The day of advent or birth of Lord Narasimha is observed as Narasimha Jayanti. He is an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, the supreme God of protection and sustenance. Narasimha is a unique form that has a human physique and a lion head. Lord Vishnu incarnated in this form on earth, to annihilate evil and establish dharma, the ultimate righteousness. This sacred Avatar is regarded as his 4th on earth and is believed to have been taken during the epoch Krita (Satya) Yuga.
As per legends, Narasimha appeared at dusk on the Vaishak Shukla Paksha Chaturdashi day, that is, the 14th day of the bright fortnight, in the month of Vishaka (April–May). Hence, Narasimha Jayanti is celebrated with piety on that day and is also called by the name of Narsingh Chaturdashi.
Narasimha is regarded as the God of power and valor. People celebrate the day of his advent by observing fasts, chanting mantras in his praise and offering worships to him and his consort Goddess Lakshmi.
Narasimha, the distinctive Lord
‘Nara’ is a human being and ‘Simha’ is a lion, and ‘Nara-Simha’ is thus a Man-Lion. Lord Vishnu had to take this unbelievably strange form, for overcoming the mighty demon Hiranyakashipu, who was very well protected by a series of boons, and for slaying him, in order to save the world and the people from his tyranny.
Legend of Narasimha
Hiranyakashipu, the son of sage Kashyap and his wife Diti, was a fearsome Asura. He developed strong hostility towards Lord Vishnu, as he had incarnated as Varaha and killed his brother Hiranyaksha earlier, for putting an end to his cruelties. Hiranyakashipu did intense penance towards Lord Brahma and obtained from him many exceptional boons, which made him almost unconquerable. Armed with this seemingly invincible armor of near immortality, Hiranyakashipu let loose a reign of terror on all the worlds, dethroning the Devas, committing untold atrocities on sages, saints and humans, and mercilessly punishing anyone who took the name, Vishnu or Narayana. And the world began resonating with the chants ‘Om Hiranyaya Namaha’. Unable to withstand the demon’s assaults, people surrendered to Lord Vishnu seeking his mercy and intervention and the Lord stepped in to save the world.
Hinranyakashipu and his wife Kayadhu were blessed with a son Prahlada, who turned out to be the most ardent devotee of none other than Lord Vishnu himself. This pious young prince virtually lived and thrived on taking the Lord’s sacred name and singing his glory right in Hiranya’s palace, while the world outside bowed to the Asura’s diktats. Hiranya could not tolerate his own son defying him openly and taking the name of his sworn enemy with great reverence, and tried all his means to make the boy change his mind and fall in line, but nothing helped. Exasperated, he tried to even kill him by various means – by pushing him down from a mountain, throwing him in sea, burning him in fire etc., but nothing worked against that divinely blessed youngster. Firmly believing that it is none other than his great adversary Vishnu, who was instigating and protecting the young boy, Hiranya asked his son whether the Lord is there in a pillar in his own palace. When Prahlada replied in the affirmative, Hiranya smashed his mace at the pillar with intense rage, so as to locate and challenge his incredible foe.
Lo and behold! The pillar split open and out emerged the phenomenal figure of a man-lion, with eyes emitting fire. This spectacular manifestation simply grabbed the bewildered Hiranyakashipu with his hands, dragged him to the palace entrance, laid him on his lap, tore his body with his sharp nails and destroyed the ruthless demon. However, Prahlada pleaded for his father’s salvation and the Lord fulfilled his request. Pleased with his devotee’s commitment, he is also said to have declared that all those who observe fast and worship him on his Jayanti day will also attain liberation.
Observance of Narasimha Jayanti
On that auspicious day, people consecrate the place of worship by applying cow dung, then install images of the Lord and the Goddess, place an urn with copper coins etc. in front, offer an ashtadal-kamal, the lotus flower with 8 petals and do puja, preferably at sunset time, when the Lord actually appeared. Donating things like sesame seeds, clothes and cow is also considered auspicious. People can also observe fast on Narasimha Jayanti for propitiating the Lord.