NATIONAL MUSEUM DELHI, NEW DELHI, INDIA.

The Yog Narashima.

File Fact, Narasimha: The 19th century sculpture at the National Museum Delhi is of the Yog Narasimha, one of the less ferocious forms of a protector avatar – commonly identified as a half man, half lion hybrid with a raging fury that can only be doused by the humble prayers of a true devotee.

Narasimha literally means  ‘man animal’ and is accepted by Hindus as the fourth incarnation of the god Vishnu. The figure first appeared as a ravaging wild beast in the Rig Veda- the oldest of the Hindu scriptures, then developed into a character of its own with the rise of the Vaishnava (a sect that believes Vishnu to be the one true supreme god).

Source of the inspiration is a mystery till date and there is a strong possibility the hybrid avatar is a purely artistic creation conceived to represent an aggressive god ready to defend his devoted followers with the fury of a lion, no matter how arduous the task – ancient Vedic people being an imaginative lot were apt in creating inspiring stories with complex story lines.

The three part story that accompanies the avatar is one every schoolboy in India is familiar with and ends with the death of the antagonist: a golden eyed demon king who outraged at his son’s devotion to Vishnu (his enemy) is stopped short of committing filicide.

Narashimna bursts out of a pillar to disembowel his opponent with the claws of a lion at the threshold of the courtyard during the twilight hour, thus rendering ineffective a boon that protected the demon king from being killed indoors or outdoors; during the day or the night; on the ground or in the sky; by any animate or inanimate weapon; and by man, animal, demi-god or demon.

Hindus, over the centuries, have drawn numerous conclusions from the story of this hybrid avatar ranging from god resides in all objects, fathers do not necessarily influence their children, and the universal: god protects his devotees.

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