The Story of Lord Narasimha – The Avatar of Lord Vishnu
Lord Narasimha is the fourth incarnation of Lord Maha Vishnu who incarnated to kill Demon Hiranyakashyap and to save his devotee Prahlada. According to Bhagavata Purana Lord Maha Vishnu in his avatar as Varaha killed Demon Hiranyaksha. The Demon Hiranyakshas brother Hiranyakashipu angered by this gained mystical powers from Brahma by undergoing many years of austerity and penance so that he could take revenge on Vishnu. Pleased by this Lord Brahma gives him the boon that Hiranyakashipu could not be killed by human, God or animal or during the day or night or on the threshold of a courtyard or on the earth or space or using any weapon. So after getting a boon Hiranyakashyap returned to his kingdom and began to trouble the Gods. He also declared himself as God and ordered all to worship him. When his son Prahlada told him that Vishnu is the only God and cannot accept his father as God he tried to kill Prahlada. The servants threw Prahlada from top of mountains and in to the sea but could not kill him. Snakes and fire also could not harm him.
The Demon asked Prahlada that is Vishnu present in this pillar and took his mace to hit the pillar. Lord Vishnu emerged from the pillar in his incarnation as Lord Narasimha with the head of a Lion and body of the man. The Demon King hit Narasimha with his mace but Narasimha brushed it aside swiftly. It was twilight and Narasimha caught hold of the demon Hiranyakashipu. He sat on the threshold of the court room, placed the body of the demon on his thighs, and pierced his nails into the body of the demon and broke open his stomach killing him.
The Nine forms of Lord Narasimha (Nava Narasimha)
It is believed that Lord Narasimha protects his followers when they are in extreme danger. He also saved Adi Sankara from being sacrificed to the goddess Kali by a Kapalika. As a gesture of gratitude Adi Sankara composed the Laksmi -Narasimha stotra in praise to Lord Narasimha.
Lord Narsimha is recognized in the scriptures by a variety of forms. He is said to have more than 74 forms on the basis of his different postures or weapons. Out of this 9 forms are the most popular. The most popular out of the nine is his Lakshmi Narasimha form. The nine forms of Narasimha (Nava Narasimha) are
1. Ugra Narasimha
Ugra means ferocious . This temple is situated in upper Ahobilam and the Lord is self formed inside a cave to give darshan to Garuda here he is depicted with Hiranya on His lap. The idol of Prahalada is in front of the Lord. He gave darshan to Garuda. Adi Sankara got back his hand cut by Kapalikas so he sang the Lakshmi Narasimha Karavalamaba stothram and has also installed a Shivalingam and Sudarshana Narasimha yantram in this temple. There is a seperate shrine for Senju Lakshmi thayar.
2. Krodha Narasimha
Kroda means the extruded teeth, the Lord is depicted as the Varaha Narasimhar ( boar) . indicating his previous incarnaton. He is holding mother earth in His teeth.
3. Malola Narasimha:
Maa means Maha lakshmi and Lola means Lover. In this form the Lord give dharshan along with His consort Mahalakshmi seated in His left thigh. He is depicted as Santha ( peaceful) Narasimha showering His blessings to the devotees. Out of the nine forms of the Lord two are with thayar other being Pavana Narasimhar. Malola utsavar is the presiding deity of the Ahobila mutt. When there was a confusion as to which Utsavar to adopt as the presiding deity, Maha Vishnu himself indicated Malola vigraha in the dream and cleared the confusion.
4. Jwala Narasimha:
Jwala means flame , the Lord is at His most ferocious form here. There are three idols in this shrine in the first one He is depicted as He emerges out of the pillar to kill Hiranya. The second one the Lord is depicted with eight hands with two hands He is tearing open the stomach of Hiranya and two hands are garlanding his intestine with two hands he is holding the legs and head firmly in place on His thigh in the other two hands He is wielding His divine weapons of Conch and discus. The third idol depicts the fight between the Lord and the demon. To visit this shrine we have to cross a beautiful water fall, falling from the top of the Vedatri mountains. On the top of the hill is situated the Ugra stambh( the ferocious pillar) supposed to be the pillar from which Lord emerged the whole mountain is supposed to be the palace of Hiranyakashipu we can see the structure which resembles fort and also the school in which Prahalada studied.
5. Varaha Narasimha:
In the lower Ahobilam a magnificent temple is built for Narasimha. Here Lord gives darshan as Lakshmi Narasimhar with Mother Lakshmi in his left lap. He is also called Prahalada Varadar and Santha Narasimhar. The temple is a good example stone architecture with beutiful mandapams ans wall carvings. There is seperate shrine for Mahalakshmi and Andal. The temple tower is 7 tiered one. There are two utsavars one in the normal Mahavishnu form with consorts and the other in Lakshmi Narasimha form along with consorts.
6. Bhargava Narasimha:
Bargava is Parasurama, he did penance to see Lord in his Ugra Narasimha form . Lord Vishnu appeared as Ugra Narasimha to and also showed all His Dasavatharam ( ten incarnations ) to Parasurama. So we can see all the ten incarnations of the Lord in the idol of the Lord. The temple is built on a hillock with 132 steps. There is beautiful pushkarani also.
7. Karanja Narasimha:
Karanja is a tree . Hanuman did penance to see Lord Rama ( Another incarnation of Vishnu) in Ahobilam as the Lord appeared as Narasimha Hanuman requested him to give darshan as Rama. So the Lord gave darshan along with bow and arrow with the celestial serpent as umbrella ( to show that he is Maha Vishnu) to Hanuman here under the Karanja tree( Punga tree in Tamil). So he is called as Karanja Narasimhar. There is a shrine for Hanuman facing the Lord. Hanuman gives in standing pose with hands in woshipping position.
8. Yoga Narasimha:
Here the Lord is depicted in a yogic posture with His legs crossed and the hands in yogic posture. The legend is that He taught the nuances of yoga to prahalada here.
9. Lakshmi Narasimha:
Here again the Lord gives darshan along with His consort Senju Lakshmi. Senju are the triabals of this mountains the legend is that the Lord married Senju Lakshmi from among the tribals to grace the tribals. There is a seperate cave shrine for Senju Lakshmi thayar She graces in standing position along with Hanuman. Tribals come and worship the Lord every week according to their customs for the grace of the Lord. It is believed that by the darshan of the Lord ones get washed away. The shrine is located on the leeward side of the Garudatri mountain and involves the arduous trekking in woods lined with bamboos and teak wood and criss crossing wild rivers.
Chatra vad Narasimhar : Chatra means umbrella and Vad means banyan tree the Lord is here depicted in His jolly mood enjoying the music of Ahaa and Uuhu two divine singers under the banyan tree. He is Santha Narasimhar.
Chanting this Bija Mantra is said to removes all sorrows and fears.
Narasimha Maha Mantra
Om Hrim Ksraum ugram viram maha-vishnum
jvalantam sarvato mukham
nrisimham bhishanam bhadram
mrityur mrityum namamy aham
"I bow down to Lord Narasimha who is ferocious and heroic like Lord Vishnu. He is burning from every side. He is terrific, auspicious and the death of death personified."
Narasimha Gayatri Mantra
Mantra:Om Vajranakhaya Vidmahe
Tanno Narasimhah Pracodayat
Om let us meditate the half-man and half-lion form of the Lord Narasimha. May this great God with his nails pierce our ignorance and with his fierce sharp-tooth destroy the demon of darkness and illuminate our mind and understanding.