Hiranyaksha had a brother named Hiranyakashipu. Hiranyakashipu was furious to learn that his
brother had been killed and he sweared to kill Vishnu. But this could not be done unless he
himself became powerful and invincible. Hiranyakashipu, therefore, began to pray to Brahma
through difficult meditation. Brahma was pleased at these prayers and offered to grant a boon.
“I want to be invincible,” said Hiranyakashipu. “Please grant me the boon that I may not be
killed by night or day; that I may not be killed by man or beast; and that I may not be killed in
the sky, the water or the earth.”
Brahma granted the desired boon. And Hiranyakashipu was happy. He thought that he had taken
care of all possible eventualities. And since he had become so powerful, he conquered all the
three worlds and kicked the gods out of heaven.
Hiranyakashipu had a son named Prahlada. You no doubt remember that Hiranyakashipu had
resolved to kill Vishnu. But strangely enough, Prahlada became devoted to Vishnu.
Hiranyakashipu tried to persuade his son. That did not work. He tried to kill his son. That too did
not work since each time, Vishnu intervened to save Prahlada.
Meanwhile, the gods had been driven off from heaven. They had also been deprived of their
shares in yajanas by Hiranyakashipu. These shares now went only to the asura king. In
desperation, they went and prayed to Vishnu and Vishnu promised them that he would find a
One day, Hiranyakashipu called Prahlada to him. “How is it that you escaped each time I tried to
kill you?” he asked.
“Because Vishnu saved me,” replied Prahlada. “Vishnu is everywhere.”
“What do you mean everywhere?” retorted Hiranyakashipu. He pointed to a crystal pillar inside
the palace and asked, “Is Vishnu inside this pillar as well?”
“Yes,” replied Prahlada.
“Very well then. I am going to kick the pillar,” said Hiranyakashipu.
When Hiranyakashipu kicked the pillar, it broke into two. And from inside the pillar, Vishnu
emerged in his form of half-man and half-lion. He caught hold of Hiranyakashipu and placed the
demon across his thighs. And with his claws, he tore apart the demon’s chest and so killed him.
Brahma’s boon had been that Hiranyakashipu would not be killed by man or beast. But then
narasimha was neither man nor beast it was half-man and half-beast. The boon had said that the
asura would not be killed in the sky, the water or the earth. But Hiranyakashipu was killed on
Vishnu’s thighs, which were not the sky, the water or the earth. And finally, the boon had
promised that Hiranyakashipu would not be killed by night or day. Since the incident took place
in the evening, it was not night or day.
After Hiranyakashipu died, the gods were restored to their rightful places. Vishnu’s made
Prahlada the king of the asuras.
Prahlada’s grandson was Bali and Bali became very powerful. When he was the king of the
asuras, there was a war between the devas and the asuras. The gods were defeated and were
driven off from svarga. As always, the gods fled to Vishnu and began to pray to him to save
them. Vishnu assured the gods that he would do something about Bali.
Accordingly, Vishnu was born as the son of Aditi and Kashyapa. The son was a dwarf.
King Bali had arranged for a huge sacrifice and had announced that, on the occasion of the
sacrifice, he would not refuse anyone a boon. The dwarf arrived at this sacrifice and began to
recite the Vedas. Bali was so pleased at this that he offered the dwarf a boon. Bali’s guru (teacher)
was Shukracharya and Shukracharya thought that there was something fishy about the way the
dwarf had arrived. So he tried to restrain Bali.
“No,” said Bali. “I have offered a boon and I shall stick to my word.”What boon do you desire? I
will give whatever you want.”
Before a boon was actually granted, a small rite had to be performed with holy water.
Shukracharya was still trying to do his best to prevent the boon from being given. So he entered
the vessel in which the holy water was kept to seal the mouth of the vessel and prevent the water
from being taken out. To get at the holy water, the vessel was pierced with a straw. This straw
also pierced one of Shukracharya’s eyes. Ever since that day, the preceptor of the demon has
been one eyed.
“Give me as much of land as may be covered in three of my steps,” said the dwarf. “I need this as
Dakshina (fee) for my guru.”
Bali agreed. But the dwarf adopted a gigantic form. With one step he covered bhuloka. With
another step he covered bhuvarloka. And with the last step he covered svarloka. The three worlds
were thus lost to Bali and Vishnu returned them to Indra. Bali had no option but to go down to
the underworld (patala). But so pleased was Vishnu at Bali’s generosity that he granted the asura
The kshatriyas were the second of the four classes. It was their job to wear arms and protect the
world. And rule. The brahmanas were the first of the four classes. It was their job to pray, study
the sacred texts and perform religious rites. But the kshatriyas became very insolent and began to
oppress the world and the brahmanas. Vishnu was then born as the son of the sage Jamadagni
and his wife Renuka. Since this was the line of the sage Bhrigu, Parashurama was also called
Bhargava. Parashurama’s mission was to protect the brahmanas and teach a lesson to the
There was a king named Kartavirya who had received all sorts of boons from the sage
Dattatreya. Thanks to these boons, Kartavirya had a thousand arms and conquered and ruled over
the entire world. One day, Kartavirya went on a hunt to the forest. He was very tired after the
hunt and was invited by the sage Jamadagni who had Kamadhenu cow. This meant that the cow
produced whatever its owner desired. Jamadagni used the Kamadhenu to treat Kartavirya and all
his soldiers to a sumptuous feast.
Kartavirya was so enamoured of the Kamadhenu that he asked the sage to give it to him. But
Jamadagni refused. Kartavirya then abducted the cow by force and a war started between
Kartavirya and Parashurama. In this war, Parashurama cut off Kartavirya’s head with his axe
(parashu) and brought the Kamadhenu back to the hermitage.
After some time, Parashurama was away when Kartavirya’s sons arrived at the ashrama and
killed Jamadagni. On the death of his father, Parashurama’s anger was aroused. He killed all the
kshatriyas in the world twenty-one times. On the plains of Kurukshetra, he built five wells which
were filled with the blood of kshatriyas. Eventually, Parashurama handed over the world to
Kashyapa and went and lived on Mount Mahendra.
the boon that he would bear the title of Indra in the future.