Monthly Archives: May 2020

Historicity of Prahlada, the virtuous Asura king

Prahlada was the son of Hiranyakashipu, the daitya king who ruled from his capital Hiranyapura identified with Hyrcania situated near the town of Astrabad (now known as Gorgan in Iran). Hiranyakashipu had amassed much wealth and conquered large territories. Probably Hiranya was the title of the family or gotra. Hiranyakashipu was an egoist, materialist, atheist and had forbidden the worship of the Creator and ordered his own worship as the real lord of the world. He is said to have persecuted the Manavas who were living in his kingdom because of their religious views. One day a king Narasimha belonging to Naravyaghra tribe from India stealthily entered his palace and killed Hiranyakashipu. There is also a view that he was killed by a lion and his death led to great rejoicing among the Manavas who interpreted his end as having been accomplished by their own God Hari which means a lion.

That Narasimha went to Hyrcania is confirmed by an inscription found at Tell-el-obeid dated about 4500 B.C. which mentions that king Aannipadda the then ruler of Ur dedicated a temple to goddess Ninharsag. Except for the god being a female the similarity between the names Narasimha and Ninharsag appears striking.

Hiranyakashipu was succeeded by his son Prahlada who was wise, just, fearless and truthful. He showed greater tolerance to his Manava subjects who thrived under his rule and was liked by them. For his virtues he became the first Asura teacher from whom even Brahmana teachers learnt.

Prahlada ruled for a long time and his capital was located in Mulasthana, modern Multan (in Pakistan). In Mahaharata, shanti parva, Bhishma has described Prahlada as one who possessed great learning, unattached to all worldly objects, free from pride, self- restrained, devoted to various vows and steadily engaged in the study of the soul and in acquiring emancipation. Due to his spiritual inclination Prahlada later gave up his kingdom. Prahlada had four sons, Virochana, Kumbha, Nikumbha and Kapila. It was Kapila who conceived the concept of the four ashramas, namely brahmacharya, gruhasta, vanaprasta and sanyasa.

Prahlada in the hands of the Vaishnava exponents became an ideal for laymen to inculcate fearlessness and faith in God. Adherents of Madhva sect believe saint Sri Raghavendra Swamy to be an avatar of Prahlada.

References

  1. Mohan Singh- The Legend of Prahlada, QJMS, vol 31 (2) 1940 and vol 32 (1), 1941.

  2. Jwala Prasad Singhal- Some Light on Ancient world history from the Puranas, The Indian Historical Quarterly, Vol III, March 1927, No.1

  3. J.P.Mittal – History of Ancient India (700 B.C.-4250 B.C.) Vol- I, Atlantic Publishers and Distributors, New Delhi, 2006

  4. Nundo Lal Dey- Rasatala or the Underworld, Calcutta, 1927