Prahlada

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Prahlada
King of the Asuras[1]
Prahlada mural.jpg
A mural of Prahlada
Devanagariप्रह्लाद
AffiliationVaishnavism
Asura
PredecessorHiranyakashipu
SuccessorVirochana
TextsBhagavata Purana, Vishnu Purana, Yoga Vasistha, Kurma Purana, Vamana Purana
Personal information
Parents
SiblingsSaṃhlāda, Anuhlāda, Śibi, and Bāṣkala (brothers)
SpouseDhriti
ChildrenVirochana, Kumbha, and Nikumbha

Prahlada (IAST: Prahlāda) is an asura king in Hindu mythology, known for his staunch devotion towards the preserver deity, Vishnu. He appears in the narrative of Narasimha, the man-lion avatar of Vishnu, who slays Prahlada's wicked father, Hiranyakashipu.[2]

Prahlada prays to Narasimha as the deity rips apart Hiranyakashipu

Prahlada is described as a saintly boy, known for his innocence and bhakti to Vishnu. Despite the abusive nature of his father, Hiranyakashipu, he continues to worship Vishnu.[3] He is considered to be a mahājana, or great devotee, by followers of Vaishnava traditions. A treatise is accredited to him in the Bhagavata Purana, in which Prahlada describes the process of his loving worship towards Vishnu.

The majority of stories in the Puranas regarding him are based on the activities of Prahlada as a young boy, and he is usually depicted as such in paintings and illustrations.

Legend[edit]

Prahlada was born to Kayadu and Hiranyakashipu, an evil daitya king who had been granted a boon that he could not be killed off by anything born from a living womb, neither be killed by a man nor an animal, neither during the day nor at night, neither indoors nor outdoors, neither on land nor in the air nor in water and of no man-made weapon. However, after repeated attempts of filicide by Hiranyakashipu unto Prahlada, Prahlada was finally saved by Narasimha, the fourth avatar of Vishnu who descended to demonstrate the quality of divine rage and redemption by killing the demon king. The word "Narsimha" is derived from the Sanskrit words "nara" meaning man and "siṃha" meaning lion. Thus, the preserver god took the form of a part-man, part-lion to kill the asura.[4]

After the death of his father, Prahlada ascended the asura throne and ruled peacefully and virtuously. He was known for his generosity and kindness. He sowed similar seeds in his son Virochana, and grandson Mahabali.[5]

Early life[edit]

When the ruler of the asuras, Hiraṇyakashipu, was performing a penance in the forest to gain the boon of destroying Vishnu, the devas attacked the asura realm. A great battle ensued, in which the devas were defeated. While fleeing, Indra abducted the pregnant Kayādhū, the wife of Hiranyakashipu, as a spoil of war. Narada listened to the wails of the poor woman, and got her released from Indra’s captivity. She stayed in the ashrama of the divine sage in gratitude. Prahlada — while being inside his mother's womb — listened to Narada's chants of devotion towards Narayana. He was taught by Narada during his early childhood. As a result, he grew devoted to Vishnu. His father was antagonised by his spiritual inclination, and tried to warn Prahlada against offending him, since he had greatly desired to turn his son against Vishnu in particular. Despite several warnings from his father Hiranyakashipu, Prahlada continued to worship Vishnu instead of the former. The child is successful in converting other students of the asura clan into Vaishnavism by teaching them the Narayana mantra.[6] His father then decided to commit filicide and poisoned Prahlada, but he survived. When the daitya soldiers attacked their prince with weapons, Prahlada informed them that their efforts were futile, since Vishnu resided within them. The asura monarch then had the boy trampled by the aṣṭadiggajas, the eight elephants who bear the weight of the earth, but their tusks were broken to bits upon contact with him. He placed Prahlada in a room with venomous, dark snakes, and they made a bed for him with their bodies.[7]

Prahalada was then thrown from a valley into a river, but was saved by Bhudevi, the consort of Vishnu. Holika, the sister of Hiranyakashipu, was blessed in that she could not be hurt by fire. Hiranyakashipu put Prahlada on the lap of Holika as she sat on a pyre. Prahlada prayed to Vishnu to keep him safe. Holika burnt to death, even as Prahlada was left unscathed. This event is celebrated as the Hindu festival of Holi.[8]

The asura Shambara and Vayu were tasked to slay the prince, but both of them were driven away by Vishnu. The boy was entrusted to Shukra, who educated him regarding his duties, the sciences, and justice, and was returned to his father after he was deemed to have become humble. The asura king once again broached the topic of God with his son, only to discover that the latter had never wavered in his faith. Finally, the wicked daitya commanded all the daityas and the danavas to collect all the mountains of the earth to construct a barrier over the boy in the ocean, so that his son would be submerged for a millennium. Even though they spread over him for a thousand miles, Prahlada, bound hand and foot, prayed to Vishnu, who granted him a number of boons, and returned to prostrate before his father, who was left bewildered.[9]

Prahlada shows his father that Vishnu exists everywhere

After tolerating repeated abuse from Hiranyakashipu, Prahlada is eventually saved by Narasimha, Vishnu in the form of a man-lion, emerges from within a stone pillar, who places the king on his thighs, and kills him with his sharp nails at the threshold to his home at dusk, thus nullifying all of Hiranyakashipu's boon of virtual immortality.[10]

Prahlada eventually becomes the king of the daityas and attains a place in the abode of Vishnu (Vaikuntha) after his death.[11]

Literature[edit]

In the Bhagavad Gita (10.30) Krishna makes the following statement in regard to Prahlada, showing his favour towards him:

prahlādaścāsmi daityānāṁ kālaḥ kalayatāmaham .
mr̥gāṇāṁ ca mr̥gēndrō’haṁ vainatēyaśca pakṣiṇām .. 10-30..

— Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 10, Verse 30

Translation: "Among the Daityas, I am the great devotee Prahlada and of calculators, I am Time; among quadrupeds, I am the lion; and among birds, I am Garuda."


In the Vishnu Purana, the sage Parasara ends narrating the tale of Prahlada to Maitreya with the following proclamation:[12]

Such, Maitreya, was the Daitya Prahlada, the wise and faithful worshipper of Viṣṇu, of whom you wished to hear; and such was his miraculous power. Whoever listens to the history of Prahlada is immediately cleansed from his sins: the iniquities that he commits, by night or by day, shall be expiated by once hearing, or once reading, the history of Prahlada. The perusal of this history on the day of full moon, of new moon, or on the eighth or twelfth day of the lunation, shall yield fruit equal to the donation of a cow. As Viṣṇu protected Prahlāda in all the calamities to which he was exposed, so shall the deity protect him who listens constantly to the tale.

— Vishnu Purana, Book 1, Chapter 20

Later life[edit]

Conquest of the three worlds[edit]

Because of his steadfast devotion towards Vishnu as well as under the teachings of Shukracharya, Prahlada became the mighty King of the Asuras. Prahlada was even more powerful than his father, Hiranyakashipu ever was. He enjoyed the love and respect of his subjects. Without lifting a single weapon, and by virtue of his good behaviour, Prahlada conquered the three worlds easily, and Indra ran away from Svarga. In the disguise of a Brahmin, Indra sought an audience with the asura king and asked him to teach him about Sanatana Dharma. Pleased with this pupil, he offered him a boon, and Indra sought the king's virtue, and hence robbed Prahlada of his dharma as well.[13]

Duel against Nara-Narayana[edit]

Prahlada once commanded the asuras to accompany him to the holy tirtha of Naimiṣa, where he hoped to see a vision of Vishnu. They went hunting along the banks of the Sarasvati river. Prahlada observed two ascetics with matted hair, bearing the bows of Sharanga and Ajagava. The asura king asked them why they held weapons while performing a penance, and the two ascetics responded that all those who held power were righteous in their conduct. One of the rishis assured the king that none in the three worlds could conquer them in a duel. Prahlada rose to the challenge. Nara fired arrows upon the king with his Ajagava, but the latter was able to defeat him with his own gold-plated arrows. Prahlada employed the divine Brahmastra against Nara's Narayanastra. Seeing them neutralised in a mid-air collision, Prahlada wielded his mace against Narayana. His mace broke, and Prahlada found himself growing helpless, and sought Vishnu's assistance. Vishnu told his devotee that the Nara-Narayana brothers were invincible as they were the sons of Yama, and could only be conquered in devotion rather than combat. The king left the regency to Andhaka and erected an ashrama to propitiate Nara-Narayana and apologise for his folly.[14]

War against Vishnu[edit]

According to the Kurma Purana, Prahlada always served thousands of Brahmins daily. One day, Prahlada forgot to serve one Brahmin inadvertently. The latter cursed the asura that he would forget Vishnu and become unrighteous. The curse soon came into fruition, with Prahlada ignoring the Vedas and the Brahmins, and was soon deviating from the path of dharma. Determined to avenge his father's death, he waged war against Vishnu. When he was defeated, he realised his folly and abdicated his throne, allowing Andhaka to reign as king.[15]

Other conflicts[edit]

According to the Devi Bhagavata Purana, Prahlada was compelled to wage war against Indra and the devas by the daityas. In the fierce devasura war that ensued, Prahlada emerged as the victor. Fearing that the asura king would destroy the devas, Indra prayed to Mahadevi, and Prahlada responded in kind. Pleased, the goddess pacificed both of them and they returned to their abodes.[16]

Prahlada, Virochana, Bali, and Bana fought against Shiva and the devas when Andhaka attacked Kailasha. Prahlada had strongly advised Andhaka against the invasion, but Andhaka refused. Andhaka was eventually defeated by Shiva, and Prahlada once more became King of the Asuras.

Prahlada was present during the churning of the ocean and also fought in the Tarakamaya War against the devas.

Prahlada's son was Virochana, who was the father of Bali. The devas had Virochana killed by taking advantage of his generosity.[17] Prahlada raised his grandson, Bali. Later on, Prahlada and Bali lived on Sutala Loka under the instructions of Vishnu.

It was Prahlada who asked Shukracharya to acquire the Mritasanjivani mantra from Shiva, to save the asuras from the devas.

After a long life, Prahlada attained Vaikuntha. Prahlada's great-grandson was the thousand-armed Banasura, who was humbled in battle by Krishna.

Pilgrimage sites[edit]

The following sites in Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Uttar Pradesh in India, are associated with Prahlāda or Narasiṁha as places of pilgrimage:

In Pakistan:

In dance[edit]

The Prahallada Nataka (also spelled as Prahlada-Naṭaka), a folk dance-theatre from Ganjam, Odisha enacts the story of Narasimha and Hiranyakashipu. This art form dates back to the 18th century when the Rāmakruṣṇa Chhoṭarāya, the erstwhile king of the Jalantara state wrote the text and the songs of the drama and started it.

In popular culture[edit]

The story of Prahlada has been the theme of various films.

Year Title Language Ref.
1917 Bhakta Pralhad Silent [18]
1932 Bhakta Prahlada Telugu [19]
1939 Prahalada Tamil [20]
1941 Prahlada Malayalam [21]
1942 Bhaktha Prahlada Telugu [19]
1942 Bhakta Prahlada Kannada
1946 Bhakta Prahlad Hindi
1958 Bhakta Prahlad Assamese
1958 Bhakta Prahlada Kannada [22]
1967 Bhakta Prahlada Telugu [19]
1972 Hari Darshan Hindi [23]
1983 Bhakta Prahlada Kannada [24]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ The Body of God: An Emperor's Palace for Krishna in Eighth-Century Kanchipuram. Oxford University Press. 25 September 2008. ISBN 978-0-19-045140-0.
  2. ^ www.wisdomlib.org (29 May 2013). "Prahlada, Prahlāda, Prāhlāda: 24 definitions". www.wisdomlib.org. Retrieved 10 September 2022.
  3. ^ "The story of Prahlada". Ramakrishnavivekananda.info.
  4. ^ Dalal, Roshen (18 April 2014). Hinduism: An Alphabetical Guide. Penguin UK. ISBN 978-81-8475-277-9.
  5. ^ Chopra, Omesh K. (2 March 2020). History of Ancient India Revisited, A Vedic-Puranic View. BlueRose Publishers. p. 306.
  6. ^ Arunachala's Ramana: Boundless Ocean of Grace. Sri Ramanasramam. 2007. ISBN 978-81-8288-084-9.
  7. ^ Books, Kausiki (24 October 2021). Narasimha Purana: English Translation only without Slokas. Kausiki Books.
  8. ^ Varadaraja V. RamanVariety in Religion And Science: Daily Reflections, iUniverse, 2005, ISBN 0-595-35840-3, p.259
  9. ^ www.wisdomlib.org (28 January 2019). "Story of Prahlāda". www.wisdomlib.org. Retrieved 10 September 2022.
  10. ^ Dimmitt, Cornelia; Johannes Adrianus Bernardus Buitenen (1978). Classical Hindu Mythology: A Reader in the Sanskrit Purāṇas. translated by J. A. Van Buitenen. Temple University Press. p. 312. ISBN 0-87722-122-7.
  11. ^ P. 452 The Hindu World: An Encyclopedic Survey of Hinduism By Benjamin Walker – Summary
  12. ^ www.wisdomlib.org (30 August 2014). "Visnu appears to Prahlada [Chapter XX]". www.wisdomlib.org. Retrieved 12 July 2022.
  13. ^ Doniger, Wendy (30 September 2010). The Hindus: An Alternative History. OUP Oxford. p. 491. ISBN 978-0-19-959334-7.
  14. ^ www.wisdomlib.org (28 January 2019). "Story of Prahlāda". www.wisdomlib.org. Retrieved 10 September 2022.
  15. ^ Vinay, Dr. Koorma Purana. Diamond Pocket Books Pvt Ltd. ISBN 978-81-288-2802-7.
  16. ^ www.wisdomlib.org (28 January 2019). "Story of Prahlāda". www.wisdomlib.org. Retrieved 10 September 2022.
  17. ^ "Lord Vamana Resolves the Universal Conflict". btg.krishna.com. 2008. Retrieved 16 February 2020. They begged for his crown. Even though Virochana recognized the demigods' plot, true to his word he parted with his crown and his life as well
  18. ^ Rajadhyaksha, Ashish; Willemen, Paul (1999). Encyclopaedia of Indian cinema. British Film Institute. ISBN 9780851706696. Retrieved 12 August 2012.
  19. ^ a b c Narasimham, M. L. (23 November 2018). "The story of a devotee". The Hindu. Retrieved 17 September 2020.
  20. ^ Guy, Randor (14 August 2011). "Prahalada 1939". The Hindu. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 17 September 2020.
  21. ^ Vijayakumar, B. (10 April 2011). "Prahlada (1941)". The Hindu. Retrieved 17 September 2020.
  22. ^ Rajadhyaksha, Ashish; Willemen, Paul, eds. (1998) [1994]. Encyclopaedia of Indian Cinema (PDF). Oxford University Press. p. 353. ISBN 0-19-563579-5.
  23. ^ ":: Rajshri Films - Hari Darshan (1972) ::". rajshri.com. Retrieved 17 September 2020.
  24. ^ "On Rajkumar birthday, a Top 5 list by grandson". Deccan Herald. 24 April 2019. Retrieved 17 September 2020.

Further reading[edit]

  • Cole, W. Owen; Judith Evans-Lowndes; Judith Lowndes (1995). The Story of Prahlad. Heinemann Educational. ISBN 0-431-07756-8.

External links[edit]

Preceded by Daityas
unknown
Succeeded by