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Sri Sri Jagannathaswamy who appeared to the devotees as Sri Sri Lakshminirrasimha Swamy
Narasimha, sometimes spelled Narasingha (/ˈnʌrəˌsɪŋhə/; Sanskrit: नरसिंह, lit. ’man-lion’, IAST: Narasiṃha), is a fierce avatar of the Hindu god Vishnu, one who incarnates in the form of part lion and part man to destroy evil and end religious persecution and calamity on Earth, thereby restoring Dharma. Narasimha is depicted with three eyes, and is described as the God of Destruction, who destroys the entire universe at the time of great-dissolution (Mahapralaya). Hence he is known as Kala (time) or Mahakala (great-time) or Parakala (beyond time) as well. There is even a matha (monastery) by the name of Parakala Matha in Sri Vaishnava tradition. Alongside, Narasimha is also described as the God of Yoga, in the form of Yoga-Narasimha.
Narasimha iconography shows him with a human torso and lower body, with a lion face and claws, typically with a demon Hiranyakashipu in his lap whom he is in the process of defeating. The demon is the powerful brother of evil Hiranyaksha who had been previously defeated by Vishnu, and thus hated the latter. Hiranyakashipu gained special powers by which he could not be killed during the day or night, inside or outside the house, any place in the world i.e. neither in sky nor on land nor in heaven nor in pataala, by any weapon, and by man, god, asura or animal. Endowed with this, he began to create chaos and havoc, persecuting all devotees of Vishnu, including his own son. Vishnu understood the demon’s power and creatively adapted into a mixed avatar that is neither man nor animal and kills the demon at the junction of day and night, inside and outside. Narasimha is known primarily as the ‘Great Protector’ who specifically defends and protects his devotees from evil. The most popular Narasimha mythology is the legend that protects his devotee Prahlada, and creatively destroys Prahlada’s demonic father and tyrant Hiranyakashipu.
Narasimha is one of the major deities in Vaishnavism and his legends are revered in Vaikhanasas, Sri Vaishnavism, Sadh Vaishnavism and various other Vaishnavism traditions of Hinduism. He is celebrated in many regional Hindu temples, texts, performance arts and festivals such as Holika prior to the Hindu spring festival of colors called Holi.[page needed] The earliest representation, dating back to the 4th-century CE, of Narasimha is from Kondamotu in Coastal Andhra. Other older known artworks of Narasimha have been found at several sites across Uttar Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh, such as at the Mathura archaeological site. These have been variously dated between 2nd and 4th-century CE.
In Sanskrit the word Narasimha consists of two words “nara” which means man, and “simha” which means lion. Together the term means “man-lion”, referring to a mixed creature avatar of Vishnu. Additionally, the word “singh” is often used in place of “simha” which also means lion in Sanskrit and other Indian languages.
The Vishnu hymn 1.154 of the Rigveda (1700-1200 BCE) contains a verse with allusions to a “wild beast, dread, prowling, mountain-roaming”, which has been interpreted by some to be the Narasiṃha legend. Another hymn 8.14 alludes to the Namuci legend with “waters’ foam you tore off, Indra, the head of Namuci, subduing all contending hosts”, but the hymns does not present details.
A more complete version of the Namuci legend is found in Shatapatha Brahmana of the Yajurveda in chapter 12.7.3.v Other references to Narasimha are found in the Vedic texts Vajaseneyi Samhita 10.34, Pancavimsa Brahmana 12.6.8 and Taittiriya Brahmana 126.96.36.199.
The Indra-Namuci legend
Narasimha likely has roots in the metaphor-filled Indra-Namuci legend in the Vedas. Indra is the dharmic leader of the Devas who commands lightning, thunder, rain and rivers, while Namuci is a deceptive demigod Asura in competition for power. Namuci suggests peace to Indra, which the latter accepts. He demands Indra to promise that he will neither try to slay him with his “palm of the hand nor with the fist”, neither in day nor in night, neither “anything that the dry” nor “anything that is moist”. Indra agrees.
After the deal is done, Namuci carries away all that nourishes the Devas: the Soma drink, the essence of food and the strength of Indra. The leader of the gods finds himself conflicted and feels bound by his promise. Indra then meets Saraswati (goddess of knowledge) and Ashvins. They reply they will deal with Namuci, get it all back, if Indra agrees to share his powers, the essence of food and the Soma drink with them. Indra agrees.