Are you fed up with all the little caesars trying to take over the world today? I sure am. But don’t give up hope.
Read on to find out how the most horrible tyrant in the universe ended up getting his guts ripped out… and by God himself.
Hiranya Kashipu was the tyrant’s name. He lived millions of years ago, and his ferocious looks, with terrible teeth, furrowed eyebrows, and a fiercely menacing stare, made him the king of the demons. In his hand he held a trident; in his heart he held a goal:
He had decided to become the ruling despot of the universe. And he would not stop at anything.
Hiranya Kashipu’s plan
Sound familiar? Even today, millions of years later, we have men who want to be the most powerful man on earth. But Hiranya Kashipu was smarter. He knew that there was more to this universe than one planet, and he wanted the whole thing. So he came up with an idea.
Lord Nara Simha, ISKCON Mayapur, India (Photo: Umapati Swami)
In those days even demons learned the Vedas, so he knew he could increase his power through self-induced pain. He went to the bottom of a mountain and began standing on tiptoe with his arms straight up. But even more pain was to come.
Hungry ants and worms crawled over his body, devouring his flesh. But no matter. He stood in this position for many years and became so powerful that fire was coming out of his head, with smoke spreading all over the sky. He would soon reach his goal, but in an unexpected way.
Feeling burned by the fire, the gods of the material world flew to the planet of Brahma, the creator, and pleaded with him to stop Hiranya Kashipu’s austerity. Brahma sat down on a swan-airplane and flew to the site to make an offer to Hiranya Kashipu.
Hiranya Kashipu’s Request
Arriving at the foot of the mountain, Brahma found a skeleton standing on tiptoe with arms upward. The ants and worms had eaten all the flesh. But the life air was still intact, so Brahma, the creator of the universe, fashioned a new body for Hiranya Kashipu by sprinkling water on the bones.
Then he offered his blessings.
“All good fortune unto you,” said Brahma. “You may ask of me any boon you like.”
“O my lord,” said Hiranya Kashipu, head bowed and palms joined in respect, “please bless me that I may not be killed by any living entity that you have created.
“Please grant me that I may not die either indoors or outdoors, nor by day or by night, nor on the land or in the sky.
“That I may not be killed by any weapon, nor by any human being or animal. And please grant me that I may not be killed by any entity at all, living or dead.”
“Granted,” said Brahma.
Prahlad Maharaja, ISKCON Mayapur, India. The photo is not clear because it is a photo of a hologram, but it was the only way I could find to show Prahlad Maharaja’s beautiful face.
(Photo: Umapati Swami)
The Last Hurdle
Thus, by the blessings of Brahma, Hiranya Kashipu conquered the whole universe. No one could defeat him. He sat on the throne of Indra, the king of the heavenly regions, he controlled the weather, and he accepted homages even from the gods. But it wasn’t enough.
So he forbade the offering of sacrifices to the ancestors, to the gods, and to the Supreme Lord. His path was clear. He had succeeded. Almost.
One obstacle remained: Hiranya Kashipu’s son, Prahlad. About five years old, the boy was obedient, gentle, and sweet natured, a perfect son in every way. But he was a great devotee of Krishna. That was the problem.
Krishna had fought and killed Hiranya Kashipu’s brother, Hiranya Aksha, so Hiranya Kashipu hated Krishna and hated his own son for worshiping him. Only one solution presented itself: he would murder his son.
So he had the boy put into boiling oil, but Krishna watched over the young devotee and saved him from harm and pain. Hiranya Kashipu had Prahlad thrown off a cliff, thrown into a pit of snakes, attacked by a horde of angry demons, but Krishna rescued the devotee every time.
Exasperated, trembling with anger, and hissing like a snake (it sounds like the hissing of an angry cat), Hiranya Kashipu confronted Prahlad. “How could you defeat death?” he asked. “Where do you get your power?”
“My dear father,” said Prahlad, “My power, your power, all power comes from Krishna, the Supreme Lord.”
“Oh?” said Hiranya Kashipu. “And where is this Lord of yours?”
“He is everywhere.”
“Is he in this pillar here?”
Hiranya Kashipu drew his sword. “Then we will see!” he shouted, “We will see how your Lord protects you when I cut off your head!”
He smashed his fist against the pillar with great force.
The Arrival of the Lord
Suddenly from the pillar came a great rumbling sound, louder than thunder, loud enough to crack the covering of the universe, and the Lord strode out of the pillar into the great assembly hall.
His name was Nara Simha, (“Man-Lion”). His huge form, dazzlingly radiant, touched the sky, his arms extended in all directions, and his man-like body had the head, mane, and claws of a lion.
His eyes, the color of molten gold, flashed with anger, his shining mane expanded his face, and his razor-sharp tongue moved like a sword between his deadly teeth.
“Who is this?” thought Hiranya Kashipu. “He is neither man nor beast, and he has come to kill me, but it is I who shall triumph.”
He picked up a club and ran forward to kill the Lord, but the Lord rebuffed him again and again, as a cat plays with a mouse before killing it. Then the Lord sat down in the doorway.
The Death of Hiranya Kashipu
As the sun was setting, the Lord grabbed Hiranya Kashipu and laid him face up over his knees. With his claw-like fingernails, he tore the body of Hiranya Kashipu to pieces, pulled out the demon’s intestines, and wore them over his shoulders like a flower garland.
The Lord’s mouth and mane were sprinkled with blood, his fierce, angry eyes were impossible to look at, and wearing the garland of intestines, he looked like a lion that had just killed an elephant.
Lord Nara Simha kills Hiranya Kashipu. Prahlad Maharaja (left) offers a garland to the Lord. (Photo: Courtesy of ISKCON, Mira Road, Mumbai, India)
But wait. What about the blessings given by Brahma? Well, consider how the king of the demons was killed.
- By Krishna, who is Brahma’s creator, not Brahma’s creation
- By Krishna in his form as Nara Simha, “Man-Lion,” neither human nor animal
Where and when:
- In the doorway, neither indoors nor outdoors
- On the Lord’s knees, neither land nor sky
- At twilight, neither day nor night
- By fingernails, not by a weapon
- And fingernails are neither living nor dead.
Thus Krishna, in his form of Nara Simha Deva, “the Man-Lion Lord,” ripped the guts out of the tyrant and child tormenter Hiranya Kashipu yet kept intact the blessings given by Brahma. But the Lord was still angry.
His anger was so terrible no one could approach him, not even the gods who had gathered there to watch him kill the demon, not even the Lord’s own wife, Laksmi, the goddess of fortune.
“Prahlad!” they called out. “Only you can pacify the Lord.”
“Me?” said Prahlad. “But I am the son of a demon.”
Nara Simha Deva’s Affection for Prahlad
Then Lord Nara Simha looked over at his devotee Prahlad, now lying face-down on the floor, offering obeisances. He picked up the child, sat him on his knee, and began smelling his head, like a loving father.
“My dear Prahlad,” he said, “ask me for anything you want, and I will give it to you.”
“O my Lord,” said Prahlad, “I am not a businessman, worshiping you to get some payment. And what could I ask for anyway? My father possessed the whole universe but lost it all in one second.
“But if you want to grant me a wish, then please liberate my poor father. He is suffering so much.”
Nara Simha Deva’s Gift
“Not only your father,” said the Lord, “but everyone in your family for a hundred generations before you and a hundred generations after.”
Millions of years have gone by since then, but Lord Nara Simha is worshiped to this day in temples all over the earth, sometimes with his young devotee Prahlad Maharaja, sometimes with his wife, Laksmi.
And every year, in the Sanskrit month of Madhusudan (April-May), at sunset on the 14th day of the waxing moon, devotees celebrate the Lord’s killing of this tyrant with singing, dancing, and feasting.
So take heart. If a tyrant like Hiranya Kashipu, who terrorized even the gods on the higher planets, received his just due, the same will happen to his little imitators of today.
Eternally touching my head to the floor at the lotus feet of my spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada,
~Umapati Swami, March 12, 2020
Photo top: Naughty Krishna holding a piece of candy (Jishnu Das)
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© 2020 Umapati Swami
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada is the teacher who brought Krishna Consciousness from India to the West and then to the rest of the world. He is the founder of the worldwide Hare Krishna Movement as well as the author and compiler of many works of Vedic knowledge. He left this world in 1977.
One of the first American devotees of the Hare Krishna Movement, he became Srila Prabhupada’s disciple in 1966. Since then, he has preached Krishna Consciousness in many countries and is the author of “My Days with Prabhupada,” available from Amazon. Now 84 years old, he has started this blog to share what he has learned.