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Narasimha killing Hiranyakashipu on his lap, as Prahlada watches at the left. (18th century)
Devanagari नरसिंह
Affiliation Avatara of Vishnu
Weapon Chakra and Mace
Consort Lakshmi

Narasimha (IAST:Narasiṃha, Sanskrit:नरसिंह), also spelt as Narasingh and Narasinga, is an avatara of Vishnu described in the Puranas, Upanishads and other ancient religious texts of Hinduism,[1] and one of Hinduism's most popular deities, as evidenced in early epics, iconography, and temple and festival worship for over a millennium.[2]

He is often visualized as half-man/half-lion, having a human-like torso and lower body, with a lion-like face and claws.[3] This image is widely worshiped in deity form by a significant number of Vaishnava groups, particularly in Southern India. He is known primarily as the 'Great Protector' who specifically defends and protects his devotees in times of need.[4]


Scriptural sources

References to Narasimha are found in a wide variety of the Puranic scriptures, with seventeen versions of the main narrative,[5] some in more detail than others. The Bhagavata Purana (Canto 7), Agni Purana (4.2-3), Brahmanda Purana (2.5.3-29), Vayu Purana (67.61-66), Harivamsa (41 & 3.41-47), Brahma Purana (213.44-79), Vishnudharmottara Purana (1.54), Kurma Purana (1.15.18-72), Matsya Purana (161-163), Padma Purana (Uttara-khanda 5.42), Shiva Purana (2.5.43 & 3.10-12), Linga Purana (1.95-96), Skanda Purana 7 (2.18.60-130) and Vishnu Purana (1.16-20) all contain depictions of the Narasimha avatar. There is also a short reference in the Mahabharata (3.272.56-60) and a Tapani Upanishad (Narasimha tapani Upanisad), earliest of Vaishnava Upanishads named in reference to him.


References from Vedas

One phrase of the Rig Veda appears to indicate an epithet that can be rightly attributed to the form of Vishnu as Narasimha it clearly calls the qualities of Vishnu that are seen only in this avatara as "like some wild beast, dread, prowling, mountain-roaming" (RV.I 154.2a). There is a reference or an allusion to knowledge of Namuci story in RV.VIII 14.13: "With waters' foam you tore off, Indra, the head of Namuci, subduing all contending hosts." This short reference is believed to have culminated in the full puranic story of this highly popular Narasimha form. [2]

Narasimha and Prahlada

Narasimha kills Hiranyakashipu, as Prahlada and his mother bow before Lord Narasimha

The story of Narasimha as described in the Bhagavata Purana is as follows:

In his previous avatara of Varaha, Vishnu killed a rakshasa known as Hiranyaksha. Hiranyaksha's brother Hiranyakashipu, greatly angered by this, started to abhor Vishnu and his followers. To which end he decides to attempt to kill Vishnu by gaining mystical powers, which he believes Brahma, the chief among the devas will award him if he undergoes many years of great austerity and penance. This initially seems to work as planned with Brahma becoming pleased by Hiranyakashipu's austerities.[6] Brahma thus appears before Hiranyakashipu and offers him a boon that he will personally make true anything he wishes for. In reply to which Hiranyakashipu requests the following:

O my lord, O best of the givers of benediction, if you will kindly grant me the benediction I desire, please let me not meet death from any of the living entities created by you. Grant me that I not die within any residence or outside any residence, during the daytime or at night, nor on the ground or in the sky. Grant me that my death not be brought about by any weapon, nor by any human being or animal. Grant me that I not meet death from any entity, living or nonliving. Grant me, further, that I not be killed by any demigod or demon or by any great snake from the lower planets. Since no one can kill you in the battlefield, you have no competitor. Therefore, grant me the benediction that I too may have no rival. Give me sole lordship over all the living entities and presiding deities, and give me all the glories obtained by that position. Furthermore, give me all the mystic powers attained by long austerities and the practice of yoga, for these cannot be lost at any time.[7]

Narasimha statue

One day while Hiranyakashipu was performing austerities at Mandaracala Mountain, his home was attacked by Indra and the other devas.[8] At this point the divine sage, Narada intervened to protect Kayadu, whom he describes as 'sinless'.[9] Following this event Narada takes Kayadu into his care and while under the guidance of Narada, her unborn child (Hiranyakashipu's son) Prahlada, became affected by the transcendental instructions of the sage even at such a young stage of development. Thus, Prahlada when later growing as a child began to show symptoms of this earlier training by Narada, gradually becoming recognised as a devoted follower of Vishnu, much to his father's disappointment.[10]

Hiranyakashipu eventually becomes so angry and upset at his son's devotion to Vishnu (whom he sees as his mortal enemy) that he decides he must kill him,[11] but each time he attempts to kill the boy, Prahlada is protected by Vishnu's mystical power. When asked, Prahlada refuses to acknowledge his father as the supreme lord of the universe and claims that Vishnu is all-pervading and omnipresent. To which Hiranyakashipu points to a nearby pillar and asks if 'his Vishnu' is in it:

"O most unfortunate Prahlada, you have always described a supreme being other than me, a supreme being who is above everything, who is the controller of everyone, and who is all-pervading. But where is He? If He is everywhere, then why is He not present before me in this pillar?"[12]

Narasimha claws Hiranyakasipu at Banteay Srei in Cambodia.

Prahlada then answers, He was, He is and He will be. In an alternate version of the story, Prahlada answers He is in pillars, and he is in the smallest twig. Hiranyakashipu, unable to control his anger, smashes the pillar with his mace, and then following a tumultuous sound, Vishnu in the form of Narasimha appears from it and in defence of Prahlada moves to attack his father. In order to kill Hiranyakashipu and not upset the boon given by Brahma, the form of Narasimha was chosen. Hiranyakashipu could not be killed by human, deva or animal, Narasimha is neither one of these, as he is a form of Vishnu incarnate as a part-human, part-animal. He comes upon Hiranyakashipu at twilight (when it is neither day nor night) on the threshold of a courtyard (neither indoors nor out), and puts the demon on his thighs (neither earth nor space). Using his sharp fingernails (neither animate nor inanimate) as weapons, he disembowels and kills the demon.[13] Kurma Purana describes the preceding battle between the Purusha and demoniac forces in which he escapes powerful weapon called, pashupata and it describes how Prahladas brothers headed by Anuhrada and thousands of other demons "were led to the valley of death (yamalayam) by the lion produced from the body of man-lion" avatara.[2] The same episode occurs in the Matshya Purana 179, several chapters after its version of the Narasimha advent.[2]

The Bhagavata Purana further narrates: even after killing Hiranyakashipu none of the present demigods were able to calm Narasimha's fury, not even Shiva. So all the gods and goddesses called his consort, Lakshmi, but she was also unable to do so. Then, at the request of Brahma, Prahlada was presented to Narasimha, and finally, he was calmed by the prayers of his devotee.[14] Before parting, Narasimha rewards the wise Prahlada by crowning him as the king.[2]

Sharabha (right) with Narasimha

In the Shiva Purana, there is a distinctly Shaiva version of a traditional avatar myth: Shiva brings forth Virabhadra, one of his terrifying forms, in order to calm Narasimha. When that fails, Shiva manifests as the human-lion-bird Sharabha. The story concludes with Narasimha becoming a devotee of Shiva after being bound by Sharabha. The Sharabha story is also retold in the Linga Purana.[15] However, Vaishnava followers including Dvaita scholars, such as Vijayindra Tirtha (1539-95) dispute this view of Narasimha based on their reading of Sattvika Puranas and Śruti texts.[16]

Based on this story, it is believed by followers that Narasimha protects his sincere devotees when they are in extreme danger. He saved Adi Sankara from being sacrificed to the goddess Kali by a Kapalika. Thus Adi Sankara composed the powerful Laksmi-Narasimha stotra.

Mode of worship

Due to the nature of Narasimha's form (divine anger), it is essential that worship be given with a very high level of attention compared to other deities. In many temples only life-long celibates (brahmacarya) will be able to have the chance to serve as priests to perform the daily puja. Forms where Narasimha appears sitting in a yogic posture, or with the goddess Lakshmi are the exception to this rule, as Narasimha is taken as being more relaxed in both of these instances compared to his form when first emerging from the pillar to protect Prahlada.


A number of prayers have been written in dedication to Narasimha avatar. These include:

The Narasimha Maha-Mantra

Om Hreem Kshraum Ugram Veeram Mahaa-Vishnum,
Jwalantham Sarvatho Mukham
Nrisimham Bheeshanam Bhadram
Mrityu-Mrityum Namaamyaham.
"O' Angry and brave Maha-Vishnu, your heat and fire permeate everywhere. O Lord Narasimha, you are everywhere. You are the death of death and I surrender to You."
ito nrsimhah parato nrsimho,
yato yato yami tato nrsimhah,
bahir nrsimho hrdaye nrsimho,
nrsimham adim saranam prapadye

"Lord Nrsimha is here and also there. Wherever I go Lord Narasimha is there. He is in the heart and is outside as well. I surrender to Lord Narasimha, the origin of all things and the supreme refuge." (Narasimha Pranama)[17]

Narasimha deity in Bhaktapur Darbar, Nepal
tava kara-kamala-vare nakham adbhuta-srngam,
kesava dhrta-narahari-rupa jaya jagadisa hare

"O Kesava! O Lord of the universe. O Lord Hari, who have assumed the form of half-man, half-lion! All glories to You! Just as one can easily crush a wasp between one's fingernails, so in the same way the body of the wasplike demon Hiranyakasipu has been ripped apart by the wonderful pointed nails on your beautiful lotus hands." (from the Dasavatara-stotra composed by Jayadeva)[18]

Tvayi Rakshathi Rakshakai: Kim Anyai:,
Tvayi Cha Arakshati Rakshakai: Kim Anyai:,
Ithi Nischita Dhee: Srayaami Nityam,
Nruhareh: Vegavathee Tataasrayam Tvam!

"O kamasikha Narasimha! you are sarva sakthan. When you are resolved to protect some one, where is the need to seek the protection of anyone else? When you are resolved not to protect some one, which other person is capable of protecting us?. There is no one. Knowing this fundamental truth, I have resolved to offer my saranagati at your lotus feet alone that rest at the banks of Vegavathi river." (Kamasika Ashtakam by Vedanta Desika)

ADi ADi agam Karaindhu isai
PADip PADik KaNNIr Malgi engum
' nADi nADi narasingA endru,
VADi VADum ivvAL nuthalE!

"I will dance and melt for you, within my heart, to see you, I will sing in praise of you with tears in joy, I will search for Narasimha and I am a householder who still searches to reach you(to attain Salvation)." (Divya Prabandha 2954)


  • Narasimha indicates God's omnipresence and the lesson is that God is everywhere. For more information, see Vaishnava Theology.
  • Prahlada's devotion indicates that pure devotion is not one of birthright but of character. Prahlada, although born a rakshasa, demonstrated greatest bhakti to God.


In South Indian art – sculptures, bronzes and paintings – Vishnu's incarnation as Narasimha is one of the most chosen themes and amongst Avatars perhaps next only to Rama and Krishna in popularity.

Places of pilgrimage

A representation of Sri Narasimha in Kadiri. Andhra Pradesh.

The main places of pilgrimage associated with Narasimha are :

  1. Ahobilam, Kurnool district, Andhra Pradesh
  2. Bidar (Narasimha Jhara), Karnataka
  3. Srirangam Sri Kattazahiya Singar, Trichy, Tamilnadu
  4. Mogri, Anand, Gujarat
  5. Antarvedi, Sakhinetipalle, Andhra Pradesh
  6. Aagiripalli, Near Vijayawada, Andhra Pradesh
  7. Chintalvadi
  8. Devarayana Durga,Karnataka
  9. Dharmapuri, Karimnagar, Andhra Pradesh
  10. Ghatikachala (Known today as Sholingur, derived from Chola singa oor)
  11. Hemachalam, (Mallooru), Warangal, Andhra Pradesh
  12. Kadiri, Ananthapur District, Andhra Pradesh
  13. Korukonda,_East_Godavari_district Near Rajamundry, Andhra Pradesh
  14. Mangalagiri, Near Vijayawada, Andhra
  15. Malakonda, Near Ongole, Andhra Pradesh
  16. Mattapalli, Near Miryalaguda, Andhra Pradesh
  17. Melkote, Nagamangala,Mandya Dist,Karnataka
  18. Multan, Pakistan
  19. Namakkal, Tamil Nadu
  20. Narasimha Konda, Penusila, Nellore, Andhra Pradesh
  21. Narsinghpur, Madhya Pradesh
  22. Narasingapuram Lakshmi Narasimhar Swamy, Tamil Nadu
  23. Padalathri Narasimha Swamy, Singa Perumal Koil,Chennai,TamilNadu
  24. Pazhayaseevaram Lakshmi Narasimhar Swamy, Tamil Nadu
  25. Poovarasankuppam Lakshmi Narasimhar Swamy, Tamil Nadu
  26. Simhachalam, Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh
  27. Singarayakonda, Ongole, Andhra Pradesh
  28. Sholinghur, Vellore District, Tamil Nadu
  29. Savana Durga,Karnataka
  30. Saligrama, Udupi Dist.,Karnataka
  31. Ramapuram Narasimhar, Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy Temple, Chennai
  32. Triplicane, Chennai, Tamil Nadu
  33. Yadagirigutta, Near Bhongir, Andhra Pradesh
  34. Gudha, Rajasthan
  36. Kole Narasimha Pur Islampur Dist, sangli Maharashtra
  37. Parikkal, Tamil Nadu
  38. Nira Narsingpur, Taluka-Indapur, District-Pune, Maharashtra
  39. Pokharni, District-Parbhani, Maharashtra.
  40. Vedadri, Near Vijayawada, Andhra Pradesh
  41. Vadapally, Near Miryalaguda, Nalgonda Distt, Andhra Pradesh
  42. Vethapuram, Near Vijayawada, Andhra Pradesh
  43. Veling, Near Ponda, Goa
  44. Sri Laxmi Narasimha Temple, 1420 Sadashiv Peth, Pune, India
  45. Shri Laxmi Narashimha Mandir, At Po Ranjani, Tal-Ambegaon, Distri Pune,near Manchar
  46. Shri Ugra Narasimha Swamy Devasthana at Maddur,Karnataka said to be the only place in karnataka where the statue of the lord in his ugra rupa is intact(ie : without damage). Maddur,Karnataka is the only place in the whole of karnataka where the aradhana of narasimha swamy(ugra rupa) has continued till date, legend has it that arjuna once wanted to see the lord's Narasimha Avatara, so to fulfil this request of his devotee - the lord manifested at this spot.
  47. Holé Narasipura, Karnataka
  48. Sheebi, Tumkur Dist, Karnataka
  49. Devarayanadurga,Karnataka
  50. Savandurga Narasimha Swamy,Magadi Taluk

Temples dedicated to Narasimha

  • Ahobilam or Ahobalam is a major center of pilgrimage in South India, located in the Nandyal Taluka of Kurnool district in Andhra Pradesh, India. According to local legend, this is where Lord Narasimha blessed Prahlada and killed the demon Hiranyakashipa. It is an important place of worship for Vaishnavas and is one of the 108 Divya Desams.
Yoga Narasimha form at a temple in Vijayanagara, Hampi, India
There are nine main Narasimha deities, collectively known as Navanarasimha:
  1. Ugra Narasimha
  2. Krodha Narasimha
  3. Malola Narasimha
  4. Jwala Narasimha
  5. Varaha Narasimha
  6. Bhargava Narasimha
  7. Karanja Narasimha
  8. Yoga Narasimha
  9. Lakshmi Narasimha
  10. Chhatravata Narasimha/Pavana Narasimha/Pamuleti Narasimha
There is also a further deity at the village of Saligrama near Hassan in Karnataka.
  • Yoga Narasimha Swamy, in Dharmapuri, Karimnagar District, Andhra Pradesh. It is said that at Dharmapuri, Narasimha Deva meditated in Yogamudra, after his Ugrarupa.
  • Kadiri Sri Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy temple in Kadiri, Anantapur Dist, Andhra Pradesh.
  • Ramapuram Narasimhar Sri Lakshmi Narasimhar at Ramapuram, Chennai.
  • Parthasarathy Kovil Azhagiya Singar at Tiruvellikeni, Chennai.
  • Sri Padmanabhaswamy temple - Lord NarasimhaMurthy is one of the main deities in the Temple.
  • Sri Yoga Narasimha, situated on a hilltop fortress at Melkote, Mysore District, Karnataka (Kannada for Mele-top, Kote-fort). The Fort, situated on a near vertical hill is a strategic area, overlooking the plains. Melkote is also the site of the famous Cheluvanarayana Temple and the Annual Vairamudi festival, where the deity is adorned with a crown of dazzling uncut diamonds.
  • Shri Yogananda Narasimha Swamy, Vedadri, near to Vijayawada
  • Shri Panakala Narasimha Swamy, Managalgiri, Near Vijayawada
  • Shri Shobhanaachala Vyaghra Narasimha Swamy, Aagiripalli, Near Vijayawada
  • Shri Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy, Antarvedi, West Godavari District, AP
  • Shri Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy, Yadagiri Gutta, Nalgonda District, AP
  • Shri Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy, Mallooru, Warangal District (~70KM from Bhadrachalam), AP
  • Sri Yogananda Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy, Mattapalli(confluence of Krishna and Musi),(15km from)Huzurnagar taluq, Nalgonda District, Andhra Pradesh (Bus reach from Miryalaguda/Kodada)
  • Shri Shodasha Bahu Narasimha Swamy, Karpara Kshetra (Koppara village), Raichur Dt., KA
  • Shri Lord Lakshmi-Narasimha Swamy temple, Korukonda, near to Rajahmundry
  • Shri Narasimha temple, Malakonda, Prakasham District, AP
  • Shri Prasanna Narasimha Swamy temple, Singarakonda, Prakasham district, AP
  • Shri Narasimha Swamy Temple, Khammam, Khammam District, AP. The etymology of Khammam is said to be derived from the deity of the temple.
  • Shri Narasimha temple, Parikkal, Tamil Nadu
  • Shri Yoga Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy temple Sholinghur, Tamil Nadu. More information on Sholinghur temple.
  • Shri Narsinghji temple, AMER,Rajasthan
  • Shri Narsinghji Temple at Gudha , Rajasthan
  • Shri Narsinghji Temple at GARHI,HINDON-KAROLI ROAD DIST.KAROLI , Rajasthan
  • Shri Narsingh Mandir, Hasampur,Between Kotputli & neem ka thana,Rajasthan
  • Sri Yoganarasimha devalaya, Mysore-Karnataka
  • Sri Yoga Narasimha Kovil at Chintalavadi, Tamil Nadu
  • Sri Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy,Malleswaram, Bangalore. [1]
  • Sri Laxmi Narasimha Temple, 1420 Sadashiv Peth, Pune, India
  • Sri Kaattu Azhagiya Singar, Srirangam, Tiruchirapalli
  • Shri Laxmi Narsimha Temple in Ranjani, Tal Ambegaon, District Pune Near Manchar
  • Shri Laxmi Narsimha Temple in Veling (Mhardol), Tal Ponda, Goa
  • Sri Narasimha Swamy Temple,Hatyal, C N Halli (Tq) Tumkur(dist), Karnataka
  • Sri Edappurathu Lakshmi Narasimha Moorthi Temple,Puthuruthy,Kerala-680623,India.

This temple is one the famous Narasimha moorthi Temples in kerala

  • Shri Ugra Narasimha Swamy Devasthana at Maddur,Karnataka
  • Shri Guru Narasimha Swamy Devasthana at Saligrama, Udupi dist, Karnataka
  • Shri Yoga Narasimha Swamy Temple at Velachery, Chennai, TamilNadu
  • Shri Kambada Narasimha Swamy Devasthana at Sondalagere, kunigal TQ, Tumkur dist, Karnataka
  • Shri Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy Devasthana at Srirangapatna, Mandya dist, Karnataka
  • Shri Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy Devasthana at Kammasandra, Nelamangala Taluk, Bangalore Rural District, Karnataka
  • Shri Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy Devasthana at Balepet, Bangalore [near Kempe Gowda Bus Stand]
  • Padalathri Narasimha Swamy,Singa Perumal Koil,near Chennai,TamilNadu
  • Sheebi Narasimha Swamy Temple, Sheebi, Tumkur Dist, Karnataka
  • Yoga Narasimha Swamy, Boga Narasimha Swamy temple, Devarayanadurga, Karanataka
  • Savandurga Narasimha Swamy Temple, Savandurga, Magadi taluk, Ramanagar Dist

See also


  1. ^ Bhag-P 1.3.18 "In the fourteenth incarnation, the Lord appeared as Nrisimha and bifurcated the strong body of the atheist Hiranyakasipu with His nails, just as a carpenter pierces cane."
  2. ^ a b c d e Soifer, Deborahof Narasiṁha and Vāmana: two avatars in cosmological perspective (1991). Albany, N.Y: State University of New York Press. ISBN 0-7914-0799-3. 
  3. ^ Bhag-P 7.8.19-22
  4. ^ Steven J. Rosen, Narasimha Avatar, The Half-Man/Half-Lion Incarnation, p5
  5. ^ Steven J. Rosen, Narasimha Avatar, The Half-Man/Half-Lion Incarnation, p1
  6. ^ Bhag-P 7.4.1 "Lord Brahma was very much satisfied by Hiranyakasipu's austerities, which were difficult to perform"
  7. ^ Bhag-P, Canto 7 7.3.35-38
  8. ^ Bhag-P 7.7.6 "The victorious demigods plundered the palace of Hiranyakasipu, the king of the demons, and destroyed everything within it. Then Indra, King of heaven, arrested Prahalada's mother and Hiranyakasipu's wife Kayadu, the Queen"
  9. ^ Bhag-P 7.7.8 "Narada Muni said: O Indra, King of the demigods, this woman is certainly sinless. You should not drag her off in this merciless way. This chaste woman is the wife of another. You must immediately release her."
  10. ^ Bhag-P 7.8.6
  11. ^ Bhag-P 7.8.3-4 "Thus he finally decided to kill his son Prahlada. Hiranyakasipu was by nature very cruel
  12. ^ Bhag-P 7.8.12
  13. ^ Bhag-P 7.8.29 "Lord Narasimhadeva placed the demon on his lap, supporting him with his thighs, and in the doorway of the assembly hall the lord very easily tore the demon to pieces with the nails of his hand."
  14. ^ Bhag-P 7.9
  15. ^ Soifer, Deborah A. (1991). The myths of Narasiṁha and Vāmana: two avatars in cosmological perspective. SUNY Press. p. 90-91. ISBN 9780791407998. 
  16. ^ Sharma, B. N. Krishnamurti (2000). A history of the Dvaita school of Vedānta and its literature: from the earliest beginnings to our own times. Motilal Banarsidass Publ.. pp. 412. 
  17. ^ Steven J. Rosen, Narasimha Avatar, The Half-Man/Half-Lion Incarnation
  18. ^ Steven J. Rosen, Narasimha Avatar, The Half-Man/Half-Lion Incarnation

External links

Simple English

Narasimha, according to Hinduism, was the fourth avatara of Vishnu. In this form, Vishnu had the body of a man, but he had a head of a lion. This avatara of Vishnu is also a symbol of great strength.

The Hindu scriptures tell this story about narashimha avatara. There was a daitya (a demon) named Hiranyakashipu. He was against all gods. But, his son named Prahlad used to worship the gods, especially Vishnu. Hiranyakashipu was not happy at his son and wanted to burn him to death. Hiranyakashipu also wanted to kill everyone who worshipped the gods and make everyone worship him instead. Vishnu became Narasimha, and protected Prahlad and other people who worshipped the gods by stopping Hiranyakashipu. Brahma granted Hiranyakashipu a boon that keeps him safe so that he cant be killed by a human, animal or deva. He also can not be killed in the day or night, or inside or outside of his palace. This made Hiranyakashipu believe that no one could kill him. When he wanted to kill his son for worshiping Vishnu, Vishnu came to earth reincarnated as a half-man, half-lion creature (neither man nor human), in the twilight (neither day nor night), and on the porch of the palace (neither inside nor outside). This way Vishnu could kill Hiranyakashipu without disrupting the boon given to him by Brahma.


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