- Prahlada, son of the demon HIRANYAKASHIPU, whom VISHNU slew in his “man-lion” incarnation (NARASIMHA), is known as one of the great devo-tees of Vishnu.The story goes that Prahlada would admit, upon being questioned by his demonic father in his father’s court, that he was a devotee of Vishnu, his father’s sworn enemy. At one point, Hiranyakashipu became enraged and ordered his courtiers to kill his “traitorous” son. But God protected Prahlada, who was not harmed by the many weapons thrown at him. Further enraged, Hiranyakashipu commanded serpents to fall upon his disobedient son. The serpents too could not harm him.Then Prahlada was made to endure the crush-ing feet of celestial elephants and again was unharmed. Hiranyakashipu then sent ferocious fire upon his son, to no effect, followed by equally inefficacious poison and a fiery magical female being. Summoned to the court to explain how he had survived these ordeals, Prahlada claimed no work of magic but only the blessing of Lord Vishnu. His father resumed his efforts, having the son thrown from the top of the palace and having an enchanter put a deadly spell on him; neither attempt succeeded. Prahlada was tossed to the bottom of the ocean and covered with rocks; he did not die. Somehow after all this the father and son were reconciled, though the son con-tinued to testify that he had Vishnu “within his heart.” When Vishnu eventually killed his father, Prahlada became the head of the demons.Further reading: A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prab-hupada, Transcendental Teachings of Prahlada Maharaja (Los Angeles: Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, 1991); Corne-lia Dimmitt and J. A. B. van Buitenen, Classical Hindu Mythology: A Reader in the Sanskrit Puranas (Philadel-phia: Temple University Press, 1978); John Dowson, A Classical Dictionary of Hindu Mythology and Religion, Geography, History, and Literature, 12th ed. (Ludhiana: Lyall Book Depot, 1974).
Encyclopedia of Hinduism. A. Jones and James D. Ryan. 2007.