Vamana Avatar – Part 2 – Bali meets Vamana


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Aggrieved with the plight of her sons, the demigods, Aditi, the wife of Kasyapa Muni performed severe penance and practiced austerities with the goal of pleasing the Supreme Personality of God-head. Pleased with her devotion to him, the Supreme Personality of God-head promised to become her son to protect her other sons. He was then born in the form of Vamana, a brahmana dwarf, a brahmachari. During the sacred thread ceremony of Vamanadeva, he was presented with a begging bowl by Kubera, the lord of the yakshas.

Vamana then proceeded to the place where Bali was performing his sacrifices and yagna. Holding in his hands, the rod of a brahmachari, a wooden umbrella and a pot full of water, he entered the arena where the ashwamedha sacrifice was being held. Although he was just a young brahmana boy wearing a belt of straw, a sacred thread, an upper garment of deerskin with matted locks of hair, he generated such radiance and effulgence that everybody in the arena stood up to welcome him there.

Bali then offered him a seat and worshipped him by washing his feet. Being aware of the prevalent religious principles, he also placed his head on the feet of the young brahmachari.

Bali addressed him thus – O son of a brahmana, it appears that you have come here to ask me something. Therefore, whatever you want from me shall be given to you. This is my promise to you.

Pleased with the asura king’s benevolence, Vamana replied O king, I ask you only three paces of land to the measurement of my steps.

When Bali intervened and requested the brahmachari to ask for a more significant offering, Vamana replied O King, even the entire three worlds will not satisfy a person whose senses are uncontrolled. If I were not satisfied with three paces of land then I would surely not be satisfied if you gave me seven islands and more.

Sukracharya who by now suspected that there was more to this young brahmachari than met the eye, took Bali aside and told him – This is the Supreme Personality of God-head, incarnate as the son of Kasyapa Muni and Aditi. He has now appeared here to fulfill the interests of the demigods, and your promise to him has the possibility of bringing great harm to our asura brethren.

Understanding the full import of his spiritual guru’s words, Bali then replied stating that he had made a promise to the young brahmachari and intended to fulfill it, at whatever cost. Being the grandson of Prahlada, how could he go back on his promise to a young brahmana and be accused of being untruthful.

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Vamana Avatar – Part 1 – Bali defeats Indra


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After the churning of the celestial ocean in which Lord Vishnu helped the devas obtain the Amrit, the nectar of immortality all for themselves, the asuras were enraged at this turn of events. They took up arms against the devas and attacked them on the shores of the ocean itself. Led by their commander Maharaja Bali (grandson of Prahlada), the asuras fought valiantly but the devas, who were enthused and enlivened after drinking the nectar managed to parry their attacks bravely.

Bali attacked Indra with all his best weapons and used various techniques of warfare to try and overpower the commander of the devas. Enraged by Bali’s attempts at sorcery and magical techniques to defeat him, Indra used his famed Vajra, the thunderbolt to render the asura commander unconscious, and left him for dead on the battlefield.

It was Sukracharya, a descendant of Bhrigu Muni who resuscitated Bali and nurtured him back to health. Overcome with gratitude for this gesture, Bali became a disciple of Sukracharya and served him with great faith. Pleased with his devotion and faith to his master, the holy men in the ashram suggested that Bali perform the Visvajit yagna, which would help him achieve his ultimate desire of defeating Indra.

When the sacrifice was performed, Bali received a celestial chariot, magical horses, weapons, and an entire army from the sacrificial fire. After offering his thanks and obeisance to his master and the assembled holy men, Bali then marched towards the capital of Indra. He gathered his entire army outside the capital and attacked it from all directions.

Noticing Bali’s renewed strength and disturbed by the same, Indra then approached his spiritual master Brihaspati and asked him the source of Bali’s newfound energy, enthusiasm and vigor. Brihaspati then told Indra about how Bali had managed to please the descendants of Bhrigu Muni and as a result was now equipped with supreme spiritual power, the likes of which could be overcome only by the Supreme Personality of God-head.

Brihaspati then advised Indra that a time would come when Bali would insult brahmanas which would immediately render all the benedictions that he had received from them inconsequential. However, until such a time it would be appropriate for the demi gods to leave the capital and go somewhere else. Taking the advice of their spiritual master, Indra and the demi gods then left their heavenly kingdom and scattered.

Bali, now with the satisfaction of having defeated his nemesis Indra, proceeded to perform one hundred ashwamedha sacrifices.

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Narasimha Avatar – Part 6 – The confrontation


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When Sukracharya realized that his other students were slowly being influenced by Prahlada speaking to them and they were also inclined to become devotees of Vishnu, he immediately went to Hiranyakasipu and informed him of this.

An enraged Hiranyakasipu immediately summoned Prahlada to him and scolded him “You are an obstinate fool to have defied and violated my power and rule over you. Today I shall send you to Yamaraja’s abode. You know that when I am angry all three worlds tremble. By whose power have you become so impudent that you appear fearless and overstep my power to rule you?”

A smiling Prahlada replied ”My dear king, the source of my power and strength is the same as that of yours and all of us in the three worlds. The one and only original source of strength is Lord Vishnu himself. He is the power of the senses, the power of the mind, the power of the body. He is the one who creates this cosmic manifestation, preserves it and destroys it as well.”

Further enraged by this cheeky reply of the young prince, the asura king roared “You are trying to minimize my value as if you were better than me at controlling the senses. You have described a supreme being other than me, a supreme being who is above everything, who is the controller of everything and who is all-pervading? But where is he? If he is everywhere, is he present in this pillar?”

Obsessed and blinded with anger Hiranyakasipu stuck his fist against the pillar immediately next to him.

Then from within the pillar came a fearful sound such as one which appeared to resound throughout the three worlds. From within it emerged a wonderful form which nobody had ever seen before. The form was neither that of a man nor that of a lion. It was none other than Vishnu in the form of the Narasimha.

Hiranyakasipu studied this form carefully. The angry eyes resembled molten gold, the shining mane which expanded the dimensions of his fearful face, the deadly teeth, the tongue which moved about like a dueling sword, the erect and motionless ears, the nostrils and gaping mouth which appeared like a cave, the fearfully parted jaws; all of this was awe-inspiring.

Confident with the knowledge that he had Brahma’s boon, Hiranyakasipu attacked the beast with his club, who immediately parried the blow and picked up the asura king in his hands. And then as if playing with him, Narasimha immediately put down the asura. Hiranyakasipu once again attacked his foe with a sword and this time around lifted the asura and put him on his thighs and sat down on the doorway of the assembly hall where the confrontation was taking place.

And then with the nails on his hand, Narasimha tore the asura to pieces and killed the tyrant king.

The boon granted by Brahma to the asura was O my lord, if you will kindly grant me the boon I desire, please let me not meet death from any of the living entities created by you.

Grant me that I not die within any residence or outside any residence, during the daytime or at night, nor on the ground or in the sky, nor by any weapon, nor by any human being or animal.

Grant me that I not meet death from any entity, living or non-living, that I not be killed by any demigod or demon or any snake from the lower worlds.

Therefore by appearing in the form of Narasimha, at dusk, and killing the asura on the doorway of his assembly hall, Vishnu managed to overcome all the conditions of the boon.

Once Hiranyakasipu was killed, the demigods and all the other rulers immediately paid obeisance to Vishnu in his fearful form as Narasimha and showered praise on his strength, powers and divinity. However, Narasimha’s anger had still not subsided and therefore Narada requested Prahlada to go forward and appease him.

Prahlada immediately prostrated in front of the half-lion and seeing his devotion Narasimha placed his hand affectionately on his head. By this touch, Prahlada was immediately cleansed of all material contaminations and desires.

Thus ends the story of the first time that the doorkeepers Jaya and Vijaya were granted salvation at the hands of their lord Vishnu. They were reborn again as the brothers Kumbhakarna and Ravana who formed an important part of the story of Rama and yet again as Sisupala and Dantavakra who were in turn killed by Krishna.


Narasimha Avatar – Part 5 – The story of Prahlada’s birth


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In Sukracharya’s ashram, when the other students learnt about Prahlada’s story, they approached him and wanted to learn from him. He then instructed them about the uselessness of leading a materialistic life and how absolute devotion to Lord Vishnu was the only way in which one could attain salvation.

He then went on to inform his friends that he had received this knowledge from Narada Muni and that it was based on logic and philosophy and was free from all material contamination. When his young friends asked Prahlada as to how he had managed to get this knowledge from the great Narada, he went on to narrate the story of his birth to them.


When Hiranyakasipu, the asura king was engaged in severe penance near the Mandara mountain, Indra, the king of the demigods attacked the asuras to subdue them and conquer them. After defeating the asura armies, Indra then captured Hiranyakasipu’s wife, who at that point of time was pregnant with Prahlada. At this point, Narada intervened and told Indra that even though the queen bore Hiranyakasipu’s child, the child itself was sinless and faultless and that he would go on to become a great devotee of Vishnu.

Hearing this Indra allowed Narada to take the queen to his ashram to remain there under his protection. At the ashram, as was the norm the queen provided service to Narada who in turn was benevolent enough to partake with instructions and information on religion and other related subjects to her. Because of the long duration of her stay there, all the information that Narada gave to her were assimilated by Prahlada from within his mother’s womb itself.

Therefore when the young prince was born, he was already a great devotee of Vishnu and followed the path of abstaining from materialistic pleasures even from a very young age, despite the fact that he was an asura prince.


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Narasimha Avatar – Part 4 – An introduction to Prahlada


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Despite having acquired the boon which was beyond anybody else’s reach Hiranyakasipu still remembered his brother Hiranyaksha’s death and continued to harbor hopes of avenging the same from Vishnu.

He soon conquered all the three worlds by virtue of his strength and possessing the confidence that nobody could defeat him anymore. The human beings, the Gandharvas, the Garudas, the serpents, the Siddhas, Caranas, Vidhyadharas, the great saints, Yamaraja, the Manus, the Yakshas, the Rakshasas, the Pisachas and their masters, the masters of the ghosts and the Bhuthas, all of them were conquered by him. He started residing in the most beautiful of all of Indra’s palaces which was designed by Viswakarma. All the demigods were forced to pay obeisance to him and bow down to him despite being severely chastised by him.

Thus for a very long time, the three worlds and its inhabitants were subject to the opulences of his rule which transgressed the laws and regulations mentioned in the shastras. Everyone including the rulers of the various planets were extremely distressed with this situation and the severe punishment inflicted upon them by the demon king. They therefore started praying to Vishnu to deliver them from the asura.

Vishnu answered their prayers and informed them that he was aware of all the atrocities committed by Hiranyakasipu, and the he would soon stop them very soon. He asked them to be a little more patient with him. He then goes on to tell them that as soon as Hiranyakasipu teases and tests his own son, Prahalada, a great devotee of his, who is peaceful and sober and has no enemy, then he will immediately kill Hiranyakasipu despite Brahma’s benediction given to him.


Hiranyakasipu had four sons of which Prahlada was undoubtedly the best and he was also a staunch devotee of Vishnu. He had an extremely good character and was very determined to understand the Absolute Truth. He was kind to every living entity and was a friend to everybody. To respected persons he was a servant, to the poor he was a father, to his equals he was a brother, and he considered all his teachers, wise men and older brothers as representatives of God himself. Although he was born in a family of asuras, he never exhibited any of their material desires or opulence and had devoted his entire life to the service of Vishnu.

Despite his father Hiranyakasipu’s continued attempts to weave him away from the devotion displayed to Vishnu by various methods, Prahlada’s unstinting love for the lord continued unabated. Even though Sukracharya, the spiritual guru of the asuras and Prahlada’s teacher did everything in his power to teach the young prince subjects such as political science, governance and other similar sciences. At the end of his stint at Sukracharya’s gurukula, when Hiranyakasipu asked his son as to what he had learnt there, the young prince went on to narrate the various methods in which a true devotee worshipped Lord Vishnu.

Enraged by this when the king abused his spiritual guru, Sukracharya responded stating that whatever your son has just narrated were not taught by me to him. His devotion has been spontaneously developed by him. On hearing this reply, the king addressed his son and asked him as to where he received such sacrilegious education from. Prahlada replied stating that such devotional inclination towards Vishnu is not something that can be taught by any person to another. It is something that is developed by individuals who have given up all materialistic desires and focus their concentration on understanding the Absolute Truth.

Enraged by the insolence of his son, Hiranyakasipu immediately ordered his servants to kill the young Prahlada. Branding him a traitor and an enemy who worshipped Vishnu, his brother’s killer, the asura king broke off all ties with his own son.

On hearing their king’s orders, the asuras immediately started striking Prahlada with their weapons and surprisingly they could not even scratch the young prince despite the fierce weapons they used. Such was the power of his prayers and devotion to Vishnu. Hiranyakasipu then tried having his son trampled by elephants, throwing him in a snake pit filled with venomous snakes, hurling him from the top of a tall hill, administering him poison, starving him, subjecting him to severe cold, winds, fire and water, but none of these methods even disturbed Prahlada.

Defeated despite all his attempts to kill Prahlada, Hiranyakasipu then ordered that his son be further educated by Sukracharya with the hope that due to passage of time, his devotion to  Vishnu would be reduced and he would go on to become a good king of the asuras.

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