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Prahlada is a character from the Puranic texts of Hinduism, wherein he is famed for his exclusive devotion (bhakti) to Vishnu, despite attempts in the story by his father, Hiranyakashipu to turn him to the contrary. He is considered a mahajana, or great devotee, by followers of Vaishnava traditions and is of special importance to devotees of Narasimha avatar. A philosophical treatise is accredited to him in the Bhagavata Purana wherein Prahlada describes the process of loving worship to his lord, Vishnu. The majority of stories in the Puranas are based around the activities of Prahlada as a young boy, and thus he is more commonly depicted as such in paintings and illustrations.

The story of Prahlada

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

Despite several warnings from his father Hiranyakashipu, Prahlada continues to worship Vishnu. His father tries to poison him, get him trampled by the elephants, and put him in a room with venomous snakes, but Prahlada survives each and every time.

Holika, the sister of Hiranyakashipu, has a special shawl that would prevent fire affecting the person wearing it. One day, Hiranyakashipu orders Prahlada to sit on a pyre on the lap of Holika. Prahlad prays to Lord Vishnu to keep him safe. When the fire starts, Holika burns to death, while Prahlada remains unharmed. This incident is celebrated as the Hindu festival of Holi.[1]

After tolerating much abuse from his father Hiranyakashipu, Prahlada is eventually saved by Vishnu in the form of Narasimha, the half-man, half-lion avatar.[2]

The story of Prahlada gives a number of moral instructions such as:

  • God prevails everywhere.
  • God will always save his devotees.
  • Devotion can be practised at any point of time. Age does not matter.
  • Constant faith in God leads to devotion.
  • The people who are practising evil will be punished.

Within the Bhagavata Purana, Prahlada eventually becomes king of the Daityas and attains a place in the abode of Vishnu (Vaikuntha) after his death.[3]

Raghavendra Swami in the 17th century is considered by his devotees to be a reincarnation of Prahlada.

Scriptural references

In the Bhagavad Gita (10.30) Krishna makes the following statement in regard to Prahlada, showing his favour towards him:

Translation: "Among the Daitya demons I am the devoted Prahlada, among subduers I am time, among beasts I am the lion, and among birds I am Garuda."[4]

Pilgrimage sites

The following sites in Andhra Pradesh, India, are associated with Prahlada, or Narasimhadeva as places of pilgrimage:

See also


  1. Varadaraja V. Raman - Variety in Religion And Science: Daily Reflections, iUniverse, 2005, ISBN 0595358403, p.259
  2. Dimmitt, Cornelia; Johannes Adrianus Bernardus Buitenen (1978). Classical Hindu Mythology: A Reader in the Sanskrit Purāṇas. translated by J. A. Van Buitenen. Temple University Press. p. 312. ISBN 0877221227. 
  3. P. 452 The Hindu World: An Encyclopedic Survey of Hinduism By Benjamin Walker Summary
  4. B-Gita 10.30

Further reading

  • Cole, W. Owen; Judith Evans-Lowndes, Judith Lowndes (1995). The Story of Prahlad. Heinemann Educational. ISBN 0431077568. 

External links

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