|March 09, 2001 |
There are a total of 12 cantos in the Shrimad Bhagavat. In order to attain liberation in 7 days, Parikshit had promised that he would listen to Shukdevji's teachings and not doubt anything Shukdevji said. Half way through, however, Parikshit questioned why God behaved partially, favoring the devataas (demigods) over the asuras (demons) [ref. Bhagavat 7/1]. Shukdevji then gives the story of Prahlad, who was born in a demon family. The story displays that God is neither partial towards the demigods nor to the demons, but he surely takes the side of his devotees.
Due to the curse of the Sanakaadik, Jay and Vijay, the gatekeepers of Vaikunthlok, first take birth as the demon brothers Hiranyaksh and Hiranyakashyap. Lord Vishnu first assumed the Varah or boar incarnation to destroy Hiranyaksh. An enraged Hiranyakashyap decided to do severe penance to become immortal. Soon, Hiranyakashyap's head began blazing fire that heated up the heavens. Thus the demigods came to Brahma and implored him to stop Hiranyakashyap. When Brahma finally approached Hiranyakashyap, the demon asked that he not be killed in the day or night, by wood or metal, on land or air, by man or animal, and neither indoors or outdoors. Brahma granted the wishes and Hiranyakashyap started ruling over all the realms, not allowing anyone to devote to God. However, his own son became a devotee. Prahlad had learned about God while in the womb of Kayadhu who stayed at Naradji's aashrama. Once, he saw a potmaker crying out the name of God. Upon the child's inquiry, the potmaker explained to Prahlad that there were kittens trapped in the pot which was set to fire, and that by chanting God's name, he hoped that God would help them. As Prahlad later learned that the kittens had been protected, he became convinced of God's power.
Prahlad was to be educated by Shand and Amark, the sons of the demon guru, Shukracharya. Prahlad instead taught all of the sons of the demons about devotion to God. Hiranyakashyap became furious that his son was a great devotee of his enemy, and thus tried to kill him by different methods such as throwing him off a mountain and being trampled by an elephant. But Prahlad continued to chant God's name and was always saved. Finally, Prahlad's aunt, Holika attempted to kill him by sitting in a fire with him on her lap. She had a special saaree that would keep her from burning. However, when the time arrived, Prahlad started chanting, and a strong wind blew the saaree onto Prahlad protecting him and destroying the demonic aunt. The day following Holi is called Dulheti - celebrating God's protection of His devotee. Finally, Lord Vishnu emerges from a pillar in the form of a half-man, half-lion incarnation, Narsinh. While not violating any of Hiranyakashyap's wishes, Narsinh kills Hiranyakshyap.