Lord Narasimha, Lord Sharabha and Goddess Prathyangira

Posted: May 4, 2012 in Narasimha, Prathyangira, Sharabha
History of Lord Narasimha

Lord Narasimha, which means “Man-lion” in Sanskrit, is an avatar of the Lord Vishnu. He is often depicted as half-man/half-lion: lion head and human torso.

Certain Veera-Vaishnavites like the Hare Krsnas, who are averse and inimical to the Sri Sampradayat, would  assert that not only Lord Narasimha but also Lord Vishnu have descended from Lord Krishna.

The history of Lord Narasimha can be found in Srimad Bhagavatam (Canto 7, Chap. 8)

According to the puranic literature, especially Srimad Bhagavatam, after Lord Vishnu had killed the rakshasa, Hiranyaksha, his brother, Hiranyakashipu, had been nourishing the evil intentions to avenge his death.

Mindful of the Lord’s invincibility and prowess, the rakshasa performed stellar austerities to impress Lord Brahma, out of whom he cunningly wheedled boons that he thought would prove potent against his arch enemy, Lord Vishnu:

  • That he shall not die within or without any residence
  • That he shall not die at dawn or dusk
  • That he shall not die on the ground or in the sky. 
  • That no weapon, nor by any human being or animal shall cause him death. 
  • That he shall not meet death from any entity, living or nonliving created by Lord Brahma. 
  • That he shall not be killed by any demigod or demon or by any great snake from the lower planets.
  • That he shall not have any rivals. 
  • That he be the Lord of Lords, having unbridled supremacy over all living entities and presiding deities.
  • That he shall enjoy all the glories accrued by this exalted position. 
  • That he shall have all the mystic powers.

 Lord Brahma granted him all that he had asked for.

After this, he was re-united with his wife and son, Prahlada. Trouble and sorrow in the form his only son visited Hiranyakasipu.

Prahlada, though born in the long tradition of demons, had from his conception been deeply devoted to the Lord of the Universe, Lord Vishnu. His devotional fervor stood in opposition to Hiranyakashipu. Scuppered by all his efforts to smother his young son’s love for the Lord,  Hiranyakashipu resorted to even murdering his son.

In his final bid to do so, the rakshasa father died at the hands of Lord Vishnu, who came in the form of Lord Narasimha. In answer to the exhaustive, carefully-crafted boons, the Lord took pains to circumvent the conditions laid down in the boons; finally vanquished the demon:

  • Hiranyakashipu could not be killed by human, deva or animal. Lord Narasimha was none of these as he was a form of Vishnu incarnated as a part-human, part-animal. 
  • He killed Hiranyakashipu at twilight (when it was neither day nor night); at the threshold of a courtyard (which neither indoors nor out), 
  • He killed placing the demon on his thighs (which was neither earth nor space). 
  • He used his sharp fingernails (which were neither animate nor inanimate) as weapons, 
  • He disemboweled and killed the demon.

Besides Srimad Bhagavatam, this momentous incident has also been described in the Kurma Purana and Matshya Purana. According to Srimad Bhagavatam, no one, not even Lord Shiva or Lord Vishnu’s divine consort could pacify the Lord in that form. Prahlad, Srimad Bhagavatam says, was the only personality who could get near the ferocious form of the Lord. The story does not end here.

Lord Sharabha Responded to Lord Narasimha

It continues in Shiva Purana, which describes the manifestation of Sharabha (aka Sharabheswar), who is none other than Lord Shiva, who took that avatar in response to the implacable Lord Narashimha, whose ferocity was wrecking havoc in all the three worlds.

Shiva Purana describes Sharabha as one who has thousand arms, with a face of a lion, with matted hair, wings and eight feet. Sharabha Upanishad, however, depicts Sharabha with two heads, two wings, eight legs of the lion with sharp claws and a long tail.

Kalika Purana says Sharabha is black, has four normal feet, and another uplifted four feet; has an enormous body. It also has a long face and nose, nails, eight legs, eight tusks, a cluster of manes, and a long tail. It jumps high repeatedly making a loud cry .

The Shiva Purana recounts that after slaying Hiranyakashipu, Narasimha’s wrath was not appeased. The world trembled, fearing what he might do. When everything else failed, Lord Shiva manifested as the human-lion-bird Sharabha. The purana says that He immobilised Narasimha. Similar accounts can be found in the Linga Purana and Sharabha Upanishad.

In Skanda Purana, we get the impression that there was a fear that Lord Vishnu, who incarnated as Lord Narasimha, might permanently remain in that fierce form — this would be detrimental to His role of doing good deeds.

Hence, the purpose of Lord Shiva assuming the form of Sharabha was to ensure that the lion body of Vishnu was discarded and he got united with his original divine form.

Of course, Veera-Vaishnava would be quick to refute this account of Lord Narasimha and Sharabha.

There is a reference to Sharabha in the Vishnu sahasranama, the 1000 names of Vishnu, and the literal meaning seems to suggest the praise of Sharabha (the lion-killing animal).

Prathyangira Ends the Saga Started by Lord Narasimha

This story, then, dovetails nicely with the history of Prathyangira, who is sometimes referred to as Narasimhi. According to Markandeya Purana, the form of Prathyangiri was manifested to subdue Sharabha. This Devi was born from Sharabha’s (who turn into Bharava) third eye. Prathyangira subdued Sharabha. 

  1. :) says:

    Hello! May I ask, where are the last two images of Sharabha located?

  2. Raj says:

    lord narasimha is the ultimate protector the he is always there for his devotees and is just a call away .

    • antaryamin says:

      If you say that He IS the “ultimate“, then, by implication that means that God’s other forms, viz., Lord Sharabha and Godess Pratyagiri are subservient to His Narasimha form. This is, lest you are not aware, at variance with the scriptures. All forms are He and He is, indeed, all forms. Again, this is the scriptures’ declaration.

  3. rishi says:

    It is known that Lord Shiva is the most loved devotee of Lord Vishnu. In Bhagwat Gita Lord Krishna clearly says that he is the supreme GOD there is no one above or even equal to him. Have u gone nuts. Mention of Sharabha is fiction. This avatar never happened. if it was so why lord Vishnu had to always take avatar and kill the demon in that case even Lord Shiva could have done that. Shiva puran is a fictious puran propagated by Shankaracharya who himself accepted it to be so. Adi guru Shankaracharya was no one else but incarnation of lord Shiva himself… who clearly said on instruction of my Lord Vishnu I have come in this form to spread false knowledge. It is for the purpose of hiding & saving the true knowledge of divine who is none other than Lord Vishnu himself, who is my lord, from unscrupulous undeserving ones. He further said a person purely in search of truth would understand the truth from Ramayan, which is the best example set of my ( Shiva or Hunuman ) relationship with my lord ( Ram or Vishnu ). This whole sharabha propaganda started after the holy war, which broke out between Vaishnavas, Shivaits in Khumb about 500 yrs ago. Thousands of devotees died on both the sides in that Kumbh mela. It was a blood bath the worst this world has seen. The temple pic that you are showing is built just after that war by Shiva followers out of anger and humiliation, which even today can be seen on both the sides even today.

    • antaryamin says:

      If you have a point, make it but constructively and respectfully. There is no reason, especially for a person who is serious about spiritual life, to resort to callous language. In this regard, take counsel from Lord Sri Krishna, whom you consider God, who says, “(bear) enmity to no creature” [Uddhava Gita 6:29], “…respect others…” [ibid, 6:31], “…prostrate…on the ground before every creature, down to a Chandala,a cow, an ass, or a dog.” [ibid 24:16] (the same can be found in Srimad Bhagavatam Canto 11, Chapter 29).

      You began by saying “Lord Shiva is the most loved (sic) of Lord Vishnu”. But, of course, vice versa too. The rest of what you said, i.e., Lord is “the supreme GOD (and that) there is no one above or even equal to him”, etc., is arrant bigotry and religious parochialism (or what is called in Sanskrit as ‘ekantibhava’), to say the least. The same types of proclamations can be found in every authoritative scripture, whose author is none other than Srila Vyasa Dev, the self-same personality who wrote the Srimad Bhagavad Gita where, you said, Lord Krishna has announced that He is the “supreme God”:

      a. In the Shiva Purana, Lord Shiva has been proclaimed to be the Lord of the Universe whom Lord Vishnu revers.
      b. In the Ganesha Purana, Sri Vyasa Dev says, Lord Ganesha is the Primaeval Force who has been responsible for the manifestation of even Lord Vishnu and His plenary expansions.
      c. In the Skanda Purana, Lord Kartikeya is said to be the Creator from whom all other deities, including Lords Vishnu, Shiva and even Krishna had emanated.
      d. Devi Bhagavatam is abound with the incontrovertible evidence that all other manifestations like Sri Rama, Sri Krishna, Lord Vishnu are subservient to Devi, the mother of the Universe.
      e. In Kurma Purana, Sri Vysa dev pays obeisance to Lord Shiva as the Lord of the Universe.

      That is why Narada Purana says, “They who do not distinguish between Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva, but worship them both equally as ONE- these indeed are the true devotees of God. [1.5.72].

      Narada-Pancharatna, a significant Vaishnava text, further proclaims:

      Shivo Harirhariha Shakshatchiva Eva Nirupitaha |
      Shivadveshi Haridrohi Vishnum Nityam Bhajanapi

      Meaning: Shiva is Hari and Hari is none other than Shiva. An enemy of Shiva is an enemy of Hari, even though he may daily worship Vishnu.

      The Kurma Purana (Canto 2, 1-11: Isvaragita), says that those who regard Vishnu/Krishna and Lord Shiva as different will never obtain final emancipation.

      The Matsya and Agni Puranas have shown that both Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu are but one. No duality.

      Haribhaktivilasa (14, 63) says that Sri Krishna is much pleased with his adorers’ observance of the fast of sivaratri.

      And, If you were to look at Vishnu Purana, there is an episode of war concerning Bana, a great devotee of Lord Shiva. At the conclusion of the war, Lord Krishna declares, “We are identical with each other as is the whole world with us. Only because they are stupefied by ignorance, men contemplate distinctions”.

      Now, let us deal with your egregious opinion that Lord Sharabha is a fiction. Lord Sharabha’s history is be found in the Shiva Purana, whose author (I need not remind you again) is Srila Vyasa, who is none other than Sri Krishna (Gita 10:37). When the blaze of Sri Narasimha’s fury cannot be quenched, Lord Sharabha manifested. According to the said purana, Sri Narasimha finally becomes a devotee of Lord Shiva after being bound by Sharabha.

      It is an unpardonable misconception that only Lord Vishnu has descended as avatars. In Linga Purana, Sri Vyasa Dev says, Lord Ganesha has incarnated to destroy demons. Ganesha Purana and Mudgala Purana have details of His (Ganesha) avatars: Mohotkata, Mayuresvara, Gajanana and Dhumraketu. They incarnated at different yugas to slay demons.

      The Shiva Purana and Linga Purana too have many accounts of Lord Shiva’s avatars. Similarly, the Devi Bhagavatam has innumerable accounts of her having incarnated in different forms to vanquish asuras. One such notable asuric personality, I am certain you will recall, is mahishasura, who was destroyed by Maha Durga, an avatar of Sri Devi.

      The oft-repeated palaver, the all-time favourite of the Hare Krishnas, that Adi Shankaracharya had incarnated to “spread false knowledge”, scholars of eminence contend, is a mischievious Vaishnavite interpolation. In point of fact, more than three quarters of the anti-Shiva materials in the purana are unadulterated anti-saivism propaganda.

      Because you have quoted the Ramayan, I should, then, cite evidence from that scripture and the other Ithihas, i.e., the Mahabarath, to debunk your misconceived notion that Lord Krishna or Lord Vishnu is the Supreme Personality of Godhead:

      In the Mahabarath, Sri Krsna gratifies Lord Shiva at the Tirtha Badari and declares Him to be THE creator of all, including himself. He meditates upon Lord Shiva, and having propitiated Him, obtains His darshan. In the same episode, Sri krishna has been described to be Shiva-intoxicated. Among the many boons that Sri Krishna gets from Lord Shiva, is ‘the close proximity of Lord Shiva”.

      In the Ramayan, Kausalya and Rama, and in fact the brahmins who did the yagna, are described as devotess of Lord Shiva.

      Again in the Mahabarath (3, 82, 16), Lord Vihnu has been said to have offered, every day, a thousand lotus flowers to Lord Shiva’s feet. He had even extracted one of his lotus-like eyes when, one day, he was short of one flower.

      I hope that helps.

    • antaryamin says:

      Om. You may also find the following article useful: “https://antaryamin.wordpress.com/2012/03/19/lord-siva-and-lord-vishnu-are-one-views-of-four-archaryas/”

    • Dev Pandey says:

      …final auhtority is veda…

      • antaryamin says:

        Hari Om, Dev Pandey-ji!

        I had to edit your comment for I was not sure what you were trying to say. And, it also seemed that you had dashed it off without editing it for typographical and semantic errors. If you want to post anything here, please spend sometime editing your work.

  4. rishi says:

    I have just learnt that my comments highlighted in red and yours in black and green has not quite come out on this page as i would have liked it to. My effort was only to make your reading comfortable but its seems now you shall have to make an extra effort to distinguish your comments from mine.

    • antaryamin says:

      I should agree with you that I had difficulty comprehending much of your cut-and-paste, trite Hare Krsna chop logic. If you would like a robust response to your views, I should suggest that you should either arrange your arguments in a logical fashion and post it here or email me your views. In either case, I shall be more than just glad to give you a reply that will disabuse you of your nescience.

  5. Rishi says:

    You have erased my reply to your post.

  6. My Dear “Spritually Aware” Brothers,

    This is what I clearly feel with my acquiantance of our Sanatan (Hindu) Dharma. For Me Shiva (reffered to as Mahesha) and Vishnu (reffered to as Narayana) are two forces of the same SOURCE (call it Maa Durga/Maa Shakti/Adi_Shakti OR Rudra/Maha_Shiva/Sada_Shiva/Adi_Shiva OR Maha_Vishnu/Brahman/Atman/Param_Atma).

    If any of you have been through most of the “holy” scriptures, such as Puranas (which are ultimately more narrative stories of various forms of our GOD/ OR Mata) most examples are Garuda Purana, Shiva Purana, Vishnu Purana, Brahma Vaivarta Purana, everyone will notice that the process of creation specifies that “3 FORCES” were Created from one source which we all commonly refer to as GOD- The Generator (BRAHMA), The Operator (VISHNU/NARAYANA) & The Destroyer (MAHESHA/SHIVA).

    Vishnu Puran refers to it as the Holy Brahman (Paramatra / Eshwara), Brahma Vaivarta Purana and Devi Bhagavatam refers to it as the Maa Shakti (and you may refer to her in many forms names and incarnations) AND Shiva Purana refers to it as Sada Shiva (Rudra / Adi Shiva and a few more names I can’t recollect- please pardon me).

    But for me its just different aspects and ways as how an individual (Sages / Rishis / Gurus) had acquired His/Her Spiritual Knowledge commonly referred to as “Aatma Saakshaatkar”. In those Vedic days (May it be any Yugas- Sat Yuga, Dwapar Yuga, Trta Yuga or early times of Kali Yuga) verses were not recoreded through the meduim of hand writing but through word of mouth. The very principle of Gurukul enabled young students to recite the Religious Knowledge (HOLY VEDAS, Puranas, Upanishads and other Holy Scruptures) and not by writing.

    SANSKRIT to me is a very mischevious language, the Sansktit language in its most authentic and original form is very Exagerrating, Poetic and has the potential of having multiple meaning. So since centuries (Olden Times) as people mainly in the entire Indian Sub-Continent were far stretched without communicating with each other for ages (due to lack of communication- for nomal people) could not share their ideas and make a Central Knowledge Library oucasting all the differences.

    THE RESULT- Over the centuries people grouped themselves (mainly into 3 groups) as Staunch- Vaishnavites, Shivites and Shakti Worshippers. As most of us in present day will hold all scriptures to be TRUE and to be in its PUREST form as there is no ways no to contradict any of the scriptures, stories, myths and ideas. We have no decisive means to agree on Which Diety is Greater and Powerful and which Version of Contradicting Stories is a Lie or Folly (such as this revealing article). Especially the Vaishnavites & Shivites are known to be each others arch rivals (especially in difference of opinions). So adverently we all start arguing on the contradicting myths/stories and opnions which are TRUE in each of the Versions of books. The Result is that we start distancing from each other due to difference in faith anhd ideas.

    MY OPNION: For Me asw I said Shiva and Vishnu are One- Just in 2 Different Forms Here are some interesting points to be notes (and eveyone knows these).

    1. Lord Narayana is said to slay “Hayagriva” asura in Matsya Avatar in Satya Yuga to protect Vedas during the dillusion of the world. Apparently, Hayagriva seeked refuge in Lord Shiva who granted him the boon that he would get to be connected with Vedas once his Karma Cycle of Present Life is done. Lord Narayana slayed “Hayagriva” who re-incarnated as Sage Atharva who wrote the Fourth Veda “Atharva Veda”. Lord Shiva himselves gave the Dakshina and Approval of Sage Atharva’s religious texts as facing south. Thus the form Dakshina Murthy.

    Moral of the Story: He who is GOD is Himself KARMA, he is the one who Punishes and he is the one who Blesses. Vishnu is the one who Blesses in most of the stories and Shiva is the one who Destroys, but in these 2 forms of story they switched their roles in terms of their main Deeds. This shows that Lord is One in all the Forms.

    2. RAMAYANA: Lord Rama was a “Shiva Bhakta”. He worshipped Lord Shiva dn Maa Shakti before his Last fierce Battle with Ravana. Apparently Lord Hanumana the consort of Lord Rama is said to be the incarnation of Lord Shiva as Lord Rama to be of Lord Narayana. Everyone knows the Bhakti and Devoition of Lord Hanuman towards Lord Rama.
    Moral of the Story: In this holy saga, we see that both roopas (incarnations) love each other, worship each other and seek protection and refuge in each other through their higher forms.

    3. MAHABHARATA: Lord Krsna is the Charioter of Prince Arjuna, he leads him by riding his chariot, guides him by giving the Supreme Holy Knowledge (as described in Bhagwada Gita) which motivates him to fight and protects him through his immense power. Also, in the mean time Arjuna’s chariot had a Flad or Murthy of Hanuman on top which was suggested by Lord Krsna for his protection. This shows that Lord Krsna firmly believes that Lord Hanuman (Shiva Rupa) is a protector of life. Also, Arjuna is given ‘Pashupati-Astra’ by Lord Shiva on his immense austerities. But this Karma/deed was suggested by Lord Krsna to Arjuna himself. Strangely most of us are not aware that Prince Karna of Anga region had also performed Austerities and Got Narayana-Astra from Lord Vishnu himself and Brahmastra from Lord Brahma (which he eventually used on Ghatotkacha). Narayana-Astra was also used by Karna to slaughter the Pandava Armies and Lord Krsna had advised Arjuna how to subdue it. In this days at one time same Diya-stras were not given for the same battlefield and at the same era or time. (Correct me if I am wrong). Lord Krsna was also a great devotee of Lord Shiva.
    MORAL OF THE STORY: It is GOD who is DHARMA and Protector of DHARMA himself, may he do it in 2 different forms (i.e through Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu) and it is he who always gives the rewards according to your KARMAS (Referencing Divystrats recieved by Karna by Lord Vishnu whereas Lord Krsna being on Arjunas side).

    So my firm beleif is that Shiva and Vishnu are the same power of Divine One. Thats why we have the Hari-Hara murthy which shows Shiva dn Vishnu as equal.

    Although logically, each of the Avatars of Visnu have been incarnations. Meaning, created by the Universal Being, in each story, the incarnation needed an end. Lord Krsna, Lord Rama Lord Buddha all had to follow the law of nature and go through thye cycle of death, exception: Parashurama is one of the Chiranjeevis, although there may be a possibility that this was just one of the forms of Neeti (Nature) to dissolve the Narasimha Avatara, however it cannot be practically proved.

    Apparanetly othert Religions such as Christianity also has the Concept of Holy Trinity except they refer it to as The Father (Vishnu), The Son (Brahma as percived to be evolved from Vishnu) and tyhe Holy Ghost (Shiva- Lord of Ghosts) and they refer the Trinity to be directly i conjuction with GOD- Generator, Operator and Destroyer.

    Please also refer to this articke which revelas what some of our Muslim brothers think of our Belief:


  7. Hari Om,

    Antaryamin, Good posts, quite interesting, thanks for sharing your thoughts and opinions through your other blogs. Please ignore a few typos from my previous post / comment. When I proof read it today I realized that I made a few typo errors while putting my thoughts into words. I came across an interesting blog. Here’s the link:


    In it, another spiritually aware individual named “atanu” has posted the following:

    “As far as I can follow from shruti all manifestations are of Holy Rudra-Shiva alone, including Lord Vishnu, who is not another at all. One who is sthanu is Lord Shiva and who has movement is Lord Vishnu. But the Sthanu is alone moving and the movement leads to the Sthanu.”

    Although, I am unable to verify the source of this thought and testify whether this claim of Lord Vishnu being another form of Holy “Rudra” or Holy “Sada_Shiva”, it does clearly assert to the thought that both Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu are swaroopas of One Holy Divine manifested or taken form to perform different course of actions.

    This thought is almost similar to the concept of Adi Shakti and her manifestations, mainly Godess Maha Laxmi and Godess Maha Kali (note that in many goups and sects Godess Maha Laxmi and Godess Mahakali are completely different form of manifestation and power than Godess Laxmi- Goddess of Fortune and Consort/Wife of Lord Vishnu AND Godess Kali- Form of Parvati which manifested as Godess of Death and Destruction to destroy asuras and protect her children.) It is a myth or another concept with creation that all that has Life, Energy AND/OR Light such as Earth, Sun, other Stars in Universe and planets which carry life are the created and driven by the energy of Maha Laxmi (in this case it personifies Creation, Fulness / Completeness, Full of Life) and all that is Dark in the Universe- which is termed as Dark Matter by today’s scientist is created and driven by the energy of Maha Kali (in this case it personifies Destruction, Null Emptiness / Incompleteness, Lifelessness)

    Although in Indian sub-continent there are a few places of worship (temples) which symbolically mark the union of the Generator (Lord Brahma), Operator (Lord Vishnu), Dissolver/Destroyer (Lord Shiva) as GOD in the form of a Linga. Also, Linga (black stone) is not only representing Lord Shiva-ji but at times according to our Purans and other scriptures, it also represents Lord Vishnu-ji. For instance, Lord Vishnu is often prayed in the form of Shalimar (black stone), although the names are not same but both stones are the same in its characteristics in essence. One of such place is the holy temmple of Tryambakeshwara in India which shows the union of GOD- Holy Trinity.


    • antaryamin says:

      Hari Om!

      It is His Grace and Benedictions, ji! (Anyhow, do not worry overmuch about typographical errors.)

      Like I mentioned in my previous response to your comment, ji, one has to be exceedingly careful about what one reads on the internet. If something is patently wrong or untrue, our mind and intellect will invariably alert us to the palpability; when the error of thought is subtly woven into the main fabrics of truisms, that is when we are often taken by surprise—we tend to swallow the untruths together with the truths. You would often encounter that at internet Forums that abound with people of varied credentials.

      Anyhow, Swami Sivananda Maharaj’s site is a good site to visit. He is not only a non-sectarian but also an enlightened soul!


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