Lord Vishnu took many avatars or incarnations to rid the world of evil and re-establish Dharma on earth. Narasimha, his half-man, half-lion avatar, is the fourth incarnation. He took this incarnation to save his devotee, Prahlad, and kill the demon Hiranyakashipu.
The 14th day in the Hindu month of Vaishaka, Shukla Paksha (waxing moon phase) is observed as Narasimha Jayanti. Scriptures say that Narasimha appeared during the sunset hour on Chaturdashi. For this reason, his Pooja is also performed during these hours. Narasimha Jayanti is considered to be a very auspicious occasion by ardent devotees of Lord Vishnu.
On this day, devotees observe vrat or fast and venerate Lord Narasimha. The idol of Narasimha is placed in the eastern part of the house, facing the west. It should be covered with yellow clothes. On the day of Narasimha Jayanti, people take Sankalp during Madhyahna (afternoon) and perform Narasimha Pooja before sunset (during Sandhyakal). Fruits, flowers, karpooram, chandan, roli, and dhoop are offered, and they listen to stories of Naramasimha’s exploits.
The next day, after performing Visarjan pooja, devotees break their fast.
Why do devotees worship Narasimha?
Devotees believe that worshipping Narasimha and fasting on this day can remove their pain and suffering. Goddess Lakshmi is also worshipped along with Narasimha on this day. It is believed that doing so can resolve financial problems.
Story behind Narsimha Jayanti
Narasimha is one of the 10 avatars of Vishnu is believed to have taken to destroy evil in the world. The story revolves around the demon Hiranyakashipu and his son, Prahlada.
Hiranyakashipu was the elder brother of Hiranyaksha, who was killed by Vishnu during his Varaha Avatar for creating havoc in the world. Hiranyakashipu was enraged by his brother’s death and vowed to take revenge against Vishnu. He prayed to Brahma and asked for the boon of immortality, but Brahma refused as all beings had to die one day. So, Hiranyakashipu asked that he should not be killed in the sky, on earth, or in water, and not inside or outside a house. Also, according to the boon he demanded, he should not be killed by man, god, animal, or demon, or during daytime or nighttime, or by any sort of man-made or divine weapons.
Brahma agreed to his request. Having received his boon, Hiranyakashipu became very powerful and began to terrorize everyone. He conquered the 3 worlds and drove away the gods, including Indra, from heaven. He demanded that everyone should worship him alone. But his son, Prahlada, turned out to be a great devotee of Lord Vishnu. This annoyed Hiranyakashipu, and he tried his best to make his son stop worshipping Vishnu. But the boy was adamant and continued to worship Vishnu. Finally, Hiranyakashipu lost his cool and tried to kill Prahlada in many ways.
He tried to get him trampled by an elephant, but the elephant could not crush. Then he had his son thrown over a precipice, but Vishnu protected him, and he landed gently on the ground. Poison, fire, starvation, enchantments, being thrown into a well…every attempt was made to kill the child. But Prahlada miraculously escaped each time, thanks to Vishnu.
At last, Hiranyakashipu ordered the boy to be bound by mighty serpents from the nether worlds and then sent to the bottom of the sea, where large mountains were piled on top of him. But the snakes snapped asunder, the mountains were pulverized, and he was gently lifted above the waves and carried to the shore safely. Once, when Hiranyakashipu asked where Vishnu was, Prahlada replied that he was everywhere. The demon king then pointed to a pillar in his palace and challenged his son to prove that his God was inside the pillar. Then Vishnu emerged from the pillar as the ferocious Narasimha, half-man and half-lion, took Hiranyakashipu on his knee, and killed him with his claws.
In this manner, Vishnu cleverly got around the conditions of the boon the demon had been granted. Narasimha was neither man nor animal, and he killed the demon on the threshold (neither inside or outside) of the palace in the evening (neither day or night), with his ferocious claws (neither a man-made or divine weapon).
Narasimha Jayanthi 2021 will be celebrated on May 25.