In Hinduism, the Asura (Sanskrit: असुर) are a group of power-seeking deities, sometimes referred to as demons, that were opposed to the devas. Subject to the passions, the Asuras above all had become addicted to them, especially wrath, pride, boasting and bellicosity.
The state of an Asura can reflects the mental state of a human being obsessed with force and violence, always looking for an excuse to get into a fight, angry with everyone and unable to maintain calm or solve problems peacefully.
In terms of power, Asuras rank above humans but below most of the other deities.
Hiranyakashipu (or Hiranyakasipu) (Sanskrit: हिरण्यकश्यप) is an Asura according to the Puranic scriptures of Hinduism. The Purana's describe Hiranyakashipu as a king from ancient times. His younger brother, Hiranyaksha was slain by Varaha, one of the avatars of Vishnu and angered by this. Hiranyakashipu decided to gain magical powers by performing a penance for Brahma. He was subsequently killed by the Narasimha avatara of Vishnu. His tale depicts the futility of desiring power over others and the strength of God's protection over his fully surrendered devotees (in the case of his son Prahlada).
Hiranyakashyapu considered Sri Hari as his enemy and had banned everyone from worshipping Vishnu. Instead he considered himself to be the supreme leader on earth and hence everybody had to worship him. His brother Hiranyakshaa had met his end at the hands of Vishnu. Hiranyakashyapu had a son called Prahladha who was a staunch follower of Sri Hari, believed in Vishnu and worshipped only Vishnu. This irked Hiranyakashyapu. Hiranyakashyapu forced Prahladha to stop worshipping Vishnu but Prahladha continued to worship Vishnu. Hence Hiranyakashyapu ordered his son to be killed.
Hiranyakashyapu's servants tried various means of killing Prahladha. They put Prahladha under an elephant's foot but the elephant did not stamp him, instead pampered him. They tried to throw him in the Ganges so that he would sink, but Prahladha again came back unhurt. They tried to throw him from a mountain, but Bhoomi Devi held him in mid air and saved him. Growing with frustation Hiranyakashyapu did not know what to do. The whole world had begun to worship him as the universal leader but his own son, Prahladha, refused to worship him or accept him as the universal leader and instead worshipped Vishnu. Hiranyakashyapu had a sister by name 'Holika', a demoness. She was obvisiouly Prahladha's aunt. Holika had a boon that made her immune to fire. Hiranyakashyapu's wicked mind began to work again ...
Hiranyakashyapu ordered Holika to carry Prahladha on her lap and sit inside the fire. His plan was that since Holika was immune to fire, Prahladha would burn to ashes in the fire. When Holika entered the fire with Prahladha, she burned to ashes. On her pleading Prahladha forgives Holika and grants her Moksham. Prahladha comes out unscathed from the fire.
Each time he to attempts to kill the boy, Prahlada is protected by Vishnu's mystical power. When asked, Prahlada refuses to acknowledge his Father as the supreme lord of the universe and claims that Vishnu is all-pervading and omnipresent. To which Hiranyakashipu points to a nearby pillar and asks if 'his Vishnu' is in it?
Prahlada then answers, He was, He is and He will be. In an alternate version of the story, Prahlada answers He is in pillars, and he is in the least twig. Hiranyakashipu, unable to control his anger, smashes the pillar with his mace, and then following a tumultuous sound, Vishnu in the form of Narasimha appears from it and in defence of Prahlada moves to attack his Father.
In order to kill Hiranyakashipu and not upset the boon given by Brahma, the form of Narasimha was chosen. Hiranyakashipu could not be killed by human, deva or animal, Narasimha is neither one of these, as he is a form of Vishnu incarnate as a part-human, part-animal. He comes upon Hiranyakashipu at twilight (when it is neither day nor night) on the threshold of a courtyard (neither indoors nor out), and puts the demon on his lap (neither earth nor space). Using his nails (neither animate nor inanimate) as weapons, he disembowels and kills the demon.
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