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Hiranyakashipu (Sanskrit: हिरण्यकशिपु, "clothed
in gold"; the name is said to depict one who is very much fond of
wealth and sex life: hiranya "gold," kashipu "soft cushion") is an
Asura from the
Puranic scriptures of Hinduism. Hiranyakashipu's
Hiranyaksha was slain by Varaha, one of the Avatars
of Vishnu. Angered by this,
Hiranyakashipu decided to gain magical
powers by performing a penance for Lord Brahma. He was subsequently
killed by the
Narasimha Avatara of Lord Vishnu. His tale depicts
the futility of desiring power over others and the strength of God's
protection over his fully surrendered devotees (in the case of his son
Hiranyakashipu, according to legend, was the king of the daityas and
had earned a boon from
Brahma that made him virtually indestructible.
He grew arrogant, thought he was God, and demanded that everyone
worship only him.
The story of
Hiranyakashipu is in three parts. The first has to do
with the curse of the
Four Kumaras on the gatekeepers of Vaikuntha,
Jaya and Vijaya, which causes them to be born as the daityas
Hiranyakashipu and Hiranyaksha. The second part deals with
Hiranyakashipu's penance to propitiate
Brahma and gain a boon from
him. The final part deals with his efforts to kill his son
devotee of Vishnu) and his subsequent death at the hands of Narasimha.
Prahlada and Narasimha
5 See also
Main article: Jaya-Vijaya
According to a story from Bhagavata Purana,
Hiranyaksha are Vishnu's gatekeepers Jaya and Vijaya, born on earth as
the result of a curse from the Four Kumaras. In
Hiranyaksha - together called the Hiranyas - were
Diti (daughter of
Daksha Prajapathi) and the sage Kashyapa. It
is said that asuras were born to them as a result of their union at
the time of dusk, which was said to be an inauspicious time for such a
After Hiranyakashipu's older Brother Hiranyaksha's death at the hands
Varaha avatar of Vishnu,
Hiranyakashipu comes to hate Vishnu.
He decides to kill him by gaining mystical powers, which he believes
Brahma, the chief among the devas, will award to him if he undergoes
many years of great austerity and penance, just as
powers to other Rakshasas.
This initially seemed to work as planned, with
Brahma becoming pleased
by Hiranyakashipu's austerities.
Brahma appears before
Hiranyakashipu and offers him a boon of his choice. But when
Hiranyakashipu asks for immortality,
Brahma refuses. Hiranyakashipu
then makes the following request:
O my lord, O best of the givers of benediction, if you will kindly
grant me the benediction 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. Grant
me that my death not be brought by any being other than those created
by you, nor by any weapon, nor by any human being or animal.
Grant me that I not meet death from any entity, living or nonliving.
Grant me, further, that I not be killed by any demigod or demon or by
any great snake from the lower planets. Since no one can kill you in
the battlefield, you have no competitor. Therefore, grant me the
benediction that I too may have no rival. Give me sole lordship over
all the living entities and presiding deities, and give me all the
glories obtained by that position. Furthermore, give me all the mystic
powers attained by long austerities and the practice of yoga, for
these cannot be lost at any time.
In other Puranas, many variations of the boon are given. The Shiva
Purana mentions that
Brahma that he would be
invulnerable to dry or wet weapons, thunderbolts, mountains, trees,
missiles or any form of weapon. The
Vayu Purana mentions that
Hiranyakashipu asked to be so powerful, only
Vishnu would slay him.
Other variations include not being slain by any living being, not at
daytime or nighttime and not above or below.
In section 14, the Anusasana Parva of the Mahabharata, the Sage
Upamanyu briefly mentioned to
performed another penance to please Lord Shiva.
Hiranyakashipu the boon that he would have unrivalled combat prowess,
exceeding skill in the use of bow and other weapons as well as the
powers of all the gods, including Indra, Yama, Kubera, Sūrya, Agni,
Vayu, Soma and Varuna.
In consequence of these two boons,
Hiranyakashipu become so mighty
that he was able to shake the very Himalayas down to their roots.
Ravana once tried to lift Hiranyakashipu's earrings but he was unable
to do so because they were very heavy.
The Brahmanda Purana mentions that
Hiranyakashipu ruled for
Prahlada and Narasimha
Hiranyakashipu attacks with Mace on God Narasimha
Hiranyakashipu is performing the penance to be granted this
Indra and the other devas attack his home, seizing the
opportunity in his absence. At this point the divine sage Narada
intervenes to protect Hiranyakashipu's wife Kayadhu, whom he
describes as 'sinless'.
Narada takes Kayadhu into his care, and
while she is under his guidance, her unborn child (Hiranyakashipu's
Prahlada becomes affected by the transcendental instructions of
the sage even in the womb. Later, growing as a child,
to show symptoms of Narada's prenatal training and gradually becomes
recognised as a devoted follower of Vishnu, much to his father's
Hiranyakashipu eventually becomes so angry and upset at his son's
Vishnu (whom he sees as his mortal enemy) that he decides
he must kill him but each time he attempts to kill the boy,
Prahlada is protected by Vishnu's mystical power. When asked, Prahlada
refuses to acknowledge his father as the supreme lord of the universe
and claims that
Vishnu is all-pervading and omnipresent. To which
Hiranyakashipu points to a nearby pillar and asks if 'his Vishnu' is
"O most unfortunate Prahlada, you have always described a supreme
being other than me, a supreme being who is above everything, who is
the controller of everyone, and who is all-pervading. But where is He?
If He is everywhere, then why is He not present before me in this
Narasimha kills Hiranyakashipu, stone sculpture from
Prahlada then answers, He was, He is and He will be. (In an alternate
version of the story,
Prahlada answers He is in pillars, and he is in
the least twig.) Hiranyakashipu, unable to control his anger, smashes
the pillar with his mace. A tumultuous sound is heard, and
the form of
Narasimha appears from the broken pillar and moves to
Hiranyakashipu in defence of Prahlada.
Vishnu has chosen here to appear in the form of
Narasimha in order to
be able to kill
Hiranyakashipu without violating the boon given by
Hiranyakashipu cannot be killed by human, deva or animal, but
Narasimha is none of these, as he is a form of
Vishnu (a deva)
incarnate as part human, part animal. He comes upon
twilight (when it is neither day nor night) on the threshold of a
courtyard (neither indoors nor out), and puts the demon on his thighs
(neither earth nor space). Using his nails (neither animate nor
inanimate) as weapons, he disembowels and kills the demon.
Even after Hiranyakashipu's death, none of the gods and demigods
present are able to calm Narasimha's fury, not even Shiva. So all the
gods and goddesses call His consort, the goddess Lakshmi, but she is
also unable to do so. Then, at the request of Brahma,
presented to Narasimha, who is finally calmed by the prayers of his
Holika and Holi
One of Hiranyakashipu's attempts to kill
Prahlada was to have him sit
on a burning pyre with his sister Holika.
Holika had a special gift
that prevented her from being harmed by fire.
Vishnu's name and in the battle of good against evil,
Holika was burnt
down but nothing happened to Prahlad. The burning of
Hinduism as the festival of Holi.
^ Gopal, Madan (1990). K.S. Gautam, ed. India through the ages.
Publication Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting,
Government of India. p. 734.
^ Holi: Splashed with colors of friendship
Hinduism Today, Hawaii
^ Mani, Vettam (1975).
Puranic Encyclopaedia: A Comprehensive
Special Reference to the Epic and
Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass. p. 314.
^ Bhag-P 7.4.1 Archived 26 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine.
Brahma was very much satisfied by Hiranyakasipu's austerities,
which were difficult to perform"
^ Bhag-P, Canto 7 Archived 26 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine.
^ Bhag-P 7.7.6 Archived 26 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine. "The
victorious demigods plundered the palace of Hiranyakasipu, the King of
the demons, and destroyed everything within it. Then Indra, King of
heaven, arrested my mother, the Queen"
^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 12 October 2007.
Retrieved 13 August 2008. "When Hiranyakasipu left his kingdom
and went to the mountain known as Mandaracala to execute severe
austerities, all the demons scattered. Hiranyakashipu's wife, Kayadhu,
was pregnant at that time."
^ Bhag-P 7.7.8 Archived 26 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine.
Narada Muni said: O Indra, King of the demigods, this woman is
certainly sinless. You should not drag her off in this merciless way.
O greatly fortunate one, this chaste woman is the wife of another. You
must immediately release her."
^ Bhag-P 7.8.6 Archived 8 December 2012 at the Wayback Machine.
^ Bhag-P 7.8.3–4 Archived 26 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine.
"Thus he finally decided to kill his son Prahlada.
by nature very cruel, and feeling insulted, he began hissing like a
snake trampled upon by someone's foot."
^ Bhag-P 7.8.12 Archived 26 September 2013 at the Wayback Machine.
^ Bhag-P 7.8.29 Archived 26 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine.
"Lord Nrisimhadeva placed the demon on His lap, supporting him with
His thighs, and in the doorway of the assembly hall the Lord very
easily tore the demon to pieces with the nails of His hand."
^ Bhag-P 7.9 Archived 8 December 2012 at the Wayback Machine.
Hindu deities and texts
Yoga Sutras of Patanjali