Prahalad – the Pious Child
Ages ago there lived a sage called Kasshibar in the land of Bharath. He had two wives, Thithi and Athithi. Thithi had two sons and they were Iraniyan and Iranyaatchan.
Both her sons were cruel by nature. They grew up with committing crimes being their only pastime.
Iranyaatchan grew up to be a very cruel Rakshasa (demon). Even as he was young he conquered all three worlds and made the Devas and humans his slaves.
To save the Devas and humans who were leading miserable lives under the tyranny of Iranyaatchan, Mahavishnu took the avatar of Sri Varaha.
With a face like that of a white wild boar and a stature that reached the skies, Mahavishnu, in this avatar of Sri Varaha killed Iranyaatchan with his sharp teeth.
The Devas and humans worshipped Mahavishnu who redeemed the world with his sharp teeth. Then, he replaced the earth on its axis which had lost balance because of the cruelties of the Rakshasa.
When Iraniyan heard that his brother Iranyaatchan had been killed, his anger knew no bounds.
He wanted to kill Mahavishnu and avenge his brother’s death.“I will avenge the death of my loving brother. I will kill that Narayan (another holy name of Lord Maha Vishnu) and all his devotees. I will see to it that there is no one to worship Mahavishnu in all the three worlds” swore Iraniyan.
Therefore, Iraniyan wanted to perform penance to get rare powers to enable him to carry out his revenge. He went to the Mantra mountain to perform his penance.
There, in the midst of a jungle that teemed with wild animals, he stood unmoving on his toe and performed a severe penance invoking Lord Brahma.
He performed the penance for several years continuously, without food and sleep, as a result of which his body became skeleton-like. An anthill formed around his body.
The Boons of Lord Brahma
Lord Brahma, pleased by Iraniyan’s penance, appeared before him. He sprinkled holy water from his kamandal (an oblong water pot used by sages during pujas. see picture) on the anthill.
The anthill disappeared. Iraniyan appeared from out of the anthill all rejuvenated in his former glory and bowed before Lord Brahma.
“Oh my devotee! I am pleased with your penance. What boon do you want?” asked Lord Brahma.
Iraniyan began listing what he had already decided to ask.
“Dear Lord Brahma! I must be the sole king of all three worlds. I should not meet my death at the hands of anyone created by you. My death should not occur within the house, nor outside, neither at night nor in the daytime….
…I should not die on earth nor in the skies. My death should not be at the hands of the Devas, plants, or animals. No weapon should cause my death. Give me this boon”, asked Iraniyan.
Lord Brahma smiled. He granted Iraniyan his boon and vanished.
Iiraniya, the arrogant
Iraniyan returned to his land armored with all the boons he wanted. He enlisted a large army and conquered the heavens, the earth, and the nether world.
He conquered the land of Indra and made Indra, the king of the Devas, his slave.
Varuna, Agni, Vayu, Surya (Sun), Chandra (Moon), Yama, and all the Devas were overpowered by Iraniyan and were made his slaves.
Iraniyan declared that he was the God of all worlds and ordained that everyone should worship only him.
He ordered that no one should worship Mahavishnu, that is, Sri Narayan. If anyone were to break the rule and mention Mahavishnu’s name or meditate his name they were to be put to death. Thus Iraniyan derived pleasure by harassing thousands of Vishnu devotees.
The people lived in constant fear and worry yearning for the end of the rule of Iranya.
The Visit of Sage Narada
One day, sage Naradha came to Iranyan’s palace to meet him. Sage Naradha who was a seer went to see Iranyan’s wife, Kayaadhu Devi, too.
Kayaadhu Devi welcomed him with joy and piety. She offered him delicious fruits and was a wonderful hostess.
Sage Naradha was amazed that such a cruel king as Iranyan was blessed with an affectionate and pious woman as his wife. He told her about the greatness of God Maha Vishnu and his holy avatars to save the world.
He narrated several stories about the divine play of Lord Vishnu. Kayaadhu Devi fell asleep while listening to the stories. Sage Naradha did not realize that she had fallen asleep and went on narrating his stories. Sage Naradha did not realize that she had fallen asleep and went on narrating his stories.
While he was narrating the stories a small voice kept acknowledging, uttering, “mm…mm…”.
It was only when he finished narrating one of the stories that Naradha realized that Kayaadhu Devi had fallen asleep. Then who else was listening to him and responding, wondered Naradha.
To find this out, he began narrating a fresh story. When he heard the “mm” sound this time Naradha found out the source of the voice.
It was no other than the baby in Kayaadhu Devi’s womb that was listening to his stories with such rapt attention.
Naradha was happy to note this. He blessed the child and told some more stories about the greatness of Lord Vishnu and then left the place.
Birth of the baby boy, Prahalad
The divine child was born on an auspicious day. People on earth and the heavens were happy that someone had, at last, appeared to deliver them from misery.
The baby that radiated like the full moon was christened “Prahalad” by Iraniyan.
Prahalad’s Learning at Gurukul
Prahalad grew up to be a beautiful boy with each passing day. When he reached the schooling age, Iraniyan wanted to send him to Gurukul.
This is a form of education in which the pupil stays with the master in his house, attends to his needs, and also learns from him many arts, science, and religion at the same time.
Sukracharya, the guru of the rakshasas, had two sons, Sandan and Amarkkan. Prahalad was sent to the Gurukul of these two teachers to gain an education. The two teachers began to teach Prahalad. The first lesson was in praise of God.
At that point of time, Iraniyan was declared to be the god of all three worlds. So, the teachers taught Prahalad to worship Iraniyan as god and pray to say “Om Iranyaya Namaha”.
The Narayana Mantra
The child Prahalad folded his hands in prayer, closed his eyes, and his pretty lips pronounced “Om Namo Narayanaya”. Hearing that forbidden prayer from the lips of the crown prince, both the teachers were aghast.
They were afraid that if Iraniyan came to know of this he would send them both to their death.
They told Prahalad, “Oh, dear child Prahalad, don’t utter these words. Your father Iraniyan is the king of all worlds. He is also the god of all worlds.”
“Oh, my teachers. You both are wrong. It is true that my father is the king of all three worlds. It is also true that he is very powerful. But he cannot look after all the life forms living in all the worlds.
Only Lord Mahavishnu has the capacity to do that. Therefore, you should worship only him saying “Om Namo Narayanaya”, he advised his teachers.
Father and the Son
After a few months, one day his teachers took him to his father Iraniyan.
Iraniyan who was seeing his son after many days embraced him affectionately and had him sit on his lap.
“Oh! My son Prahalad! Are you learning well? Are the teachers training you properly?,” he asked.“
Yes, my father!” replied Prahalad.
Iraniyan was overjoyed.
“Ok! Let us see! Tell me some of the important lessons that they have taught you” he asked.
Prahalad closed his eyes, folded his hands and devoutly uttered, “Om Namo Narayanaya”.
Iraniyan was shaken as if he had stepped on a snake. His eyes reddened in anger. He pushed his son away and came stomping to confront the teachers.”
“Foolish idiots! You have taught my son to utter the name of my sworn enemy. How dare you?” he thundered.
Both the teachers trembled. “Oh, King! We taught your son to utter only ‘Om Iranyaya Nama’. But he keeps uttering only the name of Mahavishnu all the time.
And not only does he alone do that, but he has also taught the rest of the pupils to say that,” they pleaded.
Iranyan came back to his son.
Advising the Father
“Oh my son, Prahalad, Is it right to ignore all the good things that your teachers have taught you and utter the name of my sworn enemy alone?”he asked.
“My dear father, you are my father. I have that sincere love for you. But Lord Mahavishnu is the father of all living things. He is the saviour of all the worlds. What is wrong in worshipping him?” he asked fearlessly.
Iranyan’s anger increased when he heard the name of “Mahavishnu”. How could his son utter the name of one whom he was waiting to avenge?
“My son, don’t say that again. Narayan is our sworn enemy. He killed your uncle. My life’s ambition is to avenge his death” hissed Iraniyan.
Prahalad laughed, “But, my dear father, can you conquer Lord Vishnu who permeates all worlds? Take refuge at his feet and worship him. You will be delivered,” advised the son.
Cruel Punishments to the Little Boy
“How do you dare to advise me?” screamed Iraniyan with rage and flung his son to a corner.
He called his rakshasa soldiers and said to them, “Oh! Warriors…this is not my son. He is a misfit to my lineage. If we leave him alive, he will destroy our rakshasa generation. Bind him up and drag him away. Torture him and kill him,” he ordered them.
The soldiers bound Prahalad in chains and dragged him away and tortured him with swords, spears, and other such deadly weapons.
The boy Prahalad kept uttering Lord Mahavishnu’s name and when the soldiers’ weapons touched him, the weapons broke and were shattered.
The soldiers stood amazed.
They were furious at the small boy’s power and tried to make poisonous snakes bite him. The snakes that had been hungry for several days fell on Prahalad and bit him.
But how amazing! The snakes’ teeth broke and shattered. Lord Mahavishnu saw to it that their poison did not harm Prahalad in any way.
The soldiers who tried their best to have Prahalad killed somehow, got frenzied elephants to attack Prahalad. They thought that Prahalad will be trampled to death under the legs of the frenzied elephants.
But the elephants that surrounded and cornered Prahalad furiously and trumpeted loudly, suddenly bowed before him in obeisance.
Then they turned around and attacked the soldiers who had goaded them. They snatched the soldiers by their trunks and thrashed them to death. The rest of the soldiers ran for their lives.
Prahalad returned to the palace singing “Om, Namo Narayanaya.”
Iraniyan was furious when he heard that the efforts of the soldiers had been futile and that Prahalad had escaped the attempts on his life. So he decided to confront Mahavishnu on his own grounds.
He called for a very powerful asura (another name for rakshasa, the demon) called Sambasura and commanded him to kill Prahalad.
Sambasura transformed himself into a large giant and tried to kill Prahalad.
But he could not even get close to Prahalad who sat chanting in praise of Vishnu devoutly. Mahavishnu’s power surrounded Prahalad and saved him from any harm. Sambasura retreated in shame.
Iraniyan who saw this was even more furious. He called upon some of his strongest soldiers and told them to tie up Prahalad with deadly snakes and to drop him in the middle of the ocean.
The soldiers did just that. They brought the deadliest snakes from the depths of the Pathala lokha, the underworld and tied up Prahaldad with those snakes.
Then they put him on a ship, sailed to the deepest part of the ocean, and threw Prahalad into the water.
The water rose up sharply where Prahalad was thrown in. The king of the oceans appeared from amidst the sea. Prahalad was saved and the deadly snakes had all been returned to the depths by the power of Mahavishnu.
The king of the oceans carried Prahalad to the shores of the ocean, blessed him, and departed. Prahalad who was left on the shores thanked Mahavishnu for saving him.
The most bounteous Lord Mahavishnu appeared before Prahalad and gave him his blessings and many boons. Prahalad walked back to the palace, singing sweet songs in praise of Lord Mahavishnu.
Iraniyan was amazed to see his son Prahalad who returned happily to the palace.
Though Iraniyan was happy to see his son return safely, he was furious that his son kept uttering the name of his sworn enemy.
The Return of The Son
He called his son and spoke to him, “My son, Prahalad…all three worlds tremble in fear of my strength.
The Devas, Asuras and human beings worship me calling me their god. You alone defy me and keep uttering my enemy’s name. Who gave you this audacity? Tell me,” he demanded.
The Omnipresent Sri -Maha Vishnu
Prahalad smiled at his father fondly.
“My father, one who has surrendered himself to Lord Mahavishnu, who looks after the welfare of all the worlds, will never be afraid of anyone. Any harm that befalls him would be taken care of by Mahavishnu,” he answered.
“Oh! Is that so? Then where is that Vishnu who is looking after your welfare? Where is he hiding now?” snarled Iranyan.
“My father, he permeates everything. There isn’t any place that does not have his presence. He is in every pillar and every dust,” said Prahalad.
Iraniyan laughed victoriously. He had formed a master plan in his mind.
‘That Mahavishnu had saved Prahalad’s life many times from danger. It is true. So if Prahalad invokes him now, Maha Vishnu will appear here now. And I can kill him immediately,’ thought Iraniyan.
He wielded his katha (mace, a deadly weapon), made of iron, in preparation.
“Prahalad, you said your Vishnu would be in every pillar…Is he in this pillar too?”, he asked pointing at a huge pillar.
Prahalad replied unperturbed. “Yes, my dear father, there is no place without Mahavishnu’s presence. He permeates everything here”. “Is that so?” laughed Iraniyan boisterously. “In that case, I am going to break this pillar into pieces with my katha.
If that Mahavishnu is really powerful let him appear before me,” he said and wielded his katha. He struck the pillar a heavy blow.
The pillar broke into two with a huge sound.
Sri Narayana Moorthy
Lord Mahavishnu appeared like lightning from the pillar with the face of a lion and the body of a human, known as the Narasimha avatar.
His appearance was accompanied by an explosive sound that shook the whole world. Just as Iraniyan had asked in his boon, the lord had appeared in the strange but beautiful and dangerous form that was neither man nor animal.
At that time it was neither day nor night but twilight. Iraniyan stood awestruck when he saw Narasimha moorthy.
All his cruel deeds were coming to an end.
Narasimha Moorthy caught him like an insect and dragged him along the floor to the steps of the palace where he sat down. He straddled Iraniyan across his laps, clawed at his stomach with his sharp nails, pulled out his intestine and strung it around his neck like a garland.
The cruel giant met his end.
The rest of the Rakshas ran into hiding. The Devas showered flowers and praised the powerful Lord Maha Vishnu.
Prahalada sang songs in praise of Mahavishnu who had taken the avatar of Narasimha in order to save him and the three worlds.
Sri Narasimha Moorthy appeared before Prahalad bathed in illuminating light. He was accompanied by his consort Sri Lakshmi. He crowned Prahalad king of the rakshasas, bestowed boons on him, and left.
With the blessings of Lord Maha Vishnu, Prahalad ruled his country justly for a long time.
Ohm Namo Narayanaya Ohm Namo Narayanaya
Ohm Namo Narayanaya Ohm Namo Narayanaya