Om namo bhagavate sri maha-Nrsimhaya/ damstra-karala-vadanaya/ ghora-rupaya vajra-nakhaya/ jvala-maline mama vighnan paca paca/ mama bhayan bhindi bhindi/ mama satrun vidravaya vidravaya mama/ sarva ristan prabhanjaya prabhanjaya/ chata chata, hana hana, chindi chindi/ mama sarvabhistan puraya puraya mam/ raksa raksa hum phat svaha
“O Nrsimhadeva, whose form is terrible by sharp and long teeth: who is very fearful to see with strong, large nails, and who is garlanded by flames–destroy, destroy my obstacles and kick out, kick out my fear. Scatter, scatter my enemies, destroy, destroy my karma. Flash, flash! Kill, kill! Cut, cut! Ever fulfill, fulfill my desire to serve You and protect, protect me and all around me.”
Startling, isn’t it–this maha-mantra of Lord Nrsimhadeva? For those who have had darsana of this Deity form here in Mayapur–especially at mangala-arati, when in the darkness of pre-dawn, His doors open to reveal His awesome form, illuminated by 200 oil lamps, that make His eyes and teeth glint in His lion-like face with a gaping mouth–they know that this description is no exaggeration. While inside the altar area, the pujari circles large lamps of bright flaming camphor and ghee. Outside, many devotees throng for a glimpse of their Lord, for they know that this auspicious arati will be over in just three or four minutes.
It is just before 5:00 a.m. The arati is over and the heavy wooden doors to Lord Nrsimhadeva’s altar are closed.
I enter the Deity room, after offering prostrated obeisances and praying for the blessings of Srila Prabhupada and the assembled devotees. While standing before the Lord with folded hands, I recited the following prayer: “O Kesava, O Lord of the universe! O Lord Hari, who has assumed the form of half-man, half-lion. All glories to you! Just as one can easily crush a wasp between one’s fingernails, so in the same way the body of the wasp-like demon Hiranyakasipu has been ripped apart by the wonderful painted nails on Your beautiful lotus hands.”
After cleaning the floor and sitting on a kusa-grass mat, the puja begins… The first thing I do is to purify the articles to be used, as well as the body and the mind. Then I meditate on my spiritual identity as different from the body, understanding myself to be the eternal servant of the servant of the Lord. Next comes my worship for my spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada, with sandalwood paste, flowers, incense, a ghee lamps, and some food. I then ask for his permission to assist in the worship of Lord Nrsimhadeva. Repeating the same procedure for Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu and Sri Prahlada Maharaja, I begin to offer 16 items of worship through mantras–through the medium of water–to Lord Nrsimhadeva.
I touch my head to the lotus feet of the deity of Sri Prahlada Maharaja, praying for his blessings. “It was only to relieve the distress brought to you by your demoniac father Hiranyakasipu, that the Supreme Lord appeared in His wonderful form of Lord Nrsimhadeva. O Sri Prahlada Maharaja, you are one of the twelve mahajanas, or great authorities of devotional service. Kindly bless me with the understanding of spiritual truths.”
On the altar of Lord Nrsimhadeva are 60 salagrama-silas. I remove Them to offer abhiseka. The big sila in the center who wears a crown is a Nrsimha saligram.
Although it is a scriptural injunction that one should touch one’s head to the feet of the Deity, it’s not always possible or practical. Therefore, we bring out the satari, the Deity’s shoes, mounted on what looks like a helmet, and place it over the heads of the devotees. One of the benedictions of being a pujari is that he can place his head directly on the Lord’s lotus feet. Receiving this benediction and begging forgiveness for any inconvenience I may cause Him, I undress the Lord and wipe His body with a soft, damp towel. His body begins to shine when I massage it with cooling oils like sandalwood or khus. His form is exquisite, slender and perfectly formed. He looks powerful but also graceful. The Lord’s knees are bent, ready to spring, and around His hips is an engraved girdle, bearing a face with large cheeks, open mouth and a protruding tongue. His navel is deep and his chest is broad. Lord Nrsimhadeva’s transcendental body is smooth, soft to the touch, and very much appealing to the eye. He is bedecked with bracelets and other ornaments. The Lord has eight arms. In six hands He holds a sword, lotus flower, disc, conch, club and shield, and to keep the promise of Brahma, His two front hands yield no weapons.
The Lord cannot bear any intolerance against His devotees. It is said that the face is the index of the mind. If this proves to be true, then we can see how furious Lord Nrsimhadeva must have been when He burst out from the pillar to attack the greatest of all demons, Hiranyakasipu, who tried to kill the Lord’s pure devotee, Prahlada. “His angry eyes resembled molten gold, and His shining mane expanded the dimensions of His fearful face. His deadly teeth and His razor sharp tongue moved about like a dueling sword. His ears were erect and motionless, and His nostrils and gaping mouth appeared like caves of a mountain. His jaws parted fearfully and His entire body touched the sky.” When it was decided to bring a Deity of Lord Nrsimhadeva to Mayapur for the protection of the devotees and the temple, three of the main pujaris were called by the managers to discuss the importance of establishing this Deity. However, when it came to the point of who would peform daily puja, no one was willing to step forward. “After such a long waiting period, the Deity is finally ready, and now nobody wants to worship Him!” Their concern was obvious. And then I was singled out….”Why don’t you want to worship Him?” I was asked. “I’m too scared,” I replied. They intimated me: “Oh, you probably don’t follow the four regulative principles….” “Of course, but…”
Fortunately, our fears were allayed by Atma-tattva Prabhu, who had procured the Deity in South India. He told us that first, even the sthapati refused to make such a Deity, saying that nobody worships this sthanu form of Nrsimhadeva [the ferocious form of the Lord when He stepped out fo the pillar to Kill Hiranyakasipu]. Generally one goes before the Deity of the Lord to ask for some benediction, but to ask for something when He is shaking with fury–just wouldn’t be a smart thing to do. It is certainly better to go for a more pacified form, e.g. after He has killed Hiranyakasipu. But later, when the stapati found out that it was for Mayapur Dhama, he agreed, because any deity brought to the dhama takes on the mood of the presiding deity of the dhama. In this case it is audarya, “benevolence,” the mood of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, Sri Gaura-Hari!
“Although very ferocious, the lioness is very kind to her cubs. Similarly, although very ferocious to non-devotees like Hiranyakasipu, Lord Nrsimhadeva is very, very gentle and kind to His devotees like Prahlada Maharaja.”
While dressing the Lord and remembering His mercy, I am thinking how some people misunderstand our purpose of worshiping Lord Nrsimha. Sometimes devotees say that worship of Nrsimhadeva is Vaikuntha-bhava, and it cannot take one to Goloka Vrindavana, the Lord’s supreme and most intimate abode. But Lord Nrsimhadeva is partucularly inclined towards the devotees of Radha and Krishna. He is Krishna Himself, appearing especially in this form to reciprocate with our desire to remove all the obstacles in our devotional service. If one can always raise his hands and call out with great love the names of Nitai-Gaura and Radha-Madhava, that is wonderful. But if there is something in your heart that is stopping you from that spontaneous call, why not go in all humility before Lord Nrsimhadeva and pray that with His sharp nails, He may pierce those crooked desires in your heart and throw them far away… This is His main function. Srila Bhaktivinode Thakura writes: “Therefore, I will pray at the feet of Lord Nrsimhadeva to purify my heart and give me the desire to serve Krishna. Weeping, I will beg at the lotus feet of Nrsimha that I may worship Sri Sri Radha and Krishna in Navadvip Dhama, free from all obstacles.” His prayers continue: “At that moment, by Lord Nrsimhadeva’s mercy, I will exhibit symptoms of ecstatic love for Radha and Krishna, and I will roll on the ground by the door of Lord Nrsimhadeva’s temple.”
Didn’t Lord Caitanya reveal His divinity to Srivasa Thakura while Srivasa was worshipping his Nrsimha Deity, by saying: “Srivasa, don’t you know that I am the same person whom you are worshipping behind those closed doors?” And what about Advaita Acarya, whose offerings of tulasi buds and Ganga water, along with His loud calling, caused the Lord to descend, it is said that He worshipped a Nrsimha Salagram!
I now begin putting ornaments on the Lord’s body. I adjust Sri Nrsimhadeva’s necklaces, so they hang symmetrically; tie shining bracelets on His wrist, and fix beautiful rings on His lotus fingers. “I am so close to you, oh Lord, and yet so far away. When will I become a devotee?” Prahlada, your foremost bhakta, is indicating that he is not afraid of Your ferocious mouth and tongue; Your eyes as bright as the sun, and Your frowning eyebrows. He fears not Your sharp, pinching teeth, your garland of intestines, and Your mane soaked with blood, nor Your tumultuous roaring, which makes elephants flee; nor Your nails meant for killing your enemies. However, he says, “I’m very much afraid of my condition of life within this material world. When will that moment come when You will call me to the shelter of Your lotus feet?” I know Sri Prahlada was saying that last point only for our benefit, for he was always completely surrendered unto You.
One time, I also felt surrendered unto You–at least for a few minutes. That was during the big flood in 1987. While offering You puja, standing waist deep in water, a big, frightening snake swam in the temple, passing behind You. It stopped about five feet in front of me, finding its exit blocked. After examining me for some long moments, it dipped down, out of sight, in the muddy Ganga water. Feeling myself in imminent danger, I noticed the hair on my arms standing on end, with no weapon to defend myself, nor the ability to run away, I felt very insecure. In such a helpless condition, I turned to You, oh Lord, and I knew that my fate was completely in Your hands. “You are the Supersoul in everyone’s heart. If You want that snake to bite me, it will bite–if You don’t, it won’t. Let me continue my service; the result is dependent on You.” Then, I became peaceful again, feeling the safety of Your shelter.
I finished the morning puja, but I couldn’t stop thinking about the incident. It reminded me of the description by Lord Kapila of the babies in the womb. In their helpless and painful condition, they get the darshan of Paramatma, the Lord in the heart. If they are pious, they pray that if He relieves them from their suffering condition, they would–after being relieved from the womb–exclusively worship Him. But as soon as they’re out and in good shape, they forget everything. Still, I have great hope that one day I’ll be able to serve You nicely for Your pleasure. By the way, as long as the temple room was filled with water from the flood, the snake would come every day, circumambulate the Deity once, and then go out. Who knows who that snake actually was?
Covering His body with fresh garlands of flowers and tulasi, offering sandalwood paste, mixed with fragrant flowers and tulsi leaves to His lotus feet (which symbolizes sacrificing everything to the Lord), the morning puja is now complete. Hearing the devotees gathering outside makes me hurry–it’s time for darshan. I blow the conch three times and open the doors to reveal the resplendent Lord. Jaya Sri Prahlada Nrsimhadeva! The devotees bow down, happy to see their Ugra Nrsimha again. In their hearts they know that He is not really as ugra as He looks.
–from an article published in Mayapur Journal, Summer 1994.