Halebidu Hoysaleswara Temple: Prahlada Story – Vishnu Slaying Hiranyakashipu

A relief depicting the story of Prahlada carved into the outer wall of the Halebidu Hoysaleswara Temple in Karnataka, India

Prahlada Story – Vishnu slaying Hiranyakashipu

Story of Prahlada and Narasimhavatara
The image shows a part of the frieze carved into the outer wall of the Halebidu Hoysaleswara Temple in Karnataka, India. It depicts a scene based on an episode narrated in Baghavata Purana, an ancient Indian text, describing the story of a boy named Prahlada for his devotion to Vishnu.

Here is the story of Prahlada in brief:
Prahlada was the son of the asura king Hiranyakashipu whose brother Hiranyaksha was killed by Vishnu in his previous avatar, i.e., Varahavatara, the third avatar of Vishnu.

To exact revenge for his brother’s death, Hiranyakashipu performed an intense tapasu (austerity and meditation) to please Brahma, from whom he expected to receive a vara (boon) that would give him special powers and make him immortal.

Pleased with Hiranyakashipu, Brahma asked him for his wish. When Brahma realized Hiranyakashipu’s desire was to become immortal, Brahma refused his request but suggested he could ask for other varas. Still wanting to be immortal, Hiranyakashipu cleverly changed his request and asked Brahma that he must not be killed by a man or animal, or by any weapons.

Brahma acceded to this request and granted him the vara. With the superpowers he gained from the vara, Hiranyakashipu assumed a godly status and started tormenting Vishnu’s devotees to worship him instead of Vishnu. Everyone in his kingdom then started worshiping Hiranyakashipu out of fear, except his son Prahlada, who had become an ardent devotee of Vishnu.

When all efforts to coax Prahlada to worship Hiranyakashipu failed, Hiranyakashipu decided to kill his son. He devised many methods to kill Prahlada, including throwing him over the precipice, sending elephants to trample him, and dumping him in a pit with poisonous snakes, but every time Vishnu saved his life.

Frustrated by Prahlada’s devotion to Vishnu, Hiranyakashipu started questioning his son about the existence of Vishnu. He pointed to a pillar and asked Prahlada whether Vishnu was in that pillar. When Prahlada said yes without hesitation, Hiranyakashipu became angry and started hitting that pillar with a mace. At that moment, Vishnu transformed himself into Narasimha (lion-man) and suddenly emerged out of that pillar, and killed Hiranyakashipu by ripping off his entrails with his bare claws, thereby abiding by all the conditions of Brahma’s vara.

On the left end of the frieze is the pillar with Vishnu (i.e., Narasimha) carved into it. On the right of the center is Hiranyakashipu lying on Narasimha’s lap, and Narasimha ripping off Hiranyakashipu’s entrails with his claws.

Narasimhavatara is the fourth avatar of Vishnu. In Sanskrit, Nara means man and Simha means lion. Vishnu in this avatar has a man’s torso with a lion’s face and claws.

Check the page describing the Dashavatara painting on the Hampi Virupaksha Temple Murals for a list and description of all the ten avatars of Vishnu.

Prahlada Story Pages
Throwing Prahlada over the Precipice
Elephants and snakes attacking Prahlada
Burning of demoness Holika
Vishnu emerging out of a pillar and slaying Hiranyakashipu

Narasimhavatara Pages
Narasimhavatara, the fourth avatar of Vishnu installed in a devakoshta of the Aihole Durga Temple
Vishnu’s incarnation Narasimha slaying Hiranyakashipu installed in the outer wall of the Belur Chennakeshava Temple
Narasimhavatara sculpture in Cave – 3 of the rock-cut caves of Badami
Ugra Narasimha carved on the lintel of the south garbhagriha door in the Kappe Chennigaraya Temple.

Other Related Pages
Hoysala Temples
Belur Chennakeshava Temple – Bracket Figures
Belur Chennakeshava Temple – Navaranga
Belur Chennakeshava Temple – Garbhagriha Outer Wall
Kappe Chennigaraya Shrine
Somanathapura Keshava Temple
Badami Chalukya Temples
Badami, Cave – 1, Cave – 2, Cave – 3, Cave – 4
Durga Temple at Aihole

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