Narasimha avatar


Narasimha avatar
   Narasimha is the man-lion AVATA R of VISHNU. His story has many versions, all relating to the demon HIRANYAKASHIPU. The latter had undergone severe austerities to make himself superior to the gods and nearly invincible. BRAHMA had given him the boons that he could not be killed by man or beast, at night or during the day, outdoors or indoors. The gods beseeched Vishnu to intervene and put an end to the demon’s depredations in the worlds.
   Vishnu took up the man-lion form (neither man nor beast) and confronted Hiranyakashipu at the threshold of his palace (neither indoors nor outdoors) at twilight (neither day nor night). Thus he was able to kill Hiranyakashipu. The common iconographic depiction of Narasimha shows a sitting creature with a man’s body and a lion’s head, ripping into the supine demon lying on his knees.
   Further reading: John Dowson, A Classical Dictionary of Hindu Mythology and Religion, Geography, History, and Literature, 12th ed. (Ludhiana: Lyall Book Depot, 1974); Margaret Stutley, An Illustrated Dictionary of Hindu Ico-nography (Boston: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1985); W. J. Wilkins, Hindu Mythology, Vedic and Puranic, 2d ed. (Calcutta: Rupa, 1973).

Encyclopedia of Hinduism. . 2007.


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