Indian Mythology (by ApamNapat)

Prahalada - A Great Devotee of Vishnu

Prahalada was the son of the Asura-King Hiranyakashipu, by his queen Khyathu (also known as Dhanavi). As Vishnu had killed Hiranyaksha, the brother of Hiranyakashipu, the Asura had forbidden everyone in his realm (which was the whole world) to worship Vishnu, or to make offerings of Havis to the Devas. However, Prahalada was a great devotee of Vishnu and kept up his prayers.

Initially, Hiranyakashipu thought that the teachers he had appointed for his son were responsible for this aberration, but they denied the charges. In fact, they were not responsible for Prahalada's piety. When Hiranyakashipu and Hiranyaksha had gone to the Mandara mountains to conduct penances, Indra saw his chance and attacked their kingdom. He was successful in abducting Hiranyakashipu's wife, who was at that time carrying Prahalada. Indra wanted to kill the child as soon as it was born, but Narada advised him to desist from this crime, for the unborn child would be a devotee of Vishnu. Indra yielded Prahalada's mother to Narada, who allowed her to stay in his hermitage till her husband could return to her. As Narada was in the habit of discoursing daily on the glory of Vishnu, the child in the womb became a devotee, and thus Prahalada's devotion to Vishnu had a deep root.

When the Asura king failed to persuade his son to abandon his devotion, he became very angry and tried to have his son killed. He ordered his servants to push Prahalada from a cliff, but the boy survived by the grace of Vishnu. He then tried to have him executed by being crushed by an elephant, but the elephant would not do it. He tried to have him burned, but he escaped unscathed from the flames.

A story, for which I have not been able to find a Puranic reference states that he employed his sister Holika for this task. She had power over fire and flames would not hurt her. To accomplish her brother's wish, she took her young nephew on her lap and entered the flames. But, by the grace of Vishnu, the flames left Prahalada untouched and instead consumed his aunt. The festival of Holi is supposed to be named after her.

At last, in desperation, Hiranyaksha tried to kill his son with his own hands. At this point, Vishnu appeared in his Narasimha (man-lion) incarnation and killed Hiranyakashipu. Prahalada became the king of the Asuras and ruled his kingdom for many years. He had a son named Virochana. His grandson Bali is famous for his "gift" to Vishnu, in his Vamana avatar.

Last Modified At: Sat Jul 30 01:37:31 2005