The Legend of Narsimha
The story of Narasimha is about one of Lord Vishnu’s ten avatars taken to restore Dharma and righteousness in the world. The story revolves around Hiranyakashyapu a daemon figure in Vedic culture and his son, Prahlada.
Hiranyakashyapu’s elder brother Hiranyaksha was killed by Vishnu in Varaha Avatar for spreading terror in the world. Angered by his brother’s death, Hiranyakashyapu vowed to take revenge against Lord Vishnu.
Hiranyakashyapu decided to pray to Brahma to obtain boons of immortality. While Hiranyakashyapu was in meditation, Indra, King of God’s attacked Hirankashyapu’s kingdom and was massacring his citizens.
Indra almost killed Hiranyakashyapu’s wife Kayadhu, but Narada (a famous saint of ancient times) intervened and took Kayadhu to his Ashram. At the time, Kayadhu was pregnant with a child.
Hiranyakashyapu continued to pray until Brahma appeared to give him a boon. When Hiranyakashyapu asked for immortality, he was refused by Bramha by saying that every being had to die. So, Hiranyakashyapu chose the following a few conditions for his death:
- He cannot be killed in the sky, on earth, or in water.
- He cannot be killed inside a house or outside of a house.
- He cannot be killed by man, Deva, animal, or Asura.
- Hiranyakashyapu cannot be killed during the daytime or nighttime.
- Hiranyakashyapu could not be killed by any sort of celestial or divine weapons.
Brahma granted these requests and then left. Satisfied with himself, Hiranyakashyapu returned to his kingdom and began expanding his empire.
Because of his boons, the Devas became powerless against him. Hiranyakashyapu conquered all 3 worlds (Bhu-Lok (Earth), Deva-Lok (A world of God’s), and Asur-Lok (A world of daemons)), but his aim was to defeat the Lord Vishnu.
Hiranyakashyapu ordered to stop prayers of Devas and had forced people to worship him.
By this time, the child was born and he was named Prahlada. Hiranyakashyapu loved Prahlada very much and loved to be with the child.
When it came to the boy’s education, the King sent the child to the Ashram of the Royal Sage to learn scriptures, etc., and also learn his father’s greatness.
But the child had eyes for Narayana alone. While at the Ashram, Prahlada converted all the Asura students to worship Vishnu rather than Hiranyakashyapu. The teachers got afraid and told this to the King. Hiranyakashyapu laughed it off like a joke and called Prahlada to him.
When Hiranyakashyapu asked Prahlada to praise him, Prahlada praised Vishnu. The angry King turned to the preceptors and reprimanded them for such filthy thoughts.
But later, Hiranyakashyapu understood that the boy was a staunch devotee of his enemy. Hiranyakashyapu was enraged at the child and subjected him to many kinds of torture and punishments. Some of them are:
- Prahlada stuck neck-deep in mud and had elephants trample his head
- Threw the boy off a cliff
- Threw in a cell with snakes and scorpions
- Tried to burn the child using his sister, Holika.
In the burning incident, Holika, despite having a boon of not being hurt by fire, was burned to death while the child escaped each torture unharmed for Vishnu kept protecting the child. Later this burning event became one of the prominent festivals of India which indicates the victory of Dharma over evilness.
One day, Hiranyakashyapu called Prahlada and asked him where Vishnu was. When Prahlada replied everywhere, Hiranyakashyapu pointed to a pillar and asked “in there too?” Prahlada nodded yes.
Hirankashyapu took his mace and struck the pillar. From the pillar came a terrifying roar. A man with the face of a lion came out angry and bloodlusted, with the aim of killing the Asura. All of Creation stopped to witness this truly spectacular event.
Hiranyakashyapu and Narasimha fought violently until Narasimha overpowered the demon. Narasimha carried the Asura to the doorstep of the palace, but the demon on his thighs, and ripped the intestines of Hiranyakashyapu using his claws. The time was evening.
After seeing Narayana as Narasimha, Hiranyakashyapu understood his folly and died at the hands of Narasimha. But Narasimha’s rage was so much that Shiva or Lakshmi was afraid of approaching the Lord. But little Prahlada approached the Lord and calmed him down.
Lion-man of the Hohlenstein-Stadel
Now let’s have a look at this image which is known as the Löwenmensch figurine or Lion-man of the Hohlenstein-Stadel. The Lion Man is one of two depictions of humans known from the caves of the Lone valley in southern Germany.
This is the evidence for the earliest complex human art that appears with the first arrival of Homo sapiens in Europe during the Aurignacian period (c.33,000-26,000 BC) when humans spread across West Asia and Europe.
The archaeologist is still debating about its male or female nature but my brain jumped into another territory which confuses me and I always ask this question to myself. Why did someone create a Lion statue just like a human being?
There are many other examples of animal statues like Grotte du Tuc d’Audoubert or prehistoric cave paintings of animals in Chauvet caves or in Lascaux caves. They saw the animals are created the same on the walls.
But in the case of this status, it is different. A Lion statue was made that look-like a man except for the face. Here I am not trying to justify the Legend of Narsimha with this Lion man but we have to agree that there are similarities between these two.
In fact, as per Vedic chronology with respect to history, the Legend of Narsimha is also a prehistoric figure. Moreover, as per archaeologists, this Lion man statue was used for a ritual purpose. Is there a possibility that those prehistoric humans were aware of Narasimha’s incarnation or some similar kind of legend?
Legend of Narsimha is not the only legend with a hybrid personality. In the Sumerian mythology, there are characters called Enkidu (The “bull-man” shown in Mesopotamian art, having the head, arms, and body of a man, and the horns, ears, tail, and legs of a bull) and the “Bull of Heaven Humbaba” (he had the paws of a lion and a body covered in thorny scales; his feet had the claws of a vulture, and on his head were the horns of a wild bull; his tail and phallus each ended in a snake’s head).
Have these hybrid species really existed? If yes, then how those ancient people could create these hybrid species. Were they genetically advanced? So many such questions. Because modern genetics engineering is still not able to do such things.
In recent years with the help of technology, many things that were legend or mythology earlier became real. For example, an ancient Indian city Dwarka which were submerged in ancient time, recently it has been discovered by archaeologist [Why You Should Know About Archaeological Excavation at Dwarka?].
Or the dating of an ancient battle Mahabharata which fought 5000 years ago could possible with a few archaeological discoveries.
Currently, I am not sure that this Lion man is related to the legend of Narsimha or not but for me, it has been interesting to look at both things with the same lens. We really don’t know why the sculptor created such kind of statue? Did they really saw any hybrid figure? Or this was just their imagination. There is à lot of open questions before accepting or declining the fact that this Lion man is a Legend of Narasimha.