Narasimha – One of Vishnu's ten avatars who restored Dharma and righteousness

Article of the Month - Nov 2021

Narasimha – One of Vishnu's ten avatars who restored Dharma and righteousness

Narasimha in the Hindu Folklore

Generally, it is conceived that temple is an abode of Hindu gods and goddesses. In the Hindu religion, Narasimha is the fourth avatar of Lord Vishnu, the preserver god in the Hindu 'Trimurti' (Trinity), who showed up in old occasions to save the world from a haughty devil figure. As indicated by Hindu folklore, Narasimha's half-lion, half-man appearance permitted him to dodge the gift got  by the evil presence god Hiranyakashipu that he was unable to be killed by any human and creature. The worship of Lord Vishnu is especially famous among the Hindus in India just as Odisha. Narasimha, the part-lion, part-man god is viewed as one of the ten symbols or manifestations of Lord Vishnu. The word Narasimha comprises of two words viz "nara" which means man and "simha" which implies lion. Together the term signifies "man-lion", alluding to a blended animal symbol of Lord Vishnu, one who embodies as part lion and part man to obliterate wickedness and end strict abuse and catastrophe on earth, in this way re-establishing Dharma.

Lord Vishnu's Narasimha Avatara

Death of Hiranyakashipu

The younger brother of Hiranyaksha, Hiranyakashipu wanted revenge on Vishnu and his followers. He undertook many years of austere penance to take revenge on Vishnu: Brahma thus offers the demon a boon and Hiranyakashipu asks for immortality. Brahma tells him this is not possible, but that he could bind the death of Hiranyakashipu with conditions. Hiranyakashipu agreed.

Thus he received invulnerability unless certain conditions were met; he could not be killed by any living thing created by Brahma, the creator god, he could not be killed inside or outside any residence, during the day or night and in the ground or sky. He could not be harmed by any human, animal, weapon, entities living and non-living, demigod, demon or Naga. He could not be harmed on a battlefield and gained sole lordship over all the living entities and presiding deities.

Narasimha Killing the Demon Hiranyakashipu

Hiranykashipu asks his son Prahlada who the master of the universe is. Prahlada responds by saying Vishnu is omnipotent and omnipresent. Hiranyakashipu asks if Vishnu is in a pillar. Prahlada says "He was, He is and He will be". In anger, Hiranyakashipu smashes the pillar with a mace. Vishnu, as Narasimha, part god and part animal, emerges from the pillar and attacks Hiranyakashipu at twilight (neither day nor night) on the threshold of a courtyard (neither indoors nor out), and puts the demon on his lap (neither earth nor space). He disembowels and kills the demon using his nails (neither animate nor inanimate).

The Incomparable Protector

Narasimha is referred to essentially as the "Incomparable Protector" who uncommonly shields and shields his fans from evil. At the point when the evil sways reality, Lord Vishnu takes various manifestations to overwhelm the malevolence and salvage the holy people and honest. The Hindus have faith in the ten manifestations avatars of Lord Vishnu. They are like Matsya, Kurma, Varaha, Narasimha, Vamana, Parshurama, Rama, Balarama, Krushna, Buddha and in current period concentrate on another avatar, for example, Kalki i.e., Jagannatha. Ruler Narasimha was neither completely creature nor completely human, he had the option to kill the evil presence of Hiranyakashipu and save the world. He is otherwise called Narasingh, Narasingha, Nrusingha, Narasimha, Narasimhanatha and Narasinghar in various nearby dialects. Narasimha or Nrusimha turned into the most mainstream divine force of people of Odisha in the early archaic period. After the visit of different Vaishnava ministers to Odisha and foundation of various mathas, worship of Lord Vishnu as Madhava (Madhavananda), Rama, Narasimha, Krushna, Narayana, Varaha, and so on in the Prachi Valley has been widespread. Vaishnavism had profoundly impacted the strict existence of people of Odisha. Images of Narasimha in various structures could be seen in Eastern Odisha are fascinating examination for researchers, savants, archaeologists just as workmanship history specialists from both the strict and iconographical points of view. A decent number of fine Narasimha images are accessible in Eastern Odisha and these require appropriate investigation by researchers.

Dashavatar (Stories of Lord Vishnu)


The Beginning of Narasimha Worship

Historically, the beginning of Narasimha worship can be followed by lion worship in antiquated India. The Rig Veda contains a hymn, which depicts Vishnu as a wild monster, horrendous, mountain roaming (The Rigveda Mandala 1, Hymn 154). Prominent antiquarians like A. Eschmann and numerous others accept that Narasimha more likely than not advanced from a lion divinity adored by tribals in Telengana and Andhra Pradesh. Narasimha worship was discovered to be won in the coastal belt of Odisha during the tenth - eleventh century AD as an old/most punctual image of Narasimha of that period safeguarded in the extra place of worship (Lakshmi-Narasimha) of the Amareshvara Shiva temple complex of Amareswar. In this association, Hansanath Sahu is of the view that Narasimha worship was at first beginning in the Prachi valley during the Somavamsi time frame by basing the image of Lakshmi-Narasimha accessible in the Amareshvar temple complex. Truly, Narasimha worship was pervasive in Eastern Odisha during the middle age time frame especially in the tenth eleventh century A.D. and it turned out to be more mainstream during the Ganga rule in Odisha. Indeed, the name Narasimha was brought into the world by four Ganga rulers of Odisha.

Vishnu An Introduction

Iconography Of Narasimha Image:

Narasimha iconography shows him with a human middle and lower body with a lion face and paws, commonly with an evil presence Hiranyakashshipu in his lap whom he is currently killing. The devil is an incredible sibling of abhorrent Hiranyaksha who had been recently killed by Vishnu, who despised Vishnu for killing his sibling. Narasimha is constantly displayed with a lion face with torn fingers melded with a human body. Some of the time he is emerging from a column implying that he is all over the place, in all things, in everybody. Considering the heavenly meaning of God Narasimha, Pratapditya Pal comments that Narasimha is a huge notorious image of imaginative obstruction, trusts against chances, triumph against oppression and annihilation of wickedness, yet in addition one's internal evil of body, discourse and mind. The primary accentuation of his portrayals is frequently positioned upon his force, dauntlessness and autonomy. In certain portrayals Narasimha is savage, with three huge swelling eyes, a vast mouth with teeth exposed, his mane weighty, his tail excoriated upon the ground, and his sharp paws removed. In different portrayals, he is quieter, situated or standing calmly among his consorts and giving yogic indications. Regularly, his legs are crossed in the lotus position, held there by a reflection band or yoga-patta, as though he is occupied with profound examination. These sorts of portrayals are delegated Yoga-Narasimha. Now and again, he is portrayed with a partner, like Lakshmi. In his more savage structures, he is shown conveying the killed Hiranyakashipu (evil presence) on his lap. His tone is generally dazzling yellow. He is most normally portrayed with four arms, however can likewise have two and eight arms. He conveys an assortment of weapons and images related to Vishnu like the club (an image of information), a wheel, a conch, a plate and a hatchet relying upon the number of arms portrayed. One free hand is regularly held in the abhaya mudra, an image of courage. Behind his head there regularly raises a seven-headed snake, addressing the inestimable snake Shesha whereupon he is said to rest. T.A. Gopinatha Rao has separated the images of Narasimha into three sorts, in particular, the Sthauna-Narasimha, Girija-Narasimha and Yanaka Narasimha. 

Narasimha Avatar (The Half-Man/Half-Lion Incarnation)

The origination fundamental name Sthauna-Narasimha is that the lion for this situation emerges from the column (Ugra) and this Sthauna-Narasimha image is four furnished situated images, then again, the origination basic the name Girija-Narasimha is that the lion emerges from mountain caves (Yoga) with padmasana in the Utkutikasana pose. The third assortment of Narasimha is known as the Yanaka Narasimha. In this viewpoint, Narasimha ought to be situated upon the shoulder of the Garuda or upon the folds of Adisesha with five hooded overhangs held like an umbrella. At the point when Lakshmi is on the left lap, the image is called Lakshmi-Narasimha. The image of deity (Narasimha) sitting in Utkutikasana with Yogapatta and Lakshmi on the left lap is normal and mainstream in Eastern Odisha.


Twenty-Three Narasimha Images of Eastern Odisha


In Eastern Odisha, a good number of Narasimha images are found to be worshipped as parsvadevatas in some Vaishnavite temples, in some places as presiding deity and in a few sites as loose sculptures found in Shaiva temples. The sites /spots of the surveyed twenty-three Narasimha images from the different Hindu temples of Eastern Odisha are:

  1. Mangala temple of Kakatpur,
  2. Madhavananda temple at Madhava,
  3. Akhandalesvar temple at Prataprudrapur,
  4. Madhava Temple at Mudgala,
  5. Narayan temple of Vishnupur,
  6. Varaha-Narasimha Temple at Adaspur
  7. Lakshmi-Narasimha temple at Nuapatna,
  8. Amaresvara temple of Amaresvara,
  9. LakshmiNarasimha Temple at Kenduvilva-Deuli,
  10. Dadhivamana temple at Kuanrpur,
  11. Narasimhanatha temple at Paribasudeipur,
  12. Gopinatha temple at Varahipur,
  13. Madhavananda temple at Narasinghpurhat,
  14. Madhavanandatemple at Balara,
  15. Patita Pavana temple at Ottarasasana and
  16. Madhavananda temple at Pahanga.

Two Narasimha Images of Mangala Temple of Kakatpur:


The temple of Goddess Mangala is one of the significant Shakta altars of the Prachi Valley in Odisha. It is arranged at Kakatpur, which is precisely situated on the left bank of the holy Prachi stream, around 50 km toward the northeast of the Jagannatha temple of Puri. This temple is likewise 22 km from Nimapara on the Nimapara-Astharanga road. Two Narasimha images are discovered protected in an advanced level rooftop shed, which is firmly joined with the southern side bada mass of the jagamohana of the Mangala temple of Kakatpur.

Two Narasimha Images of Madhavananda Temple of Madhava

Two Narasimha images are found in the temple of Lord Madhavananda, which is situated at the village of Madhava in the Niali Block of the Cuttack district. The temple Lord Madhavananda is arranged around 8 kms from the Niali Bazar on the eastern bank of the stream Prachi. The focal specialities of the three sides of the bada of vimana of the Madhavananda temple are housed with the parshvadevata images of Varaha, Narasimha and nTrivikrama. Narasimha is the parshvadevata of the western side. The four gave image of Narasimha is discovered portrayed in standing stance. The upper right-hand holds chakra and the upper left-hand shows shankha. The lower two hands are locked in to take out the insides of Hiranyakashipu, the evil presence. There is no Garuda figure on the platform of the piece. The image Narasimha is likewise put with present-day concrete. With respect to the parshvadevatas of the primary deula, G.S. Das has referenced that these images seem, by all accounts, to be of ongoing workmanship and likely more established images of these gods were initially positioned there which are missing as of now.

Most likely, the first image of Narasimha was dissolved ordinarily and the previous Narasimha image has been supplanted by the present parshvadevata image having a place in the 20th century. There is a different confined stone chunk containing an image of Narasimha saved close to the southern side limit mass of the temple complex of Madhavananda. The neighbourhood individuals say that this image (Narasimha) was the first parshvadevata of the Madhava temple of that site. Here one of the senior researchers like Hansanatha Sahu is of the view that "this messed up Narasimha image was once protected from the water of stream Prachi close to the Madhava town. From there on, the image has been safeguarded in the temple complex". The four gave an image of Narasimha being cut in a standing stance as soon as possible petalled lotus platform.

A female orderly figure is portrayed on the left of the piece. The four hands of Narasimha are totally parted from the elbow partitions. The rear of the top of the divinity is embellished with a prolonged diadem or prabhamandala. Apsara figures holding laurels and chamaras are portrayed on both side top corners of the chunk. Hiranyakashipu, the evil spirit is kept on the left upraised knee of the divinity. Here the divinity Narasimha is portrayed in ugra act. The image Narasimha estimates 4 feet 6 creeps in tallness and 2 feet 3 crawls in width. The image Narasimha is made of chlorite stone. The iconographic features of the Narasimha image show the early Ganga speciality of Odisha.

Lakshmi-Narasimha Image of Akhandalesvara Temple of Prataprudrapur:

The temple of Akhandaleshvara is one of the significant Shaiva landmarks of the Prachi Valley in Odisha. It is arranged at the village Prataprudrapur under the Balianta Police Station of the Khurda locale. According to the neighbourhood custom, the village Prataprudrapur was set up by Gajapati Prataprudra Deva of Puri. The site of the temple is in the nearby district of Kendulisasana. The temple is situated about a distance of 3 km from Adaspur Bazar. This temple is a remodelled temple of that district and it's anything but an ensured landmark under the Odisha State Archeology Department, Bhubaneswar. The southern side internal divider speciality of the jagamohana is housed with the image of Lakshmi-Narasimha. The four gave an image of Narasimha is cut in ardhaparyanka present as soon as possible petalled lotus platform. Here the Garuda figure isn't discovered cut in the platform of the chunk. The upper two hands of divinity are parted from the elbow parcels and the lower two hands lie on the knees of the two sides. A little image of goddess Lakshmi has been introduced on the left lap of Narasimha. Subsequently, the god is said as Lakshmi-Narasimha. Minor figures of Brahma and Shiva are cut on either side base of the platform. The rear of the head of divinity is finished with extended prabhamandala. Underneath the prabhamandala is cut with a trefoil curve; makara heads at the base and the kirtimukha theme at the summit. Apsara figure holding festoon is portrayed on both side top corners of the section. The image Narasimha estimates 1 foot 6 crawls in stature and 11 creeps in width individually. The image Narasimha is made of chlorite stone.


Narasimha Image of Madhava Temple of Mudgala

The temple of Mudgala-Madhava (Nila-Madhava) is arranged at the village Mudgala in the Astharanga Block of the Puri region. This temple is situated a good way off of around 5 km. from Jiunti, on a bifurcation away from the Kakatpur-Astharanga street. The focal specialities of the three sides of the bada of vimana are housed with the parshvadevata images of Varaha, Narasimha and Trivikrama. Narasimha is the parshvadevata of the western side. The four gave an image of Narasimha is cut in standing stance right this minute petalled lotus platform. The base piece of the platform is beautified with scrollwork. The upper right hand of God is parted from the elbow parcel. The lower two hands of divinity are locked in to take out the guts of Hiranyakashipu, the evil presence. Garuda figure isn't found at the foundation of the platform.


Lord Vishnu with Shridevi and Bhudevi

Figures of Shridevi and Bhudevi are cut on one or the other side of the divinity. The divinity Narasimha wears a wooden wreath in his body. The head of gada is portrayed on the upper piece of the chunk. Flying apsara figure is finely cut on both side top corners of the piece. The posterior of the head of God is finished with prolonged prabhamandala. The image Narasimha is made of chlorite stone. It estimates 2 foot 9 crawls in tallness and 1 foot 4½ creeps in width individually. The
iconographic features of Narasimha image of the site show the Odishan old-style speciality of the cutting-edge time frame. Most presumably, the Narasimha image isn't the first side divinity of the temple.

Two Narasimha Images of Narayana Temple of Vishnupur

The temple of Narayana is one of the Vaishnava shrines of Eastern Odisha. It is situated at the village Vishnupur in the Nimapara Block of the Puri district. This temple is arranged about 1½ km from Nimapara town. The temple is underlying the cutting-edge period. The focal specialities of the three sides of the bada of vimana are housed with the parshvadevata images of Trivikrama, Narasimha and Varaha. The four furnished images of Narasimha is cut in standing stance on the platform. Shridevi and Bhudevi figures are flanked on one or the other side of the god. He holds chakra in upper right hand and shankha in upper left hand. The lower two hands are locked in to take out the insides of Hiranya Kashyapu, the devil. Flying apsara figure is cut on both sides top corners of the piece. The image Narasimha is made of Baulamala pathara. It's anything but another image of the 20th century. The image Narasimha estimates 1 foot 2 crawls in width and 2 feet 1 inch in stature separately. There is a different stone section containing an image of Narasimha discovered safeguarded in the upper east corner of the sanctum. Most likely, the
image Narasimha is the first side god of the temple.

The four equipped image of Narasimha is cut in standing stance pronto petalled lotus platform. Shridevi and Bhudevi figures are flanked on one or the other side of the divinity. He holds gada in upper left hand and the upper right hand is broken. The lower two hands of God are locked in to take out the guts of Hiranya Kashyapa, the evil presence. The rear of the head of divinity is enlivened with a trefoil makara headed curve delegated by the kirtimukha theme. Apsara figure holding laurel is portrayed on both side top corners of the section. The image Narasimha is made of sandstone. The chunk of divinity estimates 1 foot 2 crawls in width and 2 feet 3½ creeps in tallness separately. The creative features of the Narasimha image propose the Odishan speciality of the late Ganga period.

Narasimha Image of Varaha-Narasimha Temple of Adaspur

The temple of Varaha-Narasimha is one of the old Vaishnava sanctums of the Prachi Valley in the waterfront belt of Odisha. It is arranged around 37 kms from Bhubaneswar on the eastern bank of the Prachi stream. The temple is situated at the village Adaspur in the Kantapara Block of the Cuttack region. This temple is based on the remnants of the earlierVishnu temple, which was annihilated naturally. This temple is a great proof for the Varaha-Narasimha worship in the eastern part of Odisha. The sanctum of the temple safeguards the images of Varaha and Narasimha as the managing divinities. Here both the images are together adored as Varaha-Narasimha. These two divinities are introduced on the simhasana of 2 feet high. The four equipped image of Narasimha is found venerated as the directing divinity of the temple. This is a temple whose directing gods are both Varaha and Narasimha. It's anything but a particular consecrated spot of the Eastern Odisha. The four, outfitted image of Narasimha is cut in standing stance pronto petalled lotus platform. Garuda, the traditional mount of the divinity is cut on the front side of the platform. Humble figures of Shridevi and Bhudevi are flanked on one or the other side of the piece. The rear of the head of God is finished with the trefoil makara headed curve delegated by the kirtimukha theme. He shows chakra in upper right hand and gada in upper left hand. The lower two hands of the god are locked in to take out the guts of Hiranyakashipu, the devil. Here the god is portrayed in ugra pose. Flying apsara figure is cut on both side top corners of the piece. The image Narasimha estimates 4 feet 1 inch in tallness and 1 foot 11 crawls in width individually. It is made of chlorite stone. Noticing the directing gods, T.E. Donaldson comments that these images are the standard iconography of the thirteenth century A.D.. Iconographical features of the Narasimha image demonstrate the creative practice of the Ganga time frame. A messed-up image of Narasimha cut in ugra pose is seen in the jagamohana of the Varaha Narasimha temple.


Varaha Avatara of Vishnu with Bhudevi (Boar Incarnation of Lord Vishnu)

Lakshmi-Narasimha Image of Lakshmi-Narasimha Temple of Nuapatna

The temple of Lakshmi-Narasimha is situated, around 54 km from Bhubaneswar on the Nakhara-Madhava street close to the southern bank of the stream Prachi, at the village Nuapatna in the Nimapara Block of the Puri locale. The sanctum of the temple safeguards the image of Lakshmi Narasimha as the managing divinity. The four outfitted image of Narasimha is cut situated with legs crossed and held set up by a fancy yogapatta. He is portrayed on the lotus petalled platform. The upper two hands of the god lay on him both the raised knees. The back right hand of the divinity holds chakra while the back left hand has shankha separately. He is luxuriously ornamented and his tongue projects from his mouth. The posterior of the head of God is adorned with prolonged prabhamandala. The foundation of the section is finished with trefoil curve; makara figures at the base and the kirtimukha theme at the summit. The makara figures of the two sides of the trefoiled curve are mounted by modest human figures with collapsed hands. Flying two or three figures holding chamara and laurel are portrayed on both side top corners of the piece.

Lakshmi-Narasimha Harmony

The lower piece of the platform is enlivened with two-fold petalled lotus plans. The focal point of the lower piece of the platform is improved with a mounted elephant, the ordinary vahana of goddess Lakshmi. Garuda, the regular mount of divinity (Narasimha) is additionally discovered portrayed on the right of the platform. Figures of aficionados in collapsed hands are additionally cut on the left of the base piece of the platform. The image Lakshmi-Narasimha is made of dark chlorite stone. The little image of goddess Lakshmi is portrayed in situated stance on the left lap of Narasimha. The left hand of goddess Lakshmi holds the tail of a lotus bloom. The image Lakshmi-Narasimha estimates 3 feet 2½ crawls in tallness and 1 foot 8 creeps in width individually. Noticing the iconography of the Lakshmi-Narasimha, P.K. Beam thinks that the image bears similarity to that of the Lakshmi-Narasimha adored inside the Lingaraja temple compound. The managing divinity is introduced on the simhasana of 1½ feet high. As indicated by K.S. Behera and T.E. Donaldson the image Lakshmi-Narasimha might be dated late thirteenth or mid-fourteenth  century A.D. The posterior of the piece of divinity is finished with a curve, which is upheld by planned column on each side. Iconographical features of the managing god demonstrate that the image has a place with the Odishan art of the Ganga time frame.

Two Narasimha Images of Amareshvara Temple of Amaresvara

The Amareshvara temple is one of the old Shaiva landmarks of the beach front belt of Odisha. This temple is situated on the right bank of the waterway Prachi a good way off of 60 km. from Bhubaneswar. It is likewise around 3 km from Charichhak on the left half of Nimapara-Astaranga street. It's anything but a remodelled temple. The neighbourhood individuals say that the temple was in a run-down condition and it was revamped by the State Archaeology Department, Bhubaneswar in 1970s. Inward dividers of the jagamohana are totally plain. There are three old stone figures saved inside the jagamohana corridor. They are Vishnu (Madhava), Narasimha and Lakshmi Narasimha.

References and Further Readings 


  • Gopinatha Rao, T. A., (1914). Elements of Hindu Iconography, Vol.1, Part-1, Law Printing House; Madras.
  • Mohapatra, R., (2011). “Varaha-Narasimha temple at Adaspur: A Study on Art and Architecture”, in M.S. Bhattacharya & P.N. Chakrabarty (eds.), The Historical Review (Journal), Vol. XIX, Indian Institute of Oriental Studies and Research, Kolkata.
  • Mohapatra, R., (2011). Temples of Prachi Valley: Survey, Documentation and Study on Art and Architecture (An unpublished Post-Doctoral Research Work Thesis submitted to Sambalpur University, Jyoti Vihar, Odisha, India.
  • Mohapatra, R., (November-2017). Temples of Prachi Valley (An unpublished D.Litt. Thesis submitted to Utkal University of Culture), Bhubaneswar, Odisha, India.
  • Mohapatra, R., (2009). “Mangala Temple of Kakatpur”, in N.R. Pattnaik (ed.), Hindu Temples of Orissa (Book), New Delhi. Mohapatra, R.P., (1986). Archaeology in Orissa (Site and Monuments), Vol. I & II, New Delhi.
  • Ralph T.H., Griffith, The Rigveda Mandala 1, Hymn 154, Wikisource.
  • Ray, P.K., ed., (1975). Archaeological Survey Report Prachi Valley, Orissa State Archaeology; Bhubaneswar.
  • Williams, George M., (2008). Handbook of Hindu Mythology. Oxford University Press.
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