipu asked his son if his Lord was everywhere, including the pillar in front. On Prahalad’s affirmative answer, Hiranyakashipu split the pillar with an axe. Out emerged Narasimha, a half-man, half-lion avatar of Vishnu, took Hirnayakshipu on his lap, sat on the threshold and killed him by splitting his torso and pulling out the entrails.
The unabated fury of Narasimha worried the devas and the devotees. The ardent appeal by Prahalad and the presence of Lakshmi calmed Narasimha and he appeared as lakshmi Narasimha or Shantha Narasimha.