Lord Narasimha or Narasingha is a fierce avatar of the Lord Vishnu. Hindus celebrate this highly auspicious festival of Narasimha Jayanti on Vaisakha Shukla Chaturdashi i.e the 14th day of the Shukla Paksha in the lunar month of Vaisakha. On this day, Lord Vishnu had re-incarnated (the fourth incarnation of Supreme Lord Vishnu) himself as Narasimha (half man and half lion avatar) to protect his adorned devotee Prahalad and to kill the demon king Hiranyakashipu. Devotees of Lord Vishnu celebrate this auspicious festival to remove all kinds of negative energies from life and to follow a righteous path for a happy and peaceful life.
The Sanskrit word Narasimha consists of two words "Nara" means man, and "Simha" means lion. Thus, the word Narasimha means "man-lion" form, referring to a divine avatar of Lord Vishnu. People living in different parts of India worship Lord Narasimha with different names, such as Narsingh, Narasimba, Narasinghar, Nrisimha, Nrisingha, Narasingha, Narasingh, Agnilochana, and Bhairavadambara.
Narasimha is one of the most popular incarnations of Lord Vishnu, perhaps next only to Lord Rama and Lord Kṛiṣhṇa. The depictions of the Narasiṃha avatar is available in a variety of Puraṇas, and sacred scriptures such as the Valmiki Ramayana, Viṣṇu Puraṇa, Bhagavata Puraṇa, Agni Puraṇa, Brahmaṇḍa Puraṇa, Vayu Puraṇa, Kurma Puraṇa, Matsya Puraṇa, Padma Puraṇa, Shiva Puraṇa, Linga Purana and Skanda Puraṇa.
Rituals / Celebrations of Narasimha Jayanti: On the day of Narasimha Jayanti, the devotees need to wake up early in the morning and take a dip in a sacred river such as Ganges, Yamuna, Saraswathi, Godavari, etc. If this is not possible, then they can take a dip in a nearby river or at their residence while chanting the mantras of Lord Vishnu and Mother Ganga.
Devotees perform the puja for Lord Narasimha with offerings like sandalwood powder (Chandan), saffron (Kesar), coconut (Nariyal), fruits, flowers, incense sticks, and Diyas. After that, the devotees recite shlokas, mantras in front of the deity. In the end, they offer Aarti to Lord Narsimha with full faith to receive His divine blessings. As per mythology, Lord Narasimha appeared at dusk (evening hours). So, on this day, devotees who keep fast without eating and drinking water, break their fast after performing the prayer and aarti in the evening.
Mantras to worship Lord Narasimha: The chanting of following powerful mantras to pray to Lord Narasimha with due reverence, diligence, and devotion can remove fears, any problematic situation and bestow His blessings.
Narasimha Gayatri Mantra:
Om Nrisimhaye Vidmahe Vajranakhaya Dhimahi Tanno Simhah Prachodayat !!
Sri Narasimha Maha Mantra:
Ugram viram maha-vishnum jvalantam sarvato mukham
nrisimham bhishanam bhadram mrityur mrityum namamy aham !!
Significance: ‘Nara’ is a man and ‘Simha’ is a lion, and ‘Nara-Simha’ is thus a Man-Lion form. Lord Vishnu took this unbelievable avatar to protect His devotee Prahalad from his own demon father Hiranyakashipu.
Lord Narasimha is a significant iconic symbol of hope against all odds, victory over adharma, and destroyer of obstacles. All one needs is to call upon Him with faith, like Prahlada, to come out from any inexplicable situation.
Lord Narasimha is one of the widely worshipped deities in Hinduism. There are numerous pilgrimage sites and ancient temples dedicated to Him throughout India. Particularly in the state of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, Lord Narasimha is worshipped in numerous forms.
Devotees observe fast, worship Lord Narasimha with a pure heart, and chant mantras and hymns dedicated to Lord Vishnu to win His blessings for conquering the obstacles of life and to live a peaceful life.
Legend of Narasimha Jayanti: According to the Bhagavat Purana, a great sage named Kashyap had a wife named ‘Diti’ and they had two children named Hiranyakashipu and Harinyaksha. Lord Vishnu, in his previous avatar as Varaha (3rd avatar), killed the evil asura Hiraṇayakṣa to protect mankind and the Earth. His brother Hiranyakashipu was very annoyed by the death of his brother, hated Vishnu, and decided to take revenge. He did strong prayers to Lord Brahma and took His blessings. Hiraṇyakasipu requested Lord Brahma to grant him an extraordinary boon – “I shall not die within any residence or outside any residence, during the day or at night, nor on the ground or in the sky, neither I shall die by any weapon, nor by any human being or animal, I shall not meet death from any entity, living or non-living created by you, further, I shall not be killed by any demigod or demon or by any great snake from the lower planets”. Lord Brahma granted the boon, and Hiraṇyakasipu started ruling all three Lokas (worlds) including heavens with these special powers.
Hiranyakashipu had a son named Prahalad. Despite being born in a family of demons, Prahalad was a great devotee of Lord Vishnu. This angered Hiranyakashipu who ultimately decided to kill his own son. Hiranyakashipu's several attacks on Prahalad failed due to the mystical power of Lord Vishnu. Feeling helpless, Hiranyakashipu got hold of Prahalad and asked him with anger, “Where is your God?” and banged his weapon hard on a nearby pillar and asked Prahalad to show him his God Vishnu. Just after that Lord Narasimha, the fourth Avatar of Vishnu emerged out of the same pillar with a tumultuous sound. Lord Vishnu incarnated in the form of half-man and half-lion – Narasimha avatar to satisfy the boon given by Lord Brahma. Then Lord Narasimha took Hiranyakashipu in his lap and by using his sharp fingernails (neither animate nor inanimate) as weapons, he disembowelled and killed the demon king. Since, then devotees started celebrating Narasimha Jayanti, the fierce avatar of Lord Vishnu with great sincerity and austerity.
Summary: Lord Narasimha who is one of the most powerful avatars (half-man and half-lion) of Lord Vishnu, is famously known as the remover of all negative energies and hardships from the life of His devotees. The purpose of celebrating Narasimha Jayanti is to stay away from wrong deeds (adharma) and to follow the path of righteous deeds (dharma). Numerous scriptures describe the glory of Lord Narsimha as the one who is the embodiment of victory of good over evil. Hindus observe a complete fast on Narasimha Jayanti and offer prayers to get His blessings.