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In Hinduism, Narasimha ("man-lion"), also known as Narasingh is one of the avatars of Vishnu. In his previous avatar, Vishnu as Varaha, kills the demon Hiranyaksha. Hiranyaksha's brother Hiranyakashipu greatly angered by this, starts to abhor Lord Vishnu and his followers. Further, he decides to put an end to Vishnu by gaining magical powers by performing a penance for Brahma. Brahma pleased with his tough penance, appears before him and agrees to grant a boon. Hiranyakashipu asks for a tricky boon from Brahma that he would not die on Earth or in space, nor in fire or water, neither during the day nor at night, neither inside a building nor outside, and not by the hand of a human, god, animal or any other animate or inanimate species. This virtually no-death boon to Hiranyakashipu makes him arrogant enough to make him conquer the entire world even if it meant severe trouble and torture for common civic, munis and followers of Vishnu.

In the meanwhile, when Hiranyakashipu is away for the penance, Divine sage Narada preachs about the sweetness in reciting Vishnu's name and his greatness to Hiranyakashipu's son, Prahlada when he is still in his mother's womb. Thus, Prahlada is born as a very devoted follower of Vishnu. Prahlada is thus the youngest ardent devotee of Vishnu.

Hiranyakashipu fails in convincing his son to join him against Vishnu, and therefore tries to kill him in many ways, but each time Prahlada is protected by Vishnu himself. When asked, Prahlada refuses to acknowledge his father as the supreme lord of the universe and claims that Vishnu is omnipresent. Once Hiranyakashipu asks if Vishnu was in a particular pillar and Prahlada answers that 'he was, he is and he will'. Hiranyakashipu, unable to control his anger, smashes the pillar, and Vishnu in the form of Narasimha comes from it.

Narasimha kills Hiranyakashipu, since he is neither human nor animal nor god (an avatar is a human, but this avatar is only part human and part animal) and he does so during twilight (neither day nor night), placing him on Narasimha's thighs (neither on earth, nor in space), on the threshold of the entrance to a courtyard (neither inside nor out) and using nails (neither animate nor inanimate) as weapons.

Even after killing Hiranyakashipu, Narasimha does not control his fury. On request of the divine sage Narada, Prahlada starts singing praises of Vishnu which pacifies him. Some believe that Prahlada was able to pacify Narasimha, but according to the Shiva purana, Narasimha's fury was still not under control and Shiva appears as Sharaba, tramples Narasimha to becalm him.

Hinduism | Dashavatara
Matsya | Kurma | Varaha | Narasimha | Vamana | Parashurama | Rama | Krishna | Balarama/Buddha | Kalki