During the Satya Yuga, Sage Kashyap and one of his wife Diti had two sons – Hiranyaksha and Hiranyakasipu. Hiranyaksha troubled the humans and the Devas alike. The humans and the Devas unable to take it any more prayed to Lord Vishnu to protect them. Lord Vishnu being the Preserver incarnated as a Boar to protect the humans and the Devas. This avatar is called as Varaha Avatar.
After the death of Hiranyaksha,Hiranyakasipu furious with the humans and the Devas, lead his army of asuras to attack them. However the Devas fought Hiranyakasipu and his men. Hiranyakasipu came to know that every time, Lord Vishnu helped the Devas to fight him back.
If I am beat that Dark Lord, I need to have a boon to protect myself. Every time I attack the Devas or the humans, Vishnu thinks up of something to thwart my plans...I need to make myself powerful...
With that one thought in his mind, Hiranyakasipu set out for jungles. I will pray to Lord Brahma. He is the Creator God...If I pray long enough, Lord Brahma may even grant me immortality...
Hiranyakasipu started his meditation and soon forgot all about himself and his kingdom....
Meanwhile Lord Indra the King of the Devas came to know that Hiranyakasipu was not leading his men. Realising that if he acted now, he would be able to destroy the Asuras such that they would never be able to attack him again...Now is the right opportunity for me to strike at the heart of the Asuras. Without Hiranyakasipu, their strength is halved...Now if I destroy the Asuras, even if Hiranyakasipu comes back, he would not have an army to follow his orders... Thinking so, Indra along with other Devas attacked the kingdom of the Asuras.
Just as Lord Indra had expected, without Hiranyakasipu, the Asuras were no match for him. The Asuras lost the war. Lord Indra drove away most of the Asuras.
After destroying Hiranyakasipu's capital, Lord Indra marched into Hiranyakasipu's palace. There he found Hiranyakasipu's wife Kayadhu. I will take Hiranyakasipu's wife as my prisoner, Indra thought, If Hiranyakasipu comes back, I may be able to use her as a hostage...Thinking thus, Indra was forcibly taking Kayadhu to Amravathi, Indra's home in the heavens.
It was at that time that Sage Narada appeared before Indra, 'Indra STOP! What are you doing?'
Sage Narada thundered looking at Indra pulling Kayadhu in his chariot. Indra asked his men to catch Kayadu while he turned to address the wandering Sage. Indra bowed at Sage Narada, 'Sir, I have attacked the Asuras. Without Hiranyakasipu to lead them, I felt that this was the right time to destroy the threat of the Asuras...'
'Yes...yes...' Sage Narada said angrily, looking at the devastation around him, 'I can see that...Where does this woman come into this?' Narada asked pointing an angry finger at Kayadu, 'Did she fight you? It does not look like she raised any weapons against you, then why are you hurting her?'
Indra looked back at the Sage, 'Sir, she is the wife of Hiranyakasipu, my rival... I am taking her prisoner...' Indra looked at the fighting Kayadhu, 'Sir if Hirayakasipu attacks us later, I can use her as a hostage...'
Sage Narada if possible looked even more angrily at Indra, 'Fool! Just to win your battle, you will hurt another man's wife, who has done no harm to you...' Narada pointed a trembling finger at Kayadu, 'She is pure and innocent...Taking her prisoner would be a great sin...'
Indra looked at the angry sage and realised that he had no choice other than to let Kayadu go. Indra nodded at his men an they vanished from there leaving Kayadu in the middle of the ruined capital.
Sage Narada helped the trembling Kayadu, 'My daughter! Are you all right?..'
Kayadu looked shaken for a few minutes. She closed her eyes and took deep breaths trying to calm herself. Finally she opened her eyes and looked at the sage. She bowed at him, 'Thank you sir! Thank you for saving my life...I may be Hiranyakasipu's wife sir, but he is the only man I have ever loved...If Indra had taken me, I would have killed him and myself...' She said angrily gritting her teeth, clenching her hands into a fist, shaking slightly.
Sage Narada held up his hands, 'Peace my child...I know you are carrying a child. Such anger is not good either for you or the child...'
Kayadu looked at the sage and again took a deep breath calming herself.
Sage Narada waited until she was calm and spoke again, 'What will you do now? Is there any place you know which is safe for you?'
Kayadu looked around her at all the dead asuras and thought, If I stay hear, Indra may come back...She shuddered slightly, At that time, the sage may not be there to speak for me...In my position, I may not be able to fight Indra...'She thought thinking about the child in her womb...She looked at the sage and bowed her head, 'Great Sage! I have a request for you...' She said looking at Sage Narada.
Narada nodded his head asking her to continue. Kayadu spoke, 'I will look after you as your own daughter...Would you please take me to your hermitage...If...if it is ok with you...' She said feeling slightly desperate...
Narada smiled. This was the reason Narada had come here – to take Kayadu to his home..It had started..
Kayadu accompanied Sage Narada to his home and there Kayadu looked after the Sage well. Sage Narada found Kayadu to be extremely intelligent and with a quick grasp. In the evenings, Sage Narada would relax and tell Kayadu stories of Lord Vishnu....Hearing all this Kayadu developed a profound sense of attachment towards Lord Vishnu.
In her womb, the young unborn baby also heard these stories and also loved Lord Vishnu. The time passed happily there...
Lord Brahma and the other Devas were meanwhile having a very big problem. The air of the heavens were becoming hotter and hotter and the Devas were finding it difficult to breathe. Wondering what had happened, the Devas searched that found that Hiranyakasipu's penance was becoming so powerful that the air of the heavens was burning up. Unable to take it anymore, the Devas ran to Lord Brahma. Lord Brahma agreed to meet Hiranyakasipu and went to earth to meet the Asura.
What he saw there stumped Lord Brahma. Hiranyakasipu was so deep in his prayer that creepers had grown on him...Hiranyakasipu still did not know...
Lord Brahma was touched with the devotion of Hiranyakasipu. He took some water from his Kamandalam and threw it on Hiranyakasipu. Slowly Hiranyakasipu got up from his trance. When the water fell on Hiranyakasipu, he emerged from the creepers new and fresh. He looked at the God of Creation and bowed, 'My Lord!'
Lord Brahma looked at Hiranyakasipu touched, 'Arise son! Your penance is unparalleled! You can have any boon you wish!'
Hiranyakasipu bowed and said, 'My Lord! I wish to be immortal...'
Lord Brahma looked unhappy as he shook his head, 'Son, all who are born have to die. I cannot change the laws of nature. Please ask for something else...'
Hiranyakasipu pouted...All my penances for nothing...Then Hiranyakasipu thought of something, Wait, if I ask for an impossible condition for death probably then...Hiranyakasipu thought fast and again bowed to Lord Brahma. 'Lord, I wish for a boon...'
Lord Brahma gestured for Hiranyakasipu to continue. Hiranyaksipu spoke in clear tones,
'Lord I wish that I cannot be killed by any man, God or animal or any other creature created by you. Nobody should be able to kill me at day or night, in heavens or in earth, in the day or the night either inside the house or outside the house, or with any weapons...'
When Lord Brahma heard this he stayed still for some time. He knew that granting this boon was not good considering that Hiranyakasipu had shown utter contempt for all other lives. But he also knew that he had no choice. He had to grant whatever was asked of him. Hiranyaksipu's penance had been very powerful. Narayana...I think you will need to take care of this... He thought as he said, 'So be it Hiranyakasipu! Your wish has been granted.'
Saying thus Lord Brahma vanished from there. Hiranyakasipu overjoyed with the boon ran back to his kingdom.
He was hurt to see that most of them were destroyed by the attack of Indra.
I will wreck revenge on Indra for this. Armed with the boon, Hiranyakasipu attacked Indra. Indra had no chance. The Devas were driven out of Devaloka. Hiranyakasipu became the ruler of the Heavens.
Hiranyakasipu found Kayadu and brought back his wife home.
Despite Kayadu asking Hiranyakasipu to change his ways, Hiranyakasipu tormented the humans and the Devas alike, but no one was able to raise a voice against him.
It was at this time that Kayadu gave birth to a fine young baby boy – he was named Prahlad.
As Prahlad was growing up, Hiranyakasipu became more and more powerful and he started committing more and more atrocities.
However Prahlad was quiet different from his father. Unlike his father Prahlad never hurt another living being. He was a strong devotee of Lord Vishnu and liked praying to the Dark Lord. Prahlad was kind gentle and firm to all people around him. While everyone was scared of Hiranyakasipu, all the people loved Prahlad.
Hiranyakasipu once asked Prahlad to come and sit on his lap. He lovingly stroked Prahlad's hair, 'Son! What a fine son you are! Tell me son, how are thing going in your school?'
'Father!' Prahlad looked at his father lovingly, 'I have learnt that Vishnu – the Dark Lord is the Ruler of the Three worlds and that if we are devoted to him, he will always be there for us...'
Hiranyakasipu stopped stunned for a few seconds. He got angry, but with great difficulty curbed his anger. He nodded his head and sent for the boy's teacher. He asked Prahlad to go and play with friends as he wanted to talk to the teacher alone. When the teacher appeared, Hiranyakasipu was furious. He yelled at the teacher. 'What are you teaching your students? THIS...this this is what you are teaching...Lord Vishnu...WHY ARE YOU TEACHING YOUR STUDENTS ABOUT LORD VISHNU...'
The Guru quailed with fear. He stammered, 'L..Lord...Lord...I did not teach him these things...'
Hiranyakasipu shook his head furiously, 'Watch over the child! Someone is teaching him these useless things...'
The guru nodded his head and quickly went away from there, least Hiranykasipu get more angry.
At the school, the Guru taught Prahlad about how Hiranyakasipu was the Lord of the three worlds and how he was to be worshipped...However Prahlad was distracted when he heard this. He shook his head, 'No sir! This is not right! Lord Vishnu is the Lord of the three worlds. The whole universe exists because of him...'
The guru became furious and afraid at the same time. Furious that Prahlad was defying him openly in the class for all the students to hear and afraid that if Prahlad repeated this to his father, Hiranyakasipu may become furious with him.
'Who..who taught you that?' He asked Prahlad furiously.
'It is the truth which can be found anywhere, if you know where to look...' Prahlad said looking straight at his teacher.
The guru dragged Prahlad back to his father's palace. He went to Hiranyakasipu, 'Sir! I have tried everything...The boy keeps on repeating what he said. He would not tell me from where he learnt this...'
Hiranyakasipu got more and more furious as he heard this. Anger blinded him. This is no son of mine...If these are the things he is teaching, he does not have any right to live...HIranyakasipu called his men, 'Guards! Take this boy and kill him with your swords.'
The guard looked anxiously at Hiranyakasipu wondering whether he had indeed ordered for killing the prince.
Hiranyakasipu angrily looked at his men and yelled, 'NOW!'
The men fell over backwards and pulled Prahlad with them. They took out their swords. The first guard struck Prahlad and watched surprised as the blade fell from the hilt...Prahlad looked unharmed and without fear. All the guard together struck Prahlad only to find their blades breaking off even before it struck Prahlad.
Bewildered they turned to Hiranyakasipu. Enraged Hiranyakasipu then ordered Prahlad to be bitten by poisonous snakes. However the bites of the snake did not affect Prahlad at all.
Prahlad then sat under a tree deep in meditation to the Dark Lord. Furious Hiranyakasipu turned on mad elephants at Prahlad to trample him. Hiranyakasipu was stunned when he saw the mad elephants sitting peacefully before Prahlad looking at him.
Hiranyakasipu called his sister Holika. 'Sister Holika! I need your help!'
Holika bowed to Hiranyakasipu, 'Speak my Lord!'
Hiranyakasipu said harshly, 'You have received a boon from the Lord that fire cannot harm you! I want you to use that boon now.'
Holika frowned looking at Hiranyakasipu for explanations. 'My son Prahlad!' Hiranyakasipu spat out, 'He..defies me openly...I don't want to see his face again...I want to kill him..He is no son of mine...I want you to take Prahlad in your lap and hold him tight, so that when I set both of you on fire, he would....'Hiranyakasipu said venomously.
Holika held her hands, 'I understand my Lord!'
Without question Holika picked up the meditating Prahlad and put him on her lap. After she had sat down, Hiranyakasipu set fire to them..That will be the end of him...
However Hiranyakasipu had not calculated the power of devotion. Prahlad gave no sign of even knowing what was going on around him. However Holika, the one who was immune from fire started burning. The fire of her sins burnt her...When the fire finally burnt out, Prahlad was sitting in the middle of a charred place not a hair out of place, whereas Holika was nowhere to be seen...
Now Hiranyakasipu felt afraid. He went to Prahlad and pulled the boy up. The boy woke up as if from a trance, looking around him. Hiranyakasipu shook him, 'YOU SAY YOUR VISHNU IS EVERY WHERE?' He yelled, 'Where is your Vishnu now? Is he here, behind this tree, Is he here in this setting son, Is he inside my palace? IS HE IN THIS PILLAR?' Hiranyakasipu yelled loudly.
Prahald looked at his father straight in the eye, 'Yes father! Lord Vishnu is everywhere...'
Enraged Hiranyakasipu kicked the pillar and said angrily, 'THEN WHERE IS HE?'
Hiranyakasipu stopped stunned as he saw the pillar shatter and from the pillar emerged a ferocious...What is that? It has the face of a lion and the body of the man...Hiranyakasipu hastily stepped back, looking at the half man-half lion. He shook his head unable to believe himself, when the half-man half-lion bellowed loudly, 'I am Narasimha, the avatar of Narayana, and I have come here to kill you...' Narasimha advanced with glowing eyes. Before Hiranyakasipu could escape, Narasimha caught him with his clawed fingers, in a vice like grip.
Hiranyakasipu struggled against grip, but it was of no use. Narasimha took Hiranyakasipu and dragged him to the threshold of the door [neither inside nor outside the house] and placed him on his lap [neither sky nor the earth] and there killed Hiranyakasipu with his claws [without weapons], at twilight [neither day nor night].
After killing Hiranyakasipu, Narasimha let out a loud roar and sat on Hiranyakasipu's throne.
All the Asuras had escaped from there seeing the ferocious beast. Even the Devas were afraid to go near Narasimha. However unafraid, Prahlad went forward. There was nothing but love in his eyes. 'My Lord! You have come to protect me...I knew you would come...'
Looking at the face of Prahlad, Narasimha smiled, 'Yes son! For you I have come!...' Prahlad looked at his father's body and looked at Narasimha, 'Do not worry son! You do not know his story! He is my doorkeeper Vijaya. He was born here because of a curse. After three more births he will attain his place back in Vaikunta...Do not worry about him...'
Prahlad nodded his head, 'I want nothing more, my Lord!'
Narasimha shook his head, 'No son! You are meant to rule your people. You will come to Vaikunta after you have completed your work on earth as your people's ruler...'
Prahhlad nodded his head once more. Prahlad became the benevolent ruler of the Asuras, who prospered during his reign and gave up there old cruel ways.