Other names: Narsinha, Narasimha, Narasinha
Lord Vishnu, in his Varaha incarnation, killed demon Hiranyaksha. To take revenge for this, his brother Hiranyakashyap started torturing saints and sages who were devotees of Vishnu. He destroyed the Yagyas and sacrifices of the Rishis and also burnt their ashrams down. Hiranyakashyap killed all those who were found worshipping Lord Vishnu. Later, on his guru Shukracharya’s advice, he went for penance of Brahmaji. Pleased with his worship, Brahmaji asked Hiranyakashyap to ask for a boon. Hiranyakashyap said,
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 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 nor in the sky. Grant me that my death not be brought about by any weapon, or by any human being or animal. Grant me that I not meet death from any entity, living or nonliving. Grant me, further, that I am not 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.
Brahmaji granted him the boon. After getting the boon, Hiranyakashyap became very egoistic. He attacked the devlok and took over its rule. He started torturing the saints and sages relentlessly. Finally the devtas and saints went to take refuge with Lord Vishnu. Vishnu asked them to have patience and promised them that he would kill Hiranyakashyap very soon.
Hiranyakashyap’s son Prahlad was a great devotee of Vishnu. Many a times Hiranyakashyap loudly abused him for worshipping Vishnu but Prahlad continued worshipping Vishnu without being intimidated by his father. Then Hiranyakashyap lost patience and thought of killing Prahlad. He got him thrown down from a mountain cliff, he tried to burn him in fire and many more trials but every time by the grace of Vishnu, Prahlad was saved.
In the end, Hiranyakashyap finally became so angry he reached for his sword to kill Prahlad.
At the moment Hiranyakashyap picked up his sword, Lord Vishnu appeared in the form of Narsimha from a pillar of the palace, rending it apart. In this form of Narsimha, he was neither human nor animal. He did not even resemble any animal. That is why this form of Vishnu was called Narsimha Avtar; it means “the one whose form is half man and half lion”. Both Narsimha and Hiranyakashyap fought fiercely.
As twilight fell, Lord Narsimha seized Hiranyakashyap, sat on the threshold of the doorway, laid him across His lap, and with his sharp nails, tore apart Hiranyakashyap’s stomach and killed him. He was neither in the house nor out of the house, his body was neither on the earth nor in the sky. He was also not killed with a weapon. The limitations of Brahmaji’s boon were bypassed, bringing an end to the oppressor Hiranyakashyap. All the devtas and Saints and sages were very happy at this, and praised Narsimha.