- Hiranyakashipu means “he who wears a golden robe” and is the name of an arrogant asura, or demon king, who ruled over and tormented all the worlds. Unfortunately, he had earned boons from the gods so that he could not be killed by man or beast, by day or night, indoors or outdoors. He had become so powerful through boons that he had usurped the sovereignty of Indra, the king of the gods. VISHNU was called to take on an incarnation to deal with this cruel, ignorant tyrant.According to the myth Hiranyakashipu felt disgraced that his son, PRAHLADA, loved and wor-shipped Vishnu. He tried to force his son to reveal Vishnu’s whereabouts. Knowing that VISHNU was everywhere, Prahlada pointed to a pillar. The demon king brashly kicked the pillar and out sprang the man-lion or (Narasimha) incarnation of Vishnu (see NARASIMHA AVATA R), who ripped him apart. He was able to be killed here because the pillar was in the doorway (neither indoors nor outdoors), it was twilight (neither day nor night), and in the Narasimha form, Vishnu was neither man nor beast.Further reading: Cornelia Dimmitt and J. A. B. van Buitenen, eds. and trans., Classical Hindu Mythology: A Reader in the Sanskrit Puranas (Philadelphia: University Press, 1978); W. J. Wilkins, Hindu Mythology, Vedic and Puranic (Calcutta: Rupa, 1973).
Encyclopedia of Hinduism. A. Jones and James D. Ryan. 2007.