The twin form of NarNarayan Dev at the Swaminarayan Temple Ahmedabad
|Affiliation||Avatar of Vishnu|
Nara-Narayana (Sanskrit: नर-नारायण; nara-nārāyaṇa) is a Hindu deity pair. Nara-Narayana is the twin-brother incarnation of the Supreme God Vishnu on earth, working for the preservation of dharma or righteousness. In the concept of Nara-Narayana, the human soul Nara is the eternal companion of the Divine Narayana.
The Hindu epic Mahabharata identifies God Krishna with Narayana and Arjuna - the chief hero of the epic - with Nara. The legend of Nara-Narayana is also told in the scripture Bhagavata Purana. Hindus believe that the pair dwells at Badrinath, where their most important temple stands.
Monier-Williams dictionary says Nara is "the primeval Man or eternal Spirit pervading the universe (always associated with Narayana, "son of the primeval man"; both are considered either as gods or sages and accordingly called देवौ, ऋषी, तापसौ. In epic poetry, they are the sons of Dharma by Murti or Ahimsa and emanations of Vishnu, Arjuna being identified with Nara, and Krishna with Narayana.- Mahabharata, Harivamsa and Purana". Narayana is Vishnu while Nara is Shesha
Nara-Narayana are depicted jointly or separately in images. When depicted separately, Nara is portrayed with two hands and wearing deer skin while Narayana is shown on the right in the usual form of Vishnu.
Sometimes, both of them are depicted identical to each other. They are depicted four-armed holding a mace, a discus, a conch and a lotus, resembling Vishnu.
In a previous life, the duo were born as the sages Nara and Narayana, and who performed great penances at the holy spot of Badrinath. Nara and Narayana were the Fifth Avatar of Lord Vishnu. The twins were sons of Dharma, the son of Brahma and his wife Murti (Daughter Of Daksha) or Ahimsa. They live at Badrika performing severe austerities and meditation for the welfare of the world. These two inseparable sages took avatars on earth for the welfare of mankind and to punish the wicked ones. The sages defeated a demon called Sahasrakavacha ("one with a thousand armours"). In Mahabharata Sahasrakavacha was reincarnated as Karna, born with Kavacha and Kundals (armour and earings)and Krishna and Arjun were reincarnated as Nara and Narayana  Legend has it that once Lord Shiva tried to bring the fame of Nara and Narayana before the entire world. To do that, he hurled his own potent weapon Paashupathastra at the meditating rishis. The power of their meditation was so intense that the astra lost its power before them. Lord Shiva stated that this happened since the duo were jnanis of the first order constantly in the state of Nirvikalpa Samadhi.
Birth of Urvashi
The Bhagavata Purana tells the story of the birth of Urvashi from the sages Nara-Narayana. Once, sages Nara-Narayana were meditating in the holy shrine of Badrinath situated in the Himalayas. Their penances and austerities alarmed the gods, so Indra, the King of Devas, sent Kamadeva, Vasanta (spring) and apsaras (nymphs) to inspire them with passion and disturb their devotions. The sage Narayana took a flower and placed it on his thigh. Immediately there sprung from it a beautiful nymph whose charms far excelled those of the celestial nymphs, and made them return to heaven filled with shame and vexation. Narayana sent this nymph to Indra with them, and from her having been produced from the thigh (uru in Sanskrit) of the sage, she was called Urvashi.
According to the Bhagavata purana, "There in Badrikashram (Badrinath) the Personality of Godhead (Vishnu), in his incarnation as the sages Nara and Narayana, had been undergoing great penance since time immemorial for the welfare of all living entities." (3.4.22)
In Badrinath Temple's sanctorium, to the far right side of the stone image of Badri-Vishala (or Badri-Narayana), are the images of Nara and Narayana. Also, the Nara and Narayana peaks tower over Badrinath.
According to Bhandarkar, the gods Nara-Narayana must be very famous at the time of the composition of the Mahabharata, since in the opening stanzas of different books obeisance is made to these two gods. In Vanaparvan (12. 46, 47), Krishna says to Arjuna,"O invincible one, you are Nara and I am Hari Narayana, and we, the sages Nara-Narayana, have come to this world at the proper time.." In the same Parva, chapter 30 (verse 1); Shiva says to Arjuna "In former birth you were Nara and with Narayana as your companion, performed austerities for thousands of years at Badari".
In the Swaminarayan sect, Nara and Narayana, called as Nara-Narayana Deva. They are believed to reside at Badrikashram and to be the prime controllers of the destiny of all beings, depending on their karma. Nara-Narayana Deva are believed to have manifested at Narayana Ghat on the banks of river Sabarmati at Ahmedabad. Therefore their images were installed by Swaminarayan at the first Swaminarayan temple, Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Ahmedabad (India).
It was events that took place at Badarikashram, the abode of Nara Narayana, that led to the incarnation of Swaminarayan. It is believed that Narayana took birth as Swaminarayan due to a curse of sage Durvasa which he accepted at his own will. The curse led to Narayana taking the form of an avatar on Earth to destroy evil and establish ekantik-dharma, religion based on morality, knowledge, detachment and devotion. Important Hindu scriptures such as the Bhagavad Gita and Bhagavata Purana confirm that Narayana descends in human form to destroy evil, in the form of Swaminarayan. The Visvaksena Samhita, 11th part of the Brahma Purana, as well as the Skanda Purana give a direct reference to Narayana taking birth in the form of Swaminarayan
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- Swaminarayan Temple Cardiff - Murtis - NarNarayan Dev