Bhakta Prahlad

‘Prahlaadaschasmi Daityanam’ proclaimed Lord Vishnu in Bhagavad Geetha (10-30). In the chapter ‘Vibhooti Yoga’ God proclaimed that He is Prahlaad in demons. He is yama in time, He is lion in the animals and he is Garuda in birds. No teaching on Bhakti is complete without a reference to Prahlaad.

Prahlaad was born to the demon king Hiranyakasyapa and his wife Leelavathi. He was sent to the womb of Leelavathi by Lord Vishnu with a purpose. So he was taken care of by Bhakta Narada even as he was in the womb.

Ironically enough his father was a staunch enemy of Lord Vishnu. He hated him with his whole heart since he killed his brother Hiranyaksha. Hiranyaksha stole the Vedas and hid himself in patalalok when Sri Hari manifested himself as Varaha Swami, killed him and protected the Vedas. Demon do not reason out things. He was blind to the brother’s evil doing but was filled with venom against the Almighty. He instigated his demon soldiers to fight against Lord Vishnu. ‘Even if he hides himself anywhere, we should catch hold of him and kill him. So you all attack the brahmins you stop their yagas and their chantings. You cut them into pieces ruthlessly. You destroy the cows. The time is ripe now to display your valour.’
The demons lost no time in their in-human activities. They created hell of a commotion by killing the brahmin’s, sadhus and cows. The devotees were so scared that they hid themselves in a safe place.

Hiranyakasyapa went to Mandara Parvatam and did severe penance there. He stood on one leg, on the toe of the leg and looking at the sky, did severe penance. It created a turmoil of the earth and of the seven seas. The stars fell down. The animals were scared. The three lokas were shaking. The Devatas requested Brahma to do something to stop him. His desire was to put an end to the Devatas and the Dharmas inscribed in the scriptures.

Brahma came down to earth, accompanied by Bhrugu Maharshi, Daksha Prajapathi etc. They were shocked to see Hiranyakasyapa as a skeleton. Being impressed by his severe penance. Brahma offered to fulfil his desire. He had never seen before such a severe penance. Then Hiranya Kasipa got out of the anthill, prostrated before the Lord prayed to him and sought out a special boon.
Oh Lord ! you fulfil the desires of your devotees. Now listen to my desire. I should not be killed in -
air or land
fire or water
sky or the ten directions
night or day
darkness or light
by crocodiles or by demons
animals or poisonous snakes
devatas or human beings
animals or weapons

In addition to that sanction me unrivalled valour and more miraculous powers than the powers of saints.

Brahma said, ‘Nobody ever before you saught such boons’, but still being impressed by your penance I am sanctioning all those thoughts. Henceforth be a good demon and lead a proper life.’ So saying He vanished. Leave alone being a good demon, his atrocities knew no bounds. Being blessed by Lord Brahma he left not a single clan untouched. He was behaving ruthlessly with the Gandharvas, Devatas, Yakshas, Nagas, human beings. Killed meanly Kinneras, Sadhus, Charanas, Bhootha Preta pisachas, jnanis. He occupied the places of the Asta dikpalakas. He had control over day and night. He seated himself over the throne of Lord Indra. Yaksha, Kinnera, Deva, Gandharvas became dutiful to him. The only untouched ones were Lord Brahma, Vishnu, Maheswaras.

The Yagna phal of the yagas performed by the brahmins in bhoolok was received by Hiranyakasyapa himself. He did not allow the devatas to receive them.

Owing to his miraculous power the fields were yielding wonderful crops. The riches were overflowing from heaven. The seven seas were dispersing precious gems from their waves. The trees were blossoming forth throughout the year, unmindful of the seasons. Thus the unruly king disutrbed the cycle of seasons too. There seemed to be no end to his regime. Unable to bear it any more the devatas pleaded to Lord Vishnu to save them from his clutches.

Lord Vishnu showed them an assuring hand. He said ‘I am aware of the atrocities of the demon king. I am just waiting for an opportune moment to put an end to him and to his atrocities. One who harm the brahmins and the cows, one who looks down upon the scriptures, one who talks ill of me, one who sits on the throne but follows Ahdarma has to face the consequences sooner or later. The time is ripe now. He will beget a son Prahlad, my staunch devotee. So the father will treat him ruthlessly. Then I will come to the son’s rescue and put an end to the father. So you can be rest assured of peaceful life.

As foretold by the Lord Vishnu Hiranyakasyapa’s is son Prahlad turned out to be a pain in the neck to his father. He was leading a pious truthful life. He has been chanting the name of Vishnu throughout. Hiranyakasyapa who shook three lokas with his atrocities, could not shake out the faith in his son. He thought if he was sent to the gurus to seek knowledge he would be a changed person. So he sent for chandamarks, the sons of Sukracharya to impart him education. He told them to teach him the sastras befitting a king’s son.

Accordingly Chandamarks took Prahlad to their Gurukul and taught him many shastras. He too learnt them with utmost respect for the gurus. He felt his education was incomplete without the knowledge of the Lord Vishnu.

The king wanted to test the knowledge of his son one day and so sent for the gurus and their disciple. He made his son sit on the lap in the royal court and asked him to display his knowledge to please his dear father.

Then Prahlad explained, ‘Dear father, for every human being the house in which he resides is like a dark well. So he should attain jnana to come out of the well, We should realize that we are all part of the Lord Vishnu. So we should think of Vishnu alone and should step out of the house.
The king was surprised at his words, but still controlling himself, said, ‘Your words don’t befit our clan. Sri Hari is our staunch enemy. We are not supposed to chant his name. Who taught you such foolish thoughts ?

Prahlad continued to let out his feelings. ‘We think we are different from one another. Such a difference occurs because of our ignorance. If we surrender ourselves to Hari totally, we can win his heart. Some people foolishly ignore Him. The Lord Brahma himself prays to Him.

The gurus were wild with him. You are after all a boy of five! How dare you argue with us ! All the shastras we have taught you have gone waste, putting us to utter shame. You are praising the one, whose name is not supposed to be chanted here. They then turned to the king and requested him to send the boy with them once again so that they would teach him more of discipline.

They taught him the three purushas - Dharma, ardha, kama once again, at length. They used various means to imbibe this knowledge in him. Once they felt he had attained complete jnana they took him to his mother first. They made her deck him with jewels that befit a prince. All along they repeatedly told him not to behave as before and not to put them to shame. They assured the king he was a changed boy then and that he wouldn’t raise the name of Hari anymore.

Hiranyakasyapa embraced him fondly, made him sit on his lap and caressed him. Then he asked him sweetly to recite a poem he had learnt from the gurus. He said, Father the gurus taught me many things, I learnt ardhasastra, dharma sastra etc. But these are meaningless before the true sastra. That sastra teaches us 9 ways of Bhakti to pray to God. Our life on earth as a human being is a mere waste if we don’t use every part of our body in service to God. One may be a pandit but if he doesn’t have faith in God, he is worse than an animal. A true guru is one who imbibes such a knowledge and a true father is one who teaches his son to surrender before the lotus feet of God.’

Instead of being pleased by these words Hiranyakasyapa became enraged. He gave vent to his anger upon the poor teachers. The teachers pleaded innocence. They said they wouldn’t think of doing such a harmful thing to him.

Then the king asked Prahlad angrily in a thundering voice to reveal the name of the person who was misleading him thus.
Prahlad spoke softly. Hari bhakti cannot be imbibed by somebody. It is gained by birth based on his previous janma’s good deeds. To attain moksha, one should seek the Lotus feet of God.

When the demon king heard the last words, ‘lotus feet of God he was so furious that he pushed down his tiny tot from his lap. Addressing the ministers gathered around he asked, ‘Have you ever, seen such an ungrateful son in your life ? Hari killed his uncle but still my son treats him as God. He is turning to be my enemy. He is not my son. He is an enemy becauase he is praising our enemy. You take him away this very minute and kill him ruthlessly. He should not survive any more. You don’t have to show kindness to him as my son.’

Some demons came forward to execute his order mercilessly. They poked him with trisul and whipped him. However hard they hit him or suffered him his body remained in tact. Not a drop of blood came out nor a drop of tear came down his cheeks. His face retained its glory. The demon king couldn’t believe his eyes. He wondered how he could be composed thus, inspite of being a mere boy of five. He tried out various means of ill treatment to him. He was crushed by the elephants bitten by the poisonous snakes, thrown into burning fire thrown into deep sea, pushed down from high mountains, was made to eat poisonous food, was made to stand in scorching heat of the sun, heavy downpour of rain, was not allowed to breathe, was left alone in biting snow was made to face heavy wind was buried in deep pit, was made to starve unto death, made to face physical assaults heavily but to no avail. He could not harm Prahlad to the slightest possible way. The harder his task became, the weaker his heart grew. He was getting dispirited. It became certain his end was in the hands of his son.

The gurus consoled him, ‘O king! you have won over greater people than your son! Why fear a mere boy ? This may be a fantasy of childhood feelings. When he grows up he will learn for better. He may turn against Hari like you later. Time is the best healer. You please wait till Sukra charya returns.

These words mellowed down the burning heart of the demon king. He sent Prahlad back with the gurus to learn all about dharma, artha and kama all over again. Prahlad was least inclined towards them. So he in turn gathered his classmates round him and taught them Hari nama and jnana yoga. He taught them the impact of Narayana mantra. It is well sung in the Telugu film on Prahlad.

Narayana mantram, Srimannarayana Bhajanam
Gaatini bhandinchi hatinche sagila paniledu
Jeevula hinsinchi kratuvula cheyaga paniledu
Maadhava Madhusudhana ani manasuna
talachina chalura Narayana

He gives a very simple means of prayer. He says hatayoga is not necessary, yagnas are not needed. Just a wholehearted beckoning of Narayana is enough.

His friends were surprised at his jnana and asked how he attained it. Then Prahlad gave his flashback. Once my father was doing severe penance on Mandara Parvatham. He remained unperturbed to the attack of the ants. The devatas took it for granted he was dead and turned the situation to their benefit. They attacked the rakshasas and Devendra was cruelly taking away his mother. He was then in her womb. By God’s grace Narada intervened, chided Indra and rescued her from his cruel hands. He looked after my mother like a daughter and boosted up her morale. He said that she would give birth to a good soul and that her husband would come back to her alive with his wish fulfilled. He taught her many dharma soothras for my sake and I learnt them all. That is what is protecting me. Since you are my friends. I will explain them to you clearly. You listen carefully.

‘We know we are not permanent on earth. Only Atma is permanent. In spite of knowing this, we are not able to give up our mad craze for this body. As long as we are attached to it we cannot come out of our grief. To come out of this, we should seek the Lotus feet of the Lord. We should not waste our valuable time. Let’s chant the name of God together.’

The gurus were shocked to see the scene and hastened themselves to the king’s presence. They out-poured their grivances to the king. ‘My Lord! your son is converting the other boys to his belief. The boys were angry with us for not imbibing this knowledge to them. You should counsel your son regarding this.’

Hiranyakasyapa beckoned his son and attacked him seriously. ‘How dare you behave so meanly ? You spread the feeling that nobody can conquer Hari. Is it true ? If that is the case, why is he silent when I attacked the devatas ? Why do you go against the teachings of the gurus ? You dont befit our clan. I will see your end. Let me see who will come to your rescue.’

Prahlad remained calm and answered his father coolly. ‘Whoever is the creator of the universe is my Godfather. He will take care of me. In fact the Lord is not your enemy. It is your own mind. If you don’t control it you will face hell. Learn to control your mind and the sense organs. Then you will not have any enemy. So come out of your ego.’

The angry man knows no reason. He paid a deaf ear to the soothe saying of the wise boy. ‘Are you mad ? Why do you irritate me with your stupid words. Who is the creator of the world ? When he killed my brother I made a wild goose search for him but in vain. Come on, how me where he is. I will kill both you and your Hari.
Prahlad gave out the much chanted sloka then.
Indu galadandu ledani sandehamu valadu chakri sarvopagatun
dendendu vetaki chuchina nandandu kaladu Daanavagrini vinte

He explained Oh Demon king ! You don’t have to doubt His existence. You name any place he is seen. He is in the ocean, air, sky, earth, fire, directions, night, day stars, moon, sun omkara all Gods.

When Prahlad was describing God’s Omnipresence thus, God did not want to disappoint his bhaktas. So He manifested Himself as Lord Narasimha (as per one of the wishes of Hiranyakasyapa neither animal or man) in various places, ready to step out of any place that Hiranya kasyapa wanted. One might wonder when God is so Omniscient doesnot He know where Hiranyakasyapa would point out ? The answer the saints give is God gave the devil a free will and allowed him to exercise it.

Finally Hiranyakasyapa pointed out to a pillar and asked if his Hari would be seen in it. He even challenged if Hari was not found there he would kill Prahlad.

Prahlad said, ‘My God is found everywhere ranging from Brahma to a blade of grass. Won’t he be present in such a mighty piller ? If you strongly desire to see Him he will definitely manifest Himself before you.
Hiranya Kasyap hit hard at the pillar with a ferocious cry. The pillar gave such a cracking sound that the animals were scared unto death. There was a thundering noise.

Out came from the broken pillar, two Lotus feet. The Lord Narasimha half nara (man) and half simha( lion) stepped out to kill the demon and to save the bhakta. He looked ferociously though he was kind within. Hiranyakasyapa knew at once his end had come. The Lord had come to prove his bhakta’s statement God is omnipresent true and to put an end to his life. still he tried to fight with his strong opponent, putting on superiot airs, but he could not withstand for a longer time. Narasimha took him to the main door.

When one seeks too many boons we call them Hiranyaksha varalu. Hiranyakasyapa thought he was being very wise in asking so many boons. But God is wiser than these foolish people. Even as he was asking item by item, God was making an alternate list say the Swamijis. These are the alterations. He should not be killed in the day or night twilight.

neither with weapons nor creatures - nails
neither in the house nor outside - at the main door
neither man nor animal - half man, half animal
neither in the air nor on land - on God’s lap

So roaring ferociously Narahari dragged him to the main door placed him on his lap horizontally at twilight and tore open his heart with his harsh nails, spilling the demon’s blood as rain. He took out his intestines and wore them in his neck as a garland. He even killed the soldiers of Hiranyakasyapa who steped forward to attack him

Lord Narasimha did not cool down immediately after the great event. Roaring like thunder he sat on the throne of the demon king. Brahma, the devatas and other saints were scared to look at the startling looks of the God. They prayed to him from afar, but God did not mellow down. Then they prayed to Goddess Lakshmi to pacify him. Accordingly Goddess Lakshmi approached him to cool down but to no avail. Then Lord Brahma asked Prahlad to pray to Lord Narahari to cool down. He felt that God would be pleased by his prayer since he manifested himself thus to fulfil his desire.

Prahlad fell prostrate before Lord Narasimha and prayed to him in various ways. Then the Lord blessed him with his hand over the bhaktas head. All his ferociousness vanished. He asked Prahlad with a congenial smile to seek a boon since he was his greatest bhakta.
What boon will such a great bhakta seek ? His nishkama bhakti (desireless bhakti) made him rise to such a great heights. So he prayed to God thus.

‘Oh God, Right from my birth, I never had any desire for material comforts. All I seek is moksha. So please grant me one wish. See that I don’t entertain any desire.’

God was more than impressed with his wise desire. He said, ‘Prahlad you are such a wise boy. You rule your fathers kingdom and enjoy all the earthly pleasures. You constantly listen to my stories. By enjoying the material comforts you would have enjoyed fruits of your good deeds. By praying to me your sins would be multiplied. You pray to me without seeking any boon. Finally you will be one with me. In addition to that prayer to whoever reads your story and about this avatar of mine, will attain moksha.

Then Prahlad sought a boon for his father. ‘Oh God! my father was prejudiced against you, because you killed his younger brother Hiranyaaksha. His love for his brother blinded his vision and so he could not learn your greatness. But he became a blessed soul by your touch. Please see that he reaches punya lokas.’

God proclaimed, ‘Oh Prahlad. Dont you worry. Your very presence and your proximity helps others to reach heavenly abode. You father and his forefathers too have reached heaven.’

Brahma added, Oh God! whoever chants your name with total devotion would not be scared of death or Lord Yama. The Lord told Brahma to be careful before he sanctioned boons to Rakshas in future. Granting a boon to such demons is like offering nectar to a poisonous snake. Brahma crowned Prahlad as the king and all the devataas blessed him.

The belief goes that in Kaliyuga one need not perform yagnas or yagas. Mere chanting of the Lord will do. Prahlad is the best example for that faith. His father who won over all the lokas could not cause the least harm to the small boy in spite of various cruel methods imposed on him. The boy’s continuous chanting of Narayana mantram and his total surrender to God made him God himself.

* * * * *