Prahlad is one of the most extraordinary boys in history. While in his mother’s belly, he had listened to spiritual narrations and developed a deep love for Lord Vishnu. When he was five years old he faced endless death threats from his father, Hiranyakashipu the king of the demons, who hated Lord Vishnu. But Prahlad turned every trouble into a spectacular triumph for he was fearless. He had absolute confidence and trust in Lord Vishnu as his protector.
Hiranyakashipu was awesome in strength, violent, and dominated the whole universe. He had worshipped Lord Brahma, the creator of the universe, for thousands of years and gained a boon that made him feel invincible.
“I cannot be killed by human beings, animals, demigods or demons or any weapons. I cannot be killed inside or outside any building, not during the daytime or night and not on the ground or in the sky. I possess all mystic powers and lordship over everything and everyone,” he announced.
Intoxicated with power, Hiranyakashipu had taken over the glittering heavens, become ruler of the universe and commanded everyone to worship him as god. Anyone who disobeyed him was tortured to death.
The king did not know about Prahlad’s devotional feelings until one day when Prahlad was sitting on his lap. Hiranyakashipu had asked five-year-old Prahlad which were his favourite subjects at school. Unabashed, Prahlad said simply, “Father, the best and most important of all subjects is worship to Lord Vishnu. Without Lord Vishnu we are only slaves to our endless wishes and are doomed to be miserable. He is the greatest shelter of everyone and he is my lord.”
The king was outraged. He threw Prahlad to the ground and demanded that he mend his ways. Prahlad meekly refused.
“Guards, take this traitorous boy away. He is a friend to my most hated enemy. Kill him now!” Hiranyakashipu ordered.
The demon guards began striking Prahlad with their weapons. He stood calm and undisturbed, in deep remembrance of Lord Vishnu. Miraculously, the weapons couldn’t even mark his body.
The astonished guards tried many other ways to kill the prince. They threw him among vicious snakes, hurled him from the top of a mountain cliff, tried to crush him under the feet of huge elephants, gave him poison, starved him, exposing him to severe cold, winds, fire and water and threw heavy stones to crush him. Each time nothing happened to Prahlad. He would just fearlessly close his eyes, remember Lord Vishnu and chant his name again and again. He loved and depended on Lord Vishnu so much that he felt no worry or anxiety. And to everyone around him, even those who tried to hurt him, he felt only kindness and love.
Eventually Hiranyakashipu began to worry. “This boy’s strength is unlimited; he seems immortal. He never forgets his connection to his Vishnu and he doesn’t fear of my punishments. What shall I do?”
His advisors suggested Prahlad be sent back to school where he could learn proper demon life and forget Lord Vishnu. The king agreed. But in the classroom Prahlad spent his time sharing spiritual truths with fellow students. “Human life is our precious chance to learn about Lord Vishnu who loves you. Stop your play and call to him,” Prahlad would say.
News of this reached Hiranyakashipu. Furious, he summoned Prahlad to his court for a final showdown.
“You dare to disregard my order? By whose strength have you done this?” he blazed.
“Dear father, my strength comes from the same place yours does – all from the wonderful Lord Vishnu who lives in my heart, your heart and in every atom.”
Incensed, the king shouted, “Where is your lord, where is he? In every atom you say, well, is he in this pillar?”
“Yes, my Lord is present everywhere,” said Prahlad.
“Outrageous boy, I will kill you myself.” Hiranyakashipu reached for his colossal sword and in a fit of anger dashed his fist against the pillar.
It cracked open and from inside came a mighty roar that shock the king and palace courtiers. The terrible sound echoed to every corner of the universe creating fear and confusion on every planet.
To his amazement, Hiranyakashipu saw a huge terrifying being that was half-man and half-lion emerging from the pillar. With bright eyes sparkling with fury, a majestic lion’s mane, deadly sharp teeth and raging nostrils, the being roared again, louder than thunder.
It was actually Lord Vishnu who loved Prahlad so much that he appeared in the pillar to prove Prahlad right. The Lord was also very angry at Hiranyakashipu’s brutality towards Prahlad so he had taken on an extraordinarily ferocious lion-man form, called Narasinghadev, to punish Hiranyakashipu.
The two men fought a fearsome battle where Hiranyakashipu used his many deadly weapons. But Narasinghdev tore these apart with his razor-sharp nails. Over-powering the king, the Lord killed him in just the right conditions so Lord Brahma’s blessing was honoured.*
Afterwards, Prahlad, who wasn’t at all scared by the scary features of Narasinghadev, stepped forward and offered beautiful prayers of love and appreciation. He also asked the Lord to excuse his father’s misbehaviour. With much affection, Narasinghadev agreed and praised Prahlad for his extraordinary bravery, faith and confidence. Prahlad then became a celebrated king of the Earth and ruled for thousands of years.
* Narasinghadev was neither an animal nor human; he used no weapons but just his nails; he held Hiranyakashipu on his lap so the king was neither on the ground nor suspended in the air; he did this on the threshold of the palace so Hiranyakashipu was neither inside nor outside the building and Narasinghadev killed him at dusk in a moment that was neither daytime nor night.