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Prahlada (Sanskrit: Prahlāda, प्रह्लाद) was a king, the son of Hiranyakashipu and Kayadhu, and the father of Virochana. He belonged to the Kashyap gotra. He is often described as a saintly boy from the Puranas known for his piety and bhakti to Lord Vishnu. Despite the abusive nature of his father, Hiranyakashipu, he continued his devotion towards Lord Vishnu. He is considered to be a mahājana, or great devotee, by followers of Vaishnava traditions and is of special importance to devotees of the avatār Narasiṁha. A treatise is accredited to him in the Bhagavata Purana in which Prahlāda describes the process of loving worship to his Lord Vishnu. The majority of stories in the Puranas are based on the activities of Prahlāda as a young boy, and he is usually depicted as such in paintings and illustrations.
Prahlāda was born to Kayadu and Hiranyakashipu, an evil daitya king who had been granted a boon that he could not be killed of 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 Prahalāda, Prahalāda was finally saved by Lord Narasimha, a prominent 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 word" nara" meaning Man and "siṃha" meaning lion. Thus Narsimha to a being who is half man and half lion. Lord Narasiṁha, being the transcendental Supreme Personality of Godhead, fulfilled all the proper requirements by which the otherwise nearly-invincible Hiranyakashipu could be killed.
After the death of his father, Prahlāda took his father's kingdom and ruled peacefully and virtuously. He was known for his generosity and kindness. He sowed similar seeds in his son Virochana and grandson Mahabali.
The story of Prahlāda
Prahlāda—while being in his mother's womb—got to hear Narada's chants. He was taught by Narada in early childhood. As a result, he was devoted towards Vishnu. His father didn't like his Spiritual inclination and tried to warn Prahlāda. Despite several warnings from his father Hiranyakashipu, Prahlāda continued to worship Vishnu instead. His father then decided to commit filicide and poison Prahlāda, but he survived. He then trampled the boy with elephants, but the boy still lived. Then he put Prahlāda in a room with venomous snakes, and they made a bed for him with their bodies.
Holika, the sister of Hiranyakashipu, was blessed in that she could not be hurt by fire. Hiranyakashipu put Prahlāda on the lap of Holika as she sits on a pyre. Prahlāda prayed to Vishnu to keep him safe. Holika then burned to death as Prahlāda is left unscathed. This event is celebrated as the Hindu festival of Holi.
After tolerating abuse from Hiranyakashipu, Prahlāda is eventually saved by Narasiṁha, Lord Vishnu in the form of a man-lion chimera, who places the king on his thighs, and kills him with his sharp nails at the entrance to his home at dusk, thus nullifying all of Hiranyakashipu's boon of virtual immortality.
Translation: "Among the Daitya demons I am the devoted Prahlāda, among subduers I am time, among beasts I am the lion, and among birds I am Garuda."
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Because of his steadfast devotion towards Lord 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 the Heavens. Indra then deceived Prahlada into giving him the power of his behaviour and Prahlada lost control of the three worlds.
The Asuras grew angry at the Devas for taking advantage of their King's virtuous behaviour and invaded the heavens. The Devas, afraid of the Asuras, enlisted the help of human Kings such as Yayati, Raji and Kakutstha and defeated them.
Prahlada always served thousands of Brahmins daily. One day, out of ignorance, Prahlada forgot to serve one Brahmin. The latter cursed the Asura that he would forget Vishnu and become unrighteous. The curse would be broken if Vishnu defeated Prahlada.
Prahlada then personally attacked the gods and defeated Indra in battle, forcing the King of the Gods to run for his life. Indra sought help of Lord Vishnu. Infused with his power, Indra defeated Prahlada. The latter understood that Vishnu was helping Indra in battle and he withdrew his forces. Prahlada first gave his kingdom to Andhaka, but the latter was defeated by Shiva. So Prahlada gave it to his son Virochana and undertook a Tirtha Yatra.
The Devi Bhagavatam narrates an incident, where Prahlada fought the Sages, Nara and Narayana. Prahlada attacked them because despite being ascetics and living in holy places, they practiced warrior duties, which was sinful, according to the Daitya King. Prahlada defeated Nara, but continuously fought against Narayana for 360,000 years. The fight ended in a draw. Lord Vishnu told Prahlada to desist from the fight as Nara-Narayana were the incarnations of himself.
When Prahlada found out that his blind and deformed cousin, Andhakasura, had overcome his disabilities and became mighty and invincible due to the boon of Lord Brahma, he voluntarily ceded his lordship over the Asuras to Andhaka and became a vassal. Prahlada, Virochana, Bali and Bana had fought against Lord Shiva and the other gods when Andhaka attacked Mt. Kailash. Prahlada had strongly advised to Andhaka against the invasion, but Andhaka refused. Andhaka was eventually defeated by Lord 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 gods had Virochana killed by taking advantage of his generosity. Prahlada raised his grandson, Bali. Infuriated by Bali's arrogance, Prahlada rashly cursed him that he would lose his kingdom. Later on, Prahlada and Bali lived on Sutala Loka on instructions of Lord Vishnu.
It was Prahlada who asked Shukracharya to acquire the Mritasanjivani mantra from Lord Shiva, to save the Asuras from the Devas.
After a long life, Prahlada attained moksha. Prahlada's great grandson was the thousand armed Bana, who was humbled in battle by Krishna. Ultimately, as Prahlada is considered a non demonic being within Hinduism.
Lord Vishnu bestowed a boon upon him that in his next life he shall be next 'Manu' and help devotees.
The Prahlāda-Nāṭaka (also spelled as Prahallada-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 Rāmakruṣhṇa Chhoṭarāya, the erstwhile king of the Jalantara state wrote the text & songs of the drama and started it.
In popular culture
The story of Prahlada has been the theme of various films, including Bhakta Prahlada (1931 film), which was first Telugu talkie movie made in 1931, followed by Bhaktha Prahlada (1942 film) (1942). In Kannada, the story has been portrayed in Bhakta Prahlada (1942 film), Bhakta Prahlada (1958 film) and Bhakta Prahlada (1983 film). Tamil films, Bhaktha Prahlada (1942) and Bhakta Prahlada (1967) both directed by Chitrapu Narayana Rao, besides Malayalam film, Prahlada (1941), Hindi film, Bhakta Prahlad (1946) directed by Dhirubhai Desai and Bengali film Prahlad (1952).
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- Cole, W. Owen; Judith Evans-Lowndes; Judith Lowndes (1995). The Story of Prahlad. Heinemann Educational. ISBN 0-431-07756-8.