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Yesterday was Narasimha Jayanti, so I thought I'd post a question I've had about Narasimha's birth. Most people only know the story of how he emerged from a pillar in Ahobilam in order to save Prahlada from Hiranyakashipu. But some Puranas describe another origin of Narasimha. Let me explain.

This excerpt from the Prabhasa Kanda of the Skanda Puranas describes the various incarnations that Vishnu has taken in the present Vaivasvata Manvantara. Here's what it says about Narasimha:

During the fourth quartet of Yugas, when Suras became distressed, he issued forth from the ocean for killing Hiranyakashupu. The second incarnation was Narasimha. Rudra was his priest.

I discuss this "priest" business here. But my question is, what is the story of Narasimha being born from the ocean?

This chapter of the Matsya Purana says much the same thing:

There was another incarnation of the Supreme Soul. When the Devas were in distress, then, on the fourth day of the Moon, which was the anniversary of the beginning of a Yuga, Vishnu manifested Himself on the sea-coast. He incarnated himself as Narasimha for the destruction of Hiranyakashipu. Rudra officiated as the sacrificial priest. This was His second incarnation.

But the thing is, Ahobilam is over 200 kilometers from the sea coast. Could this be a case of Kalpa Bheda? Narasimha could have emerged out of a pillar in Ahobilam in the Swayambhuva Manvantara, and emerged from the ocean in the present Vaivasvata Manvantara (assuming it happened twice). Are there any scriptures which shed light on this?

  • Possible Interpolation? – Yogi May 10 '17 at 13:19
  • @Yogi Yesh, that's a possibility, although it's interesting that two different Puranas say the same thing in their list of incarnations of Vishnu in the Vaivasvata Manvantara. – Keshav Srinivasan May 10 '17 at 13:27
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    I think Matsya Purana is a tamasic purana right? I think considering the current status of Skanda purana and nature of Matsya purana. Shrimad Bhagwatam might be the correct incident, or it can be kalpa bheda but If its kalpa bheda then we should consider Shrimad Bhagwatam as it is Bhagwata 'Magnum Opus' for this Kalpa. – Yogi May 10 '17 at 15:29
  • @Yogi Yes, the Matsya Purana is a Tamasa Purana. And yeah, I think Kalpa Bheda is a likely possibility. – Keshav Srinivasan May 10 '17 at 15:44
  • @KeshavSrinivasan Kalpa Bheda is not possibility as both Prabhasa Khanda and Matsya Purana are talking about Sweta Varaha Kalpa. By default, stories of Matsya Purana are from Vaivaswara Manvanatara (current Manvantara). – The Destroyer May 10 '17 at 17:02
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This place is Simhachalam. Simhachalam is suburb of Vizag city which is located on banks of Bay of Bengal. Sthala Purana of Simhachalam temple says Sriman Narayana saved Prahlada when Hiranyakasipu was about to place mountain on Prahlada after throwing him into sea.

This is what Sthala Purana says:

Son of Hiranyakasipu, named Prahalada became a devotee of Vishnu even from his birth and thus brought upon himself the wrath of his father. Hiranyakasipu tried to mend the ways of his son, but when he found him to be adamant, made him undergo severe hardships. He made the elephants trample over him and set poisonous snakes against him. Prahalada, protected as he was by divine grace, stood firm Hiranyakasipu as a last resort, asked his servants to throw his son into the sea and place huge mountain over him. His servant choose to drop Prahalada in the sea near the mount Simhadri with a view to place the mountain over him. But before they could complete their act Lord Narayana rescued him by jumping over the hill and lifting up Prahalada from the sea. Simhadri is thus the place where the Lord rescued Prahalada.

But this story happened before manifestation of Sri Narasimha from Pillar and this incident of manifesting from Pillar happened at Ahoba(i)lam. Sri Chaganti Koteswara Rao, a well know scholar in Telugu states, describes the detailed story in this Video (in telugu).

Sri Chaganti Koteswara Rao says Lord Vishnu blew air out from his mouth and mountain moved away from ocean and rescued Prahlada from drowning into ocean. Lord Vishnu also showed Prahlada Narasimha form, by which he would kill Hiranyakasipu in future. The mountain which moved away from ocean looks like lion when seen from sky and thus called "Simhachalam". Narayana said he would manifest on Simhachalam as Narasimha and asked Prahlada to serve Him on this hill during his (Prahlada's) Vanaprastha stage of life.

So, this place could be Simhachalam.

  • That's a possibility, but I'd like some scriptural confirmation that this incident) happened "on the fourth day of the Moon, which was the anniversary of the beginning of a Yuga", and moreover in the 4th Mahayuga of the Vaivasvata Manvantara – Keshav Srinivasan May 10 '17 at 13:43
  • @KeshavSrinivasan I think Chaganti garu must have strong scriptural basis for his points. But Sthala Purana didn't mention any Yuga and Manvantara. His words are mostly taken from Sthala Purana of Simhachalam. – The Destroyer May 10 '17 at 13:44
  • We don't even need to go by Chaganti Koteswar Rao's words, the incident of Vishnu catching Prahlada after he was thrown off a cliff is told in numerous Puranas. But I want some confirmation that that is what the Matsya Puranas and Skanda Puranas are alluding to. Confirmation of the timing of the incident would do that. – Keshav Srinivasan May 10 '17 at 13:47
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It seems that the ocean which is mentioned in the so called text is a metaphor for the ocean in which shri vishnu lives-The Ksheer Sagar.

I cant confirm the correctness of the translation you mentioned from the Matsya Purana. For example try translating the original work from the Sanskrit text. It may be about the comparison of shri vishnu appearing on this earth(which may be have translated as arriving on land) from his abode(Ksheer Sagar).

Remember Hinduism is all about finding unity in diversity in all things(inc vocabulary). Hence metaphors are common in texts. Understanding the message of texts is as important(if not less) than being entangled in the meaning of individual words and refrences. Hope my answer helps.

Sorry if I seem too direct. Thanks.

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