1 March, 2018
Festivals are a good time as any to tell some mythological stories to our inquisitive next generation. We Indians are, lucky that we have a wide variety of mythological tales to fall back on. The Ramayana, the Mahabharata, The Dasha Avatar, the Hitopadesha, The Panchatantra, etc. and their great appeal among even the current generation speaks volumes about the intrigue these stories generate. However, as grandparents, it is important to tell these stories in such a way that the children see beyond the mere plot of the story. The stories should be told in such a way that the children can appreciate the principles and the morals of the main characters. If the kids can take inspiration and lessons from these stories and inculcate them into their lives, our job is done.
The Dasha Avatar
How much do the kids actually know about Prahlada beyond the link to Holi, which is around the corner? Ask them a few questions and generate their interest to understand more. The story of Prahlada is not just about why Holi is celebrated with respect to his survival from the fire and his evil aunt Holika. It is much beyond that. The story of Prahlada is part of the Dasha Avatar or ten incarnations, through which the God Vishnu is said to have graced the earth to save it from evil. Hence, God Vishnu took many forms like the Matsya (Fish), Kurma (Tortoise), Varaha (Boar), Narasimha, Vamana, Parashurama, Rama, Krishna, Buddha, and Kalki.
Prahlada and the Narasimha avatar
The story of Prahlada is linked to the God Vishnu’s Narasimha avatar. The God Vishnu had just killed Hiranyaksha, the brother of Hiranyakshyap in the avatar of Varaha to save the world from his evil ways. His elder brother, Hiranyakashyap, swears to take revenge on God Vishnu and meditates in the Himalayas. Brahma, pleased with his severe penance, grants him a boon, saying that a weapon, animal, a human would never kill him, and neither during day or night or on earth or in heaven.
Meanwhile, in his absence, his kingdom had been attacked, and Indra, the chief of gods, had captured his pregnant wife, Queen Kayadhu. She would be kept in sage Narada’s place, where he would tell her unborn child stories about God Vishnu and the power of devotion.
Being given this boon of invincibility, Hiranyakashyap believes that he cannot be defeated and becomes profoundly evil. God Vishnu is his sworn enemy. Prahlada was born with the inborn devotion for God Vishnu, and this angers his father. Hiranyakashyap hence tries many ways to deter or kill him. However, the child Prahlada is unwavering in his devotion to God Vishnu and wholeheartedly believes in his power to save him and hence, is fearless.
Finally, the evil king coaxes his sister Holika to sit on a pyre with Prahlada and burn him to death. Holika had a boon that fire would not burn her, so the king sought her help to get rid of his son. However, the blessing would work only if Holika was alone and hence, in this case, she is burnt to death, while Prahlada escapes unhurt. In remembrance of this occasion, the festival of Holi is celebrated.
What happens to Hiranyakashyap?
The story doesn’t end here. Prahlada continued to preach against wicked ways, and finally, the king ties him to a pillar and asks him where his savior is. Prahlada replies that Vishnu exists everywhere, and in everything, including the pillar to which he was tied. So, the angry king hits the pillar with his mace. It is then that the Narasimha avatar of God Vishnu, emerges from the pillar; a creature with a lion’s face, and man’s body. The God Narasimha manages to subdue the king and puts him on the threshold and proceeds to kill him with his bare hands and claws. Thus the king was killed, and at Prahlada’s request, he was freed from his sins. Prahlada gets anointed as the next king and rules with sound principles.
When this story is told, it is important to highlight how the child Prahlada was fearless because of his faith in the divinity of God Vishnu. He truly believed that the God would protect those who believed in him. He was convinced his father and his ways were wrong. It was his faith that helped him counter every one of his evil father’s moves to kill him. Perhaps, it can help bring in some morals in our kids to help them take a stand and be fearless for what they believe to be true. Let this story be told on Holi, but make sure to tell it fully, so that the kids realize its importance, beyond the celebration of Holi.
Bring alive mythology and bond with your grandkids!
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