Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu
Time and again, Lord Vishnu and Shiva (Mahesh) have taken incarnations to bring respite into the lives of their devotees and ensure smooth function of the worldly affair.
From Satyuga until Kaliyuga, Lord Vishnu, has taken 9 of the 10 avatars (Dashavatara), to deliver the pious and to annihilate the miscreants, as well as to reestablish the principles of righteousness.
Lord Shiva's incarnation
Likewise, Lord Shiva too has sent his manifestations to destroy the evil and balance worldly affair, including Rudra, Veerbhadra, Bhadrakali, Bhairav, Ardhnarishwar, Hanuman, etc.
Hiranyakashipu and Prahlad
You must have heard or read about the story of Hiranyakashipu, the asura who wanted to kill his son Prahlada for not revering his own father as god, but Lord Vishnu.
Tale of Holika Dahan
But, did you know what happened after he was killed? Today, we will tell about how Lord Shiva had to intervene and his avatar was sent to kill Lord Vishnu’s avatar.
As mentioned in the Puranic scriptures of Hinduism, one of the sages from famous ‘Saptrishis’, Kashyapa had two mighty sons from wife Diti, Hiranyakashipu and Hiranyaksha, with the blessings of Lord Vishnu.
Hiranyakashipu and Hiranyaksha
But, both grew up, becoming Asuras. Once, Hiranyaksha forcefully took Goddess Earth, and headed towards Rasatala, the demon world. Goddess Earth, and all the Gods in heaven, pleaded to Lord Vishnu for help.
Lord Vishnu incarnated in the form of Varaha, a boar, and rammed his horn into Hiranyaksha’s chest, thus saving Goddess Earth and bringing her out of Rastala on his horns.
Lord Shiva's boon
Hearing of his younger brother Hiranyaksha’s death, Hiranyakashipu feared for his own life and therefore, performed strict penance towards Lord Shiva.
Boon of immortality
Overwhelmed by Hiranyakashipu’s devotion, Lord Shiva granted him one boon in his life. Hiranyakashipu, knew that directly asking for immortality might anger Lord Shiva, so he manipulated his wish.
Penance by Hiranyakashipu
He asked to be killed by one who is neither human nor animal, by a weapon, which is both dead and alive, and at such time, when it is neither a complete day nor night. To this, Lord Shiva agreed.
Brutality of Hiranyakashipu,
Believing that he tricked Lord Shiva into giving him immortality, Hiranyakashipu, then began his atrocities on innocent humans. He forced them to revere him as their God, and whosoever denied, by brutally killed.
Birth of Prahlad
Several years later, Hiranyakashipu was blessed as a son, who he named Prahlad. To Hiranyakashipu’s utter shock, Prahlad, grew up revering Lord Vishnu; despite his father’s several warnings.
Atrocities on Prahlad
Angered by his son’s disloyalty towards him, Hiranyakashipu, asked his army to kill Prahlad, while he wa praying at Lord Vishnu’s temple; Prahlad escaped unscathed. Hiranyakashipu then convinced his sister Holika, into helping him kill Prahlad.
Holika was given the boon to remain unhurt in fire, with the help of a ‘dushala’ (cloak). With Prahlad on her lap, Holika sat inside a bonfire, wearing her dushala. But, due to Lord Vishnu’s blessing, the dushala covered Prahlad, and Holika was burnt to death.
In his anger, Hiranyakashipu chased Prahlad inside his palace, where the latter took shelter behind a pillar. Mocking Prahlad’s belief in Lord Vishnu, Hiranyakashipu started hitting the pillar, saying, “You say that Vishnu is omnipresent. Is he present in this pillar?”
Killing of Hiranyakashipu
By now, Lord Vishnu was way over ignoring Hiranyakashipu’s foolishness. Thus, he appeared from within the pillar in the form of Narasimha. A frightened Hiranyakashipu was picked and placed on Narsimha’s lap.
The human beast
Narashima, neither human nor beast, tore apart Hiranyakashipu with sharp claws (part of the body, which is both living and dead), right at midnight.
But, even after killing Hiranyakashipu, Narasimha was not satiated and he went on a rampage killing anyone in his sight.
Veerbhadra and Bhadrakali
Seeing this, all gods reached Lord Shiva’s abode, asking him to intervene and stop the massacre. Lord Shiva sent Veerbhadra and Bhadrakali to stop Narasimha. But, Narasimha pounced on them; unable to retaliate knowing he was Lord Vishnu, both Veerbhadra and Bhadrakali, surrendered.
Sharabha kills Narasimha
As Narasimha was about to kill them both, Lord Shiva appeared in his most devastating form, Sharabha, a giant, frightening, form of huge cannibal bird with thousands of hands. Sharabha scratched Narashima with his wings making him unconscious, and then carried him off into the distance.
Sharabha and the garland of skulls
Realizing his mistake, Narasimha surrendered to Lord Shiva, who then later added the skull of Narashima to the garland of skulls he wore around his neck.