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Bhakta Prahlada: Vishnu Devotee & the son of Hiranyakashipu


A lad who faced the anger of his mighty father for the sake of his faith in God. Poison, sword, and fire could not frighten him. And the Lord Himself responded to the devotion of the five-year-old boy and came to the earth.

“Let not death come to me from any creature created by Brahma. Let me not meet with death either in the house or outside it. Let not my death occur during the day or at night. No weapon should cause my death. I should not die either on land or in the sky.”

It is said a Rakshasa, an evil person, got this boon from Brahma. He thought he was beyond the reach of death; so he was puffed up with pride that he was deathless. He troubled the gods very much.

His ears burnt when he heard the name of Lord Vishnu.

What a boon he got from Lord Brahma and yet he was punished for his wicked pride and death came to him. Men and gods used to tremble when they heard his name; they were freed from this fear.

hiranyakashipu praying brahma

Even the gods, it is said, could not save the world from the cruelty and power of Hiranyakasipu. At last, a boy’s firm and pure devotion, God saved the world. This boy was Prahlada. The story of Prahlada is very interesting.

‘What have you learned, dear child?’

“Who is a friend and who is a foe?” This was the question that troubled the mind of little Prahlada. That peaceful boy of beautiful curls was walking to and fro before the house of his teacher. He was absent-minded. The house belonged to Chandra and Amarka, the sons of Sukracharya, the great teacher of the Rakshasa, evil beings.

Prahlada together with other Rakshasa boys was taught there. Prahlada was earnest, dignified and modest. So the teachers were very much pleased. Besides, he was the son of Hiranyakasipu, the most powerful king of the demons. Eight gods guard eight points of the universe. Hiranyakasipu had crushed them. He had pleased Brahma Himself and got boons from Him.

Gods trembled with fear at his name. Prahlada was the son of that glorious king. Sukracharya had greater pride in him for this reason. The teachers used to teach how he should treat friends and how they should treat enemies. Prahlada listened to the lessons. But all the while he thought, what is it these teachers say? Hari is present everywhere in the world. We are all sparks of that glowing fire. Who, then, is an enemy and who a friend? Why have any fears?

Just then the king’s servants came to take him to the palace. His father loved the son very dearly.

He was eager to know what the child had learned.

Prahlada went up to the throne. Hiranyakasipu called his son with tender love. He took him on his knee and pressed soft and loving kisses on his cheek. He said, “Well child, tell me what you have learned from your teachers.” Prahlada said:

“Father, they teach me that one person is my friend and another enemy. I do not like this. I want to leave all this and go to the forest. I want to meditate on Lord Srihari.”

At these words, the father felt as if the hot lead was poured into his heart. God Srihari was his enemy, and his son was speaking about him! That son wanted to meditate on him!

But still, he sent away the boy with a smiling face. Then he sent for his teachers. He said, “Sirs, some enemy has crept into your school; he has been poisoning the tender mind of my son with devotion to Vishnu. Pray to be careful and correct him.” Then he took leave of them.

The teachers Chandra and Amarka were filled with fear when they learned that Srihari was the beloved Lord of Prahlada. They called him near and spoke very tenderly:

“Child! Don’t tell a lie; speak the truth. No other boy has such thoughts here. How did these thoughts come to you? Did anyone teach them? Or, are they your own thoughts?”.

Then Prahlada told them, “Sirs, I do not understand what you say. That I am different from others is a false belief. By the grace of Narayana, I am free from such false beliefs. I have learned this; nobody taught me.” When they heard these words, they lost all hope.

“Oh, you cursed being! You are a shame to the race of the Rakshasa. Don’t you know that the same Hari is the deadly axe at the very root of the race of Rakshasa? It is he who killed your uncle.” So they tried to frighten him, they also hoped he would forget Srihari if they taught him new subjects.

They taught him the principles of the art of ruling; they taught him the ways of defeating enemies by peaceful persuasion, giving gifts to win over others, creating quarrels among enemies and, finally, the use of force. They hoped that these studies would turn Prahlada’s mind away from Vishnu.

Still, there was some fear in their minds. So before they sent him to the king of the Rakshasa, they took him to his mother Kayadhu. She gave him a holy bath and dressed him in new and lovely clothes. The boy looked charming. With love and obedience, the boy touched his father’s feet.

Hiranyakasipu asked him tenderly, “Child, what is the highest thing you have learned?” Prahlada expressed his innermost thoughts: “Dear father, to hear with my ears the holy names of Srihari, to have a song to Him on my lips, thought of Him in my mind, to worship only Him and to bow to Him, to be His servant and His friend, to offer myself to Him in devotion – this is the highest knowledge.”

It was as if liquid fire raced through Hiranyakashipu’s body. He called his teachers and thundered at them: “You wicked Brahmins, you have taught my son bad things and ruined him!

You seem to have joined my enemies and to have no fear of meat at all!”

The poor teachers! Their heart was heavy with grief and fear. Trembling in fear they prayed to him thus: “Great King, we beg of you, be not angry with us. This is not what we have taught.

The prince himself says that he learned it by himself. Do not say we have secretly worked against you.”

The anger of the King or the Rakshasa now turned on his son. He said, “Wretched fellow, how did you learn such evil?” Prahlada had no fear whatever. “Father, this I have said is not evil. No one taught this to me. It is wrong to think that I am different from others. This wisdom came to me by the grace of Vishnu.”

He must be killed At the words of his son, Hiranyakasipu trembled in great anger. He pushed the boy away and roared to his servants, “Do not wait; take away this evil fellow from my presence at once.

Drag him away. Kill him. Just as a disease born in the body destroys it, this cursed boy born in our family will destroy it.” Rakshasa of horrible forms, carrying terrible weapons, were shocked when they heard the order of their master. What, kill the young prince?

But they did not dare to disobey the king’s order, so they went up to the boy. The little boy stood unmoved meditating on Lord Hari. They struck the boy with the sharp point of the lance. But it did not pierce his body. Not a hair was hurt. No weapon injured him. Hiranyakasipu stood amazed. But the next moment he was reminded of his son’s devotion to Vishnu and his eyes became red with anger.

prahlada tortured by his father Hiranyakashupu

He screamed, “Bring elephants. Let him be trampled under their feet.”

Those who heard the king’s cruel order trembled. But Prahlada himself was calm and showed not the slightest trace of fear. Elephants entered the palace. The king himself watched; his heart had turned to stone because of hatred. An elephant stood upon the boy.

Oh, the wonder of wonders! Nothing happened to the boy!

Hiranyakashipu’s anger knew no bounds.

He was grievously insulted. In boiling anger, he ordered Prahlada to be thrown into the river.

Then Prahlada joyously floated on water repeating the sacred names of Hari. It was an unbearable insult to his father.

‘I must kill the boy’ – this was the thought that filled his entire mind.

Prahlada and Hiranyakashupu

Prahlada was given poison, but his devotion to Hari changed it into nectar. The king’s servants pushed him from the ledge of a mountain rock; he fell like a light flower from a branch and came back to his father unhurt. Thrown into the fire, he glowed like the Fire God. Rain, wind, snow, and sun – nothing could hurt him in the least.

Hiranyakasipu was amazed. He said,

“This boy is barely a span in height, just five years old; and yet he has such wonderful power. Bravo! He is fit to be my son. But he is loyal to my enemy Vishnu! Vishnu killed my brother Hiranyaksha, and my son is devoted to him! What shall I do?

He is devoted to my accursed enemy. Perhaps he will be my death.”

So he was troubled.

Then the sons of Sukracharya met Hiranyakasipu when he was alone and said,

“King of the Rakshasa in all the three worlds there is no one whom you have not defeated. When you are so strong why worried about this boy? Our father Sukracharya will be here in a short time. He will somehow correct this boy and properly shape his nature. Besides, Prahlada is yet a small boy. He may grow up to be a sensible man. Until then let him stay with us.”

The king agreed and sent his son with them.

Prahlada again entered the house of the masters. The teachers taught him how a king should rule and how he should defeat his enemies.

But he had no interest in such matters. So time passed.

Once both the teachers went home on business. The boys wished to relax and play. They also called Prahlada to join them. He said to them in his sweet voice,

“Friends, human life is a rare gift. It is not a small thing to be born a man and not an animal. When we get this gift we should not waste it. If we wish to be happy, we must be devoted to Srihari from childhood. That is the only way to make our life worthy. If our ways please God, he will give anything. Narada himself has taught me this. What is the use of this wretched education? This is only a waste of time.”

The boys were surprised to hear these words.

Prahlada was studying with them; Chandra and Amarka were the teachers of all of them. How then was Narada Prahlada’s teacher? So they asked Prahlada, “Prince, you have always been with us. Where did you meet Narada? When did he teach you?” To clear this doubt, Prahlada told the story of his past to them.

It is an interesting story. “You know, boys, that in days gone by, my father went to the mountain Mandara for meditation. Then the gods thought that was the best time to attack the country of the Rakshasa. The king was not there to protect the Rakshasa. They were defeated and ran away helter-skelter. The gods looted the palace.

Devendra was dragging away my mother Kayadhu as a war prisoner. She was crying piteously.

Then Narada happened to come that way. He said, ‘Oh King! What injustice is this? Is it right for you to do this? She is a pious woman and you are dragging her. First, leave her.’ Then Devendra replied, ‘Holy Sir, I entertain no evil thought about this woman. She is now with a child. I fear the child that is born will cause ruin and harm to us as his father does. I shall take her home. As soon as the child is born I shall kill him and send her back home.’

“Then Narada laughed and said, ‘Friend, you do not know the truth. The son to be born of her will be devoted to God. You cannot kill him.

Besides, is this an act worthy of the king of the gods?’ On hearing these words of Narada, Indra felt ashamed. He touched the feet of my mother and let her go. Narada took her to his Ashrama.

Prahlad being taught in the womb

During her stay there Narada taught her Bhagavata Dharma, the way of those who love God. I was in the womb of my mother; I heard and understood these teachings. After my father returned home, my mother came to the palace.

As days passed she forgot the Bhagavata Dharma. But it was firmly fixed in my mind. If you hear those teachings you will get the same wisdom.”

The story was very interesting. Prahlada’s friends were delighted. They were curious now to know more about Bhagavata Dharma. So they said, “You speak of Bhagavata Dharma, what it is?” Now Prahlada explained,

”It is the way of winning the love of God. There are many ways of making God love us. Of these many ways, the best and the easiest is the Bhagavata (read about the meaning of Yada Yada hi Dharmasya here) Dharma. We should love Him with all our hearts. We should always think of him. We should believe that everything belongs to Him and act according to that belief.

We should always be in the company of good people. So we have joy and peace. So Narada taught me.”

These words appealed to the other boys; and they, too, became the devotees of Srihari.

Vishnu in the form of Varaha

The masters learned what had happened. Their minds were filled with grief and anger. The king had become wild with anger because Prahlada had become a devotee of Hari. What may he do when he learned that all the boys had become devotees of Srihari? So they approached Prahlada and spoke to him sweet words: “Child, have you done right? Don’t you know how deeply and strongly your father hates Vishnu? Is it not the same Hari in the form of the wild pig that killed your uncle?”

Prahlada was curious. He said, “Holy Sirs, tell me about it.” Then the masters called all the pupils. They narrated the story of Narayana to blame the deeds of Varaha.

“When Hiranyakasipu and Hiranyaksha were born, the gods trembled with fear. These two Children gained terrible forms and grew up day by day and looked like mountains. The younger of the two, Hiranyaksha, was the stronger and attacked Heaven, the kingdom of the gods. At his very sight, they were struck so much with fear that they hid. Hiranyaksha challenged Varuna, the Lord of the Ocean, to a fight.

But Varuna answered, ‘’O great hero, I live like a hermit. I do not wish to fight. Besides, who can fight with you! Only God can do it.’ Then Hiranyaksha went in search of Hari.” Prahlada was listening to the story. The teachers continued, “At that moment, through one of the nostrils of Para Brahma a pig shot out.

He was very small. In size just an inch tall. But even as the onlookers were gazing, he began to grow. He grew and grew and became huge like a mountain. The Earth had fallen into the ocean and was lying under the water. The pig lifted it on his tusks. He was now rising above the water to offer the Earth to Brahma. Hiranyaksha saw this mountain-like-pig and was astounded.

Still in limitless pride, he cried -’Foolish pig, leave the earth where it is and go away. Yes, I now know who you are; you are no other than Maha Vishnu in the form of a pig. I have come to break your head.’

So saying he stopped the pig. The Earth Goddess trembled at the fearful appearance of the Rakshasa. But Varaha (the huge pig) did not take notice of these things. He was rising from the ocean. Hiranyaksha grew impatient and called loudly, ‘Coward! You have no shame.”Varaha heard these insulting words and put aside the Earth. His eyes were red with anger. He said,

‘These words of empty pride will only lead you to the jaws of death. Well, then, fight.’ A dreadful fight followed between them.

The teachers continued the story of the fight.

“The gods witnessed this terrible fight. It went on from morning till evening.“ Brahma was very anxious to see the fight finish before Darkness fell. By Adivaraha (the first pig) for as darkness approaches, the strength of Rakshasa, too, grows. As though he read Brahma’s thoughts, the divine pig smiled and sent his disc (the Chakra) whirling towards Hiranyaksha.

This mighty weapon destroyed all weapons of our Yuvaraja, Hiranyaksha.

At this, Hiranyaksha’s anger rose high and he rushed forward roaring with anger to crush Hari in his arms. Then the divine pig struck a stunning blow on Hiranyaksha’s cheek. The blow was so terrible. That Hiranyaksha fell to the ground and died.”

Varaha Avatar

The teachers of the Rakshasa were filled with sorrow while narrating the story of Hiranyaksha’s death. But Prahlada begged the teachers to continue the story.

They said, “At the death of Hiranyaksha his wife Vrishadbhanu and her children were overpowered with grief. His mother Dithidevi was heart-broken. Our master Hiranyakashipu also was filled with sorrow. But he tried to console the others. He said: ‘everyone has to die. So do not weep. My brother fought and died like a hero. So why weep for his death?’

So he tried to comfort the weeping the relatives.

‘This Boon I seek….’

“Our King Hiranyakasipu tried to console others. But sorrow burnt his own heart like fire.

Even, before this, our king Hiranyakasipu hated Vishnu. Now Hari’s very name was like poison to him. His blood was boiling with the hatred of Vishnu. He called the generals of his army Illyala, Namuchi and others. He said, ‘Give the devotees of Vishnu as much trouble as you can.

Dust those who perform sacrifices and worship Vishnu.’ They burnt the cities, razed temples to the ground. They destroyed the crops. They teased people. How can we describe the bravery of the Rakshasa?” The teachers narrated this story with great joy. But Prahlada felt sick when he heard of the evil deeds of the Rakshasa.

He wished to end the evil actions of the Rakshasa. He wished to change their nature.

The teachers continued, “The King of the Rakshasas retired to the mountain Mandara and began Tapas (meditation on the Lord). What a severe meditation it was! To stand on the toe to throw the whole weight of the body on it, to hold the arms raised straight and the eyes looking up at the sky!

Thus he offered a severe prayer. Many years passed. But he did not move even an inch. A flame rose from his body and enveloped the entire universe. Rivers and oceans boiled. The earth shook. The fire spread on all sides. The very gods were filled with fear. They went to Satyaloka and prayed to Brahma to save them. Brahma deva appeared to Hiranyakasipu and said, ‘Hiranyakasipu, arise. I am pleased with your devotion. I never saw before such a severe meditation. Ask for whatever you desire.’

“Brahma even sprinkled holy water over the body of the king. At once it shone like gold. Tears of gratitude filled with his eyes. He was so full of joy that at first, he could not speak. Then he spoke with much effort, ‘Lord, you bestow light on the dark world; you are the creator of all, the protector of all, and, finally, you are the destroyer of all. You are all-powerful; you know everything.

You are free from defects. No god is easily moved like you to take pity on his devotees and to grant them boons. I bow to you humbly!’ Brahma was pleased with his devotion. He said ‘Why have you undertaken such a severe Tapas?’ Hiranyakasipu replied, ‘Great Lord, if you will grant my prayer, this is what I seek:

‘Let not death come to me from any creature created by you; let me not meet with death either in the house or outside it; let not my death occur either during the day or at night; no weapon should cause my death; I should not die either on land or in the sky.’

“Brahma granted the boon”.

“Children, you have now heard about the power of the King of Rakshasas. How strong is he! What god can oppose him? The three worlds belong to him. Now, why should you turn away from him? Why follow any other religion and seek another god?”

Then Prahlada smilingly said, “Why masters, a king may secure boons from Brahma. But does that mean he can do what is evil and that he will not be punished? All must bow to the will of Mahavishnu who is the master of Brahma.

His kindness flows in innumerable ways to protect the world.” At the wise words of young Prahlada, the other boys nodded their heads in agreement and admiration.

The Savior comes from the Split Pillar

Shukracharya’s sons were filled with horror to see that the situation was out of their control.

They now understood clearly that they could not make Prahlada change his mind. They went straight to the King of the Rakshasas and told him what had happened. When he heard this anger knew no bounds. He sent messengers to bring Prahlada.

He came and stood before him. Then the king thundered at the boy, “You curse of the family! Have you not yet given up your evil thoughts? The three worlds tremble at my glance. But you, my son, how did you dare to disobey me? You are very young; someone must have misled you and encouraged you.

Otherwise, you would not have had such evil ideas and such courage. Speak the true who has shown you such an evil path.” The earth shook as the king roared at the boy. But Prahlada calmly replied, “Dear father, it was Srihari who gave me this courage. He is stronger than anyone else.

You and I, the universe, even Brahma are as nothing before his strength. He is the real Lord of the Universe.”

Narasimha emerges out of a pillar to kill Hiranya Kashupu as Prahlada watches

All the gods were under the thumb of the mighty Hiranyakasipu; and here was a mere boy of five giving him advice! The king of the Rakshasas was mad with anger. He shouted in rage: “Unlucky fool, your death is near. I am the Lord of all the worlds, the only master! is there another? Where is he? Show him to me.”

“He is everywhere,” Young Prahlada’s answer came without a moment’s delay.

The king could no longer control himself through anger. “Wicked fellow, is he everywhere?

You mad boy, why should he not appear to me in this pillar? I am, going to kill you this very moment. You have been praising Hari as the Lord of the Universe. Let him come to your help if he can.” So saying he drew out his sword and pounced upon the little boy.

Then there was a terrible deafening noise as if the universe itself split into two. Even the very brave Hiranyakasipu started from his place at the terrible noise. The courtiers shook with fear and stood like statues of stone. As the stunned men watched, the pillar split into two.

There was Srihari, in the form of Narashima!

He had the head of a lion and the body of a man.

The eyes of this terrible figure were dazzling they looked like molten gold. The hair on the head and the mustache and the beard stood straight and erect. The sharp and pointed jaws chattered harshly; the tongue quivered like a sword and was sharp as a dagger. His eyebrows were close-knit. The ears were raised and stood erect. The mouth gaped like a mountain cave.

The two nostrils looked like wells turned upside down. The body was huge and mountain-like. It seemed to touch the skies and to stop the very clouds. It had countless arms. The body was covered with hair, white like silver. The very sight of the sharp claws made one tremble.

This terrible form split the pillar and came out.

Hiranyakashipu’s courtiers had crowded the hall; but not one dared to look at him, not to speak of approaching him.

And yet, Hiranyakasipu steadily looked him in the face. His was extraordinary courage. He understood what was going to happen. “Oh, this is Mahavishnu. This is the very god who killed my brother assuming the form of a wild pig. If I kill him all the gods will be helpless; they will be like the branches of a tree whose trunk has been cut and removed. Well, I shall test his strength.” So thinking he raised his sword and fell upon Narasimha.

Without a doubt, Hiranyakasipu was a man of extraordinary strength and courage. But what could he do against Lord Narasimha? He was like a little sparrow dashing against a mountain. That god of immense power seized the Rakshasa as easily as Garuda seizes a snake.

But the Rakshasa slipped from his grip like a snake. Narasimha caught him again like a snake seizing a mouse; with a roar, he carried Hiranyakasipu to the threshold of the hall. He sat on the threshold with the Rakshasa in his lap. Then he dug his nails deep into his body and tore it open. He took out the entrails and wore them around his neck.

All this while the bodyguards and the other courtiers had stood speechless and motionless in paralyzing fear. But at the death of their king, they sprang to action. In a fierce rage, they fell on Narasimha’s body. But all were crushed into a lump of flesh in the winking of an eye.

Hiranyakashupu, Prahlada's father being killed by Narasimha Avatar

After the enemies were all destroyed, Narahari sat on the throne of the Rakshasa King, glaring at those around him. The gods showered flowers from heaven. The Gandharva sang divine music.

The Apsaras, the dancers of heaven, danced in joy. All earth rejoiced. But the terrible anger of Narasimha did not diminish. Even Goddess Lakshmi, Lord Vishnu’s wife, was afraid to go near him.

How was he to be pacified? The little boy Prahlada touched the feet of Narasimha with his head, in deep devotion. At the tender touch of Prahlada, the Lord was pleased. He grew calm.

Anger gave way to kindness. Narasimha kissed the boy softly and raised him gently. The gods nodded their heads in admiration and praised Vishnu’s ways.

“Hiranyakasipu got boons from Lord Brahma; and Narasimha has respected all the promises. For it is now twilight, which is neither day nor night; the place is neither outside the house nor inside it, it is the threshold. Again he was killed neither on land nor in the sky, but on the lap of the god; he was killed neither by weapons nor by missiles but torn by nails; no one created by Brahma has killed him; it is Vishnu, in the form of Narasimha, who slew him. 0 wonder of wonders!”

so they sang the praise of the Lord.

Prahlada was thrilled at the touch of the Lord’s hand. Tears of joy ran down his cheeks. All his sorrow disappeared. The highest knowledge dawned in his mind. He prayed to Narasimha,

“God, you are full of compassion. You protect the whole world. Even the gods cannot fully understand your greatness. You have punished the unjust. Lord, why are you still angry and protect the just.”

Narahari was pleased with these words. He said, “Child Prahlada, I am pleased with your devotion; ask for whatever you desire.”

Prahlada blessed by Narasimha, an avatar of Vishnu

How different was the son from his father Prahlada was a tender boy of five, but he had true wisdom.

He bowed and said to the Lord, I am devoted to God. May this devotion be firmly rooted in my heart! May no other desire appear there!” Narahari was very much pleased with this prayer of Prahlada, the greatest of God’s devotees. He said,

“I grant your prayer, child. Rule over this kingdom for some time. Live happily. Do only what is right and just, so that all men will approve. In the end, you will come to me.” So he granted a boon.

The Story Behind the Story

The story of Prahlada is very interesting, isn’t it? There is a story behind this story. Why did Hiranyakasipu and Hiranyaksha hate Vishnu so-bitterly?

Here is the story to explain it.

Two pious devotees named Jaya and Vijaya were appointed by Sri Vishnu as doorkeepers.

They felt that they were the chosen doorkeepers of Vaikunta and were always very near the Supreme Lord Narayana. So they grew haughty.

Once it so happened that four boy-saints named Sanaka, Sanandana, Sanatkumara, and Sanatsujata came to pay homage to Sri Vishnu. Because of their great yogic power, they could enter Vaikunta. Jaya and Vijaya puffed up with arrogance stopped them. The saints were angry and cursed them. They said,

“You are so very near the Lord, and yet you are ignorant. Until you get supreme knowledge, wander in the world below.”

Then the two doorkeepers came to their senses. Trembling with sorrow, they prayed to Sri Narayana.

Jaya Vijaya cursed by Ashwini Kumaras

He said to them, “These are men of pure piety and great self-control. Their words must come true. Go to the earth below; come back when you have gained wisdom.” Then they wept before the Lord saying, “What will be our fate if through the ignorance we forget God Himself?” Narayana took pity on them. He said, “Jaya and Vijaya, which will you choose – to be my devotees in seven births or my enemies in three. We cannot bear births?”

Then they fell from Vaikunta and were born as twin Rakshasas, Hiranyakasipu and Hiranyaksha.

They were the enemies of God and of the way to God. Vishnu assumed the form of Varaha and Narasimha and killed them both.

After this, in Tretayuga they were born as Ravana and Kumbhakarna and were killed by Sri Ramachandra. Then in Dwapara, they were born as Shishupala and Dantavakra, and Sri Krishna killed them. So they were freed from the curse.

The King of the Gods Becomes A Disciple

Narasimha disappeared after blessing Prahlada. Then Prahlada ascended the throne and ruled over the three worlds – Heaven, the Earth, and the lower regions. Because of his virtues, he won vast fame and popularity. The worlds enjoyed blissful peace under such a pious king.

Piety and peace were firmly established everywhere. There was prosperity everywhere. His virtues and his character gave him unequaled strength. He was able to defeat Indra and to bring Amaravati, Indra’s capital also under his rule. Indra lost everything. He approached Brihaspatyacharya, the teacher of the gods, and said, “Master, how can I attain what is good?

How can I attain Mangala?

The Acharya replied,

“Knowledge which is a means to salvation also leads to what is good.” Then Indra again asked, “Is there a better means, any special way?” The Guru said, “Yes there is. If you can please Sukracharya, the teacher of the Rakshasas, he will teach you.”

Then Indra went to Sukracharya and got from him, the knowledge, which leads to salvation. Then Indra said, “Master, is there any good higher than this?” Sukracharya replied, “Yes. Prahlada, who defeated you in the war, knows it. Go to him.”

Indra was surprised to hear this and approached him. In the guise of a Brahmin, he waited at the gates of Prahlada’s palace. Prahlada welcomed him with honor. Then Indra said, “King of the Rakshasas, what can give a man the highest good? Teach me this. “Then Prahlada replied,

“Sir, I wish to look after the three worlds well and have worries of my own. Where have I the time to teach you?”

But Indra would not give up. He said, “Whenever you have time, give me just a little advice.

I only wish to learn from you the highest duty.”

Prahlada agreed. From that day Indra became the disciple of Prahlada. Step by step he acquired knowledge. Indra served his Guru so well that Prahlada was pleased. When Prahlada was in a happy mood Indra asked him,

“Great Sir, how did you conquer the three worlds? What is the secret?’ Prahlada did not suspect that the person before him was cunning Indra and that he was trying to occupy his place. He said,

“Listen Brahmin, it is by my character that I was able to win master over the three worlds. But I never boast of my lordship. I obey Sukracharya and I serve my elders and teachers with all my heart and follow their guidance. I control my senses. That is how I have realized the highest good.”

Prahlada was highly pleased with his disciple for his keen interest in the highest good. So he said to him,

“Oh Brahmin, I am pleased with your service. Ask for whatever you desire.” Indra’s heart rejoiced. He replied,

“King of Rakshasas if you are really pleased, and if you wish to make me happy, bestow your pure character on me.”

When he heard these words Prahlada was troubled. He knew that once his pure character left him, he would lose strength and position.

But he could not break his promise. He said to Indra, “Well, I give you my character. Farewell.” Soon after the departure of the Brahmin, character, good conduct, piety, truth, and strength all appeared as lights, took leave of him and left him. They entered Indra. Prahlada was not unhappy. With a peaceful mind, he rose to the presence of Lord Narahari.

Prahlada was born as the son of a Rakshasa.

Even as a small boy he became a victim to the fury of his father. But Vishnu, pleased with his devotion, appeared before him. Indra, the Lord of the gods, had to beg Prahlada, a Rakshasa by birth, for knowledge.

High or low birth is not important, age is not important; a pure mind is important, a spotless character is important – this is the lesson his story blazes to the world.

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