Narashimha Jayanti is an important Hindu festival dedicated to Lord Vishnu and celebrates his fourth Avatar on Earth as ‘Narashimha’ (half-man, half-lion form). It is observed on the fourteenth day of the Shukla Paksha in Vishakh month (April-May). It was on the twilight of this day that Lord Narashimha killed the terrible demon Hiranyakashipu. In keeping with the legend of Narasimha Jayanti, the Pooja is performed during the evening hours, just after sunset.
Significance of Narasimha Jayanti
Lord Narasimha is synonymous with power and victory and represents the triumph of good over evil. The virtues and greatness of Lord Narasimha are extolled at length in many Hindu religious texts, which speak of his deeds with great reverence. The message, Narashimha Jayanti seeks to convey is, ‘the adherence to dharma and the shunning of adharma’. The day is celebrated with great fervor and enthusiasm across the length and breadth of the country.
Legend of Narashimha Jayanti
According to ancient Hindu scriptures, the great sage ‘Kashyap’ and his wife ‘Diti’ were blessed with two sons Harinyaksha and Hiranyakashipu. Lord Vishnu was forced to kill Harinyaksha in order to protect the Earth from his atrocities. In a bid to avenge his brother’s death, Hiranyakashipu observed severe penance to gain the favor of Lord Brahma, who ultimately blessed him with a unique boon. This resulted in Hiranyakashipu conquering the all the three ‘Lokas’ (realms) including the Heavens.
The helpless Devas (residents of Heaven) were dejected and could not defeat Hiranyakashipu, who was protected by Lord Brahma’s boon. While these events were unfolding, Hiranyakashipu’s wife Kayadhu gave birth to Prahalad in sage Narada’s ashram. This child turned out to be an ardent devotee of Lord Vishnu, and in spite of several attempts by his father to dissuade him, Prahlad was steadfast in his devotion to Vishnu. Repeated attempts by his father to assassinate him were unsuccessful and Prahlad came out unscathed.
Finally, out of desperation, Hiranyakashipu challenged Prahlad to prove the existence of Lord Vishnu. Prahlad declared that Vishnu was present everywhere, even in the pillars. In a fit of rage, Hiranyakashipu proceeded to attack the pillar, and miraculously, Lord Vishnu appeared from the pillar as the fearsome ‘Narasimha’. The roars of Narasimha struck terror in the heart of Hiranyakashipu who knew his end was near, since this was no normal human, but a being with the face of a lion and the body of a man. It was also not day nor night, but twilight, thus fulfilling the prophecy of Brahma’s boon. Lord Narasimha effortlessly lifted Hiranyakashipu, carried him to the threshold, placed him on to his thigh and ripped his chest apart with his nails.
No being could approach Narasimha, except for Prahlad, who was blessed by the Lord for his steadfast devotion and commitment. The appearance of Vishnu on earth in this Avatar is observed as ‘Narashimha Jayanti and people celebrate the day with great enthusiasm and joy.
Rituals observed on Narasimha Jayanti
In keeping with the tradition of Hindu festivals, devotees wake up early, have a bath and don new clothes on this auspicious day.
Observing a ‘Vrat’ (fast) on Narasimha Jayanti’ is considered extremely rewarding; it also serves to detoxify and purify the body. The fast begins at sunrise and concludes on the next day’s sunrise.
Special Poojas are performed for Lord Narasimha and Goddess Lakshmi, with devotees offering flowers, sweets, kumkum, saffron, coconut, gram dal and jaggery to the deities.
On this auspicious day, reciting the Narasimha Mantra along with using the Rudraksha mala as a rosary is considered highly rewarding.
Carrying out charitable acts and donating clothes, precious metals and sesame seeds is also an integral part of the rituals.
Whosoever observes these rituals and Poojas with a sincere and devotional bent of mind would be surely blessed by the Lord. It is said that praying to Lord Narasimha relieves the problems faced by devotees. Those who have incurred debts can easily resolve their issues with the blessings of the Lord. He also removes all evils from the minds of devotees and protects them from harm.
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