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narasimha - avatar - fourth incarnation of vishnu

Narasimha, the fourth incarnation of god Vishnu, is half-lion half-human and provides a very fascinating study of Lord's incarnation in order to alleviate the sufferings of devotees.

The story runs thus,
Among descendants of Daksha, the first man that Brahma created, there was one Kashyap, a sage, who had four wives, Diti, Aditi, Vinita and Kudroo. Diti gave birth to demons and from Aditi were born gods, while from Vinita was born Garud, the carrier of Vishnu and the last one Kudroo created the hydras.

Out of the demons born of Diti, two were with terrific powers. These two brothers were named Hiranyaksha and Hiranyakashipu.

narasimha - avatar - fourth incarnation of vishnu

Both of them performed so many religious practices and austerities that in course of time they gained limitless powers. Hirayanyaksha proud with his powers attacked Vishnu who was in his Varaha form and was killed.

At the death of Hiranyaksha his wife Vrishadbhanu and her children were overpowered with grief. His mother Dithidevi was heart-broken. 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?' Although Hiranyakashipu tried to console others his sorrow burnt his own heart like fire. Even, before this, Hiranyakashipu hated Vishnu. Now Vishnu's very name was like poison to him. His blood was boiling with the hatred of Vishnu.

Hiranyakashipu the asura king

He called the generals of his army Illyala, Namuchi and others. He said, 'Give the devotees of Vishnu as much trouble as you can.' They burnt the cities; razed temples to the ground and destroyed the crops.

Hiranyakashipu King of the Rakshasas retired to the mountain Mandara and began Tapas (meditation on the Lord). He stood on the toe so as to throw the whole weight of the body on it, held the arms raised straight and the eyes looking up at the sky.

Hiranyakashipu in deep penance

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