Narasimha Jayanti is celebrated as the day when Lord Vishnu appeared in his 4th incarnation in the form of Lord Narasimha, half-lion and half-man, to kill the demon Hiranyakashipu. Occurring on Chaturdashi, Shukla Paksh in the Hindu month of Vaishakha, in 2016 Narasimha Jayanti falls on May 20.
• According to Hindu mythology, in ancient times there was a Sage named Kashyap who had two sons known as Harinyaksha and Hiranyakashipu.
• After Harinyaksha was killed by the 3rd avatar of Lord Vishnu in the form of Lord Varaha, his brother Hiranyakashipu sought revenge and undertook severe penances to please Lord Brahma.
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• When Lord Brahma appeared to Hiranyakashipu and blessed him with a boon, Hiranyakashipu asked for immortality. Lord Brahma refused to grant immortality, then Hiranyakashipu asked for a series of circumstances: that he may not die indoors or outdoors, during day or night, on the ground or the sky, not by any weapon, not by any human nor any animal, not by any living or non-living entity and not by any demigod or demon.
• Hiranyakashipu was granted his desire, and empowered, thinking he had no rival, he established his rule on the world, even insisting that his name be offered in prayers.
• The atrocities of Hiranyakashipu continued and were turned upon his son Prahalad as well, who was devoted to Lord Vishnu.
• Following multiple attempts to kill Prahalad, by poisoning him, drowning him, trampling him with elephants and having him sit in fire on the lap of Holika his sister who was blessed with a boon preventing her from being burnt by fire, Prahalad survived, his faith in Lord Vishnu intact.
• One day, Hiranyakashipu faced Prahalad and asked him about his God. Prahalad responded that his God was present everywhere and resided in everything. Hiranyakashipu then asked if his Lord Vishnu was in the pillar at the threshold of his palace. Prahalad answer yes, and an enraged Hiranyakashipu attacked the pillar, from where stepped forth Lord Vishnu in his Narasimha avtar, in the shape of half-lion, half-man.
• On the threshold of the palace which was neither indoors nor outdoors, at the time of dusk which was neither day nor night, on his lap which was not the ground nor sky, Lord Narasimha who was neither human nor animal, killed Hiranyakashipu without a weapon using his nails.
Lord Narasimha, also known as Narasimhadeva and as the ‘Great Protector’ is said to defend his devotees in times of need.
Narsimha Jayanti, the day when Lord Vishnu appeared in the form of Lord Narasimha, is observed by fasting, prayers, and donations to the poor.