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Lord Maha Vishnu has taken a lot of forms for the good of his devotees and the welfare of the whole world. Among all the avatars of Lord Maha Vishnu, the form of Lord Narasimha is perhaps the most ferocious one.
Lord Narasimha is the fourth avatar of Lord Maha Vishnu. This avatar was taken to destroy the demon King Hiranyakashyapu and rescue his devotee Prahalada. The story says that Hiranyakashyapu was the King of Asuras and loathed the Devas. He considered Lord Maha Vishnu to be his greatest enemy, as the Lord helped the Devas against the tyranny of the Asuras.
To be able to defeat Lord Maha Vishnu, he performed a penance to please Lord Brahma and received a boon. The boon said that the demon cannot be killed by humans or animals, in the sky or on the ground, by astras or shastras, not in a building or in the open. With this boon, he considered himself an immortal and started terrorizing humans and the Devas.
He faced the greatest opposition from his own son, Prahalad. Prahalad was a great devotee of Lord Maha Vishnu. Hiranyakashyapu tried first to change his son's ways and on failure, he tried to kill him. All of it went in vain.
One day, when Prahalada claimed that his Lord was present everywhere, Hiranyakashyapu challenged him asking if he was present in the pillar of his palace. He took his Gada and smashed the pillar to prove the Lord's absence. But from the smashed pillar, Lord Narasimha jumped forth. Lord Narasimha proceeded to kill Hiranyakashayapu at dusk, on the entrance of the palace, placed on his lap with his own sharp nails.
Still angry, Lord Narasimha drank Hiranyakashyapu's blood and wore the intestines as a garland. It was only after Prahalada came forward that the Lord calmed down.
The Nine Forms Of Lord Narasimha
It is said that Lord Narasimha appears to save his devotees from danger. Adi Shankaracharya was saved by Lord Narasimha when he was being sacrificed to Goddess Kali. Guru Adi Shankaracharya then composed the Lakshmi-Narasimha Stotram to please the Lord.
Lord Narasimha is commonly depicted as a creature that is half-man and half lion. He has a ferocious expression on his face and has long and sharp finger nails. These finger nails are the only weapons he possesses.
He has also been described in more than 74 forms, based on the pose and weapons he holds. There are nine forms that are the most famous. These nine are together called the Nava Narasimha. The names of the forms are as follows.
The word 'Ugra' is translated as ferocious. The lord is depicted as the ferocious form with Hiranyakashyapu's mutilated body on his lap. Prahalada stands before the Lord with his head bowed. It is said that it was in this form that the Lord gave darshan to Garuda and Adi Shankaracharya.
This form of the Lord is depicted with extruded teeth. The form also is a combination of the third avatar of Lord Maha Vishnu - Varaha. He holds the Mother Earth in between his teeth.
'Maa' refers to Goddess Lakshmi and 'lola' refers to lover. This form of Lord Narasimha has the Goddess Maha Lakshmi depicted in it. This is one of the calmest forms of the Lord.
This is one of the most ferocious forms of the Lord. He is depicted as a beast with eight hands. He used two hands to tear open Hiranyakashyapu's stomach, two garlands on himself with the intestines, two hands are used to hold the demon in place and the last two hold the weapons - conch and discuss.
This form of Lord Narasimha is also called Prahalada Varadar or Shanta Narasimha. This form is also often depicted along with Goddess Lakshmi or the Varaha Avatar of Lord Maha Vishnu.
Lord Parashurama was blessed by Lord Narasimha. The form in which he appeared is known as Bhargava Narasimha. This form is similar to the Ugra Narasimha form.
It is said that Lord Hanuman once did a penance to see Lord Rama. Lord Maha Vishnu appeared as Lord Narasimha instead. The form of Lord Narasimha has a resemblance to Lord Rama. He holds the bow and arrow and has the serpent Ananta spread over his head as an umbrella. Karanja is a tree under which Lord Hanuman performed the penance and where Lord Narasimha appeared.
In this form, Lord Narasimha holds a meditative pose. He has his legs crossed and his eyes are closed. His hands rest in a yogic mudra that denoted peace. It is said that it was in this form that Lord Narasimha taught his devotee Prahalada all the basics of yoga.
The Lakshmi Narasimha form is a calm depiction of Lord Narasimha. The Lord is shown with his consort Senju Lakshmi. It is said that during the avatar of Lord Narasimha, Goddess Lakshmi took birth as Senju Lakshmi in the home of some tribals to be with Lord Narasimha. There are tribals who worship this form of Lord Narasimha even to this day.