Hiranyakasipu, shown drawing his
sword, was a powerful demon king. He bore hatred for the Supreme Lord
Vishnu because Vishnu had killed his brother Hiranyaksa. The story was
that Hiranyaksa had thrown the earth into the ocean of devastation at
the bottom of the universe, and, when Vishnu had come in His boar incarnation
to save the earth, Hiranyaksa had attacked Him and had been killed in
Hiranyakasipu hated Lord Vishnu so much that he refused to recognize
that Vishnu is the Supreme Personality of Godhead and cannot be killed.
Thus he intended to kill Him some day. Toward that end, he felt it would
be good to insure his own immortality first, so he performed severe
austerities of standing on one leg for one hundred celestial years,
until the ants had eaten away his flesh and he held his life airs within
his bones in the middle of the anthill. Lord Brahma, the highest of
the demigods, came and gave him a new body. He asked Hiranyakasipu to
stop such extreme austerities, and he offered him a benediction.
Hiranyakasipu asked for immortality. Brahma said, “I can’t
give you that, because I don’t have it myself. Ask for something
So Hiranyakasipu asked for what he thought would guarantee immortality
anyway. He asked: “Grant that I will not be killed by day or night;
on land, in the sea, or in the air; indoors or outdoors; by man or beast;
or by any weapon.” Brahma granted this request, and left.
Years passed. Hiranyakasipu had a son, named Prahlad, who was from birth
a pure devotee of Lord Vishnu. Prahlad urged his father to worship the
Lord, and Hiranyakasipu felt that his son was a traitor. But Prahlad
would stop neither his preaching nor his praying, and Hiranyakasipu
became very angry. He had his son tortured, and then ordered his servants
to kill the child. All efforts were failures, and the child continued
his prayers and meditations undisturbed. Finally Hiranyakasipu decided
to kill his little son himself. He drew his sword.
“Where is your God?” he demanded. “Everywhere,”
was the child’s reply. “Is He in this pillar?” Hiranyakasipu
shouted. “Yes, He is,” said Prahlad.
In fury, Hiranyakasipu struck the pillar with his sword. From inside
the pillar came a tremendous roar, and then from the pillar appeared
something Hiranyakasipu had never seen before. A powerful being with
the head of a lion and the body of a man, but with many arms holding
weapons, stood towering above him.
In the painting we see that Hiranyakasipu is ready to attack, and he
is hoping that his benedictions will hold.
To find out what happened, see the next two paintings.