PRAHLADA CHARITAM (From Narayaneeyam)
Melpathur Narayana Bhattathiri (1559-1632) was the celebrated author of Narayaneeyam, a devotional composition in Sanskrit verse which is a masterly summary of the main episodes in Srimad Bhagavatam. He was a scholar in the Sanskrit Language and its grammar on which he wrote his masterpiece Prakriya-sarvaswam which sets forth an axiomatic system elaborating on the classical system of Panini the grammarian.
Narayana Bhattathiri was born in a Namboodiri family of Kerala. He was a disciple of Achyuta Pisharati from whom he studied Sanskrit grammar. As a student he also studied the Rig Veda and Tarka Sastra (the science of logical reasoning and argument).
Bhattathiri was struck with paralysis when he was still young. The disease was painful and Ezhuthachan the author of Adhyatma Ramayana advised Bhattathiri “meen thottu koottuka” which in Malayalam meant ‘take fish as food’ or ‘start counting from fish’. It was obvious that the erudite Ezhuthachan would not have advised Bhattathiri, a Nambooiri brahmin, to eat fish since Namboodiri brahmins are staunch vegetarians. Bhattathiri figured out that the meaning of ‘start counting from fish’ was that he (Bhattathiri) should start recounting the incarnations of the Lord starting from the matsyavatara(incarnation as fish to redeem the Vedas from the asura named Hayagreeva) and go on upto the incarnation of Lord Krishna.
Bhattathiri took the advise and wrote his Magnum Opus based on Srimad Bhagavatam which chronicles the many incarnations of Mahavishnu and expounds the highest philosophy of the Hindus embodied in the Upanishads. He dedicated his work to Lord Krishna, fondly called by devotees as Guruvayoorappan, at the temple at Guruvayoor in Kerala. The work consists of 100 dasakas each containing 10 verses. However, a few dasakas contain more than ten verses so that the total number of slokas is not 1000 but 1034.
Legend has it that Bhattathiri composed one dasaka a day in the presence of the Lord and recited it before Him for His approval and the Lord did nod his head in agreement. The composition is directly addressed to the Lord telling him His own exploits and leelas. The refrain in the last sloka of every dasaka is a prayer to the Lord of Guruvayoor to remove his (Bhattathiri’s) ailments and sufferings. The Lord did cure Bhattathiri of his affliction by the time he completed Narayaneeyam and also revealed to him His captivating form which Bhattathiri has captured ecstatically in the 100th dasakam
Given below is a reproduction of Dasakas 24 and 25 from Narayaneeyam which summarise the story of Prahlada narrated in detail in chapters 2-10 of the 7th Canto of Srimad Bhagavatam. A simple transalation in English is given for the benefit of those who cannot follow the original.
हिरण्याक्षे पोत्रिप्रवरवपुषा देव ! भवता
हते शोकक्रोधग्लपितधृतिरेतस्य सहजः।
प्रतिज्ञामातेने तव किल वधार्थं मुररिपो ॥१॥
O Lord ! Slayer of Mura! when Hiranyaksha was killed by you in your incarnation as the great boar, his brother Hiranyakashipu, overcome by grief and anger, vowed in the assembly of asuras that he would kill you.
विधातारं घोरं स खलु तपसित्वा न चिरतः
पुरः साक्षात्कुर्वन्सुरनरमृगाद्यैरनिधनम् ।
वरं लब्ध्वा दृप्तो जगदिह भवन्नायकमिदं
परिक्षुन्दन्निन्द्रादहरत दिवं त्वामगणयन् ॥२॥
By his severe austerities (tapas), before long, he made Brahma appear before him and, having obtained from him the boon of not meeting his death at the hands of devas, humans or animals,
became arrogant and, disregarding you, destroyed the worlds ruled over by you and snatched the kingdom of heaven from Indra.
निहन्तुं त्वां भूयस्तव पदमवाप्तस्य च रिपो-
र्बहिर्दृष्टेरन्तर्दधित हृदये सूक्ष्मवपुषा ।
नदन्नुच्चैस्तत्राप्यखिलभुवनान्ते च मृगयन्
भिया यातं मत्वा स खलु जितकाशी निववृते ॥३॥
When he came to your abode to kill you, you disappeared from his outward-looking eyes and lodged yourself in his heart in microscopic form. The asura searched You in your abode and all over the worlds and, not finding you, thought You had run away in fear and returned home priding himself on his (supposed) victory over you.
ततोऽस्य प्रह्लादः समजनि सुतो गर्भवसतौ
स वै जात्या दैत्यः शिशुरपि समेत्य त्वयि रतिम्
गतस्त्वद्भक्तानां वरद! परमोदाहारणतां ॥४॥
O Giver of boons ! After a few years, Hiranyakashipu begot a son Prahlada who, while still in the womb of his mother, had understood from Narada Muni, who always carries a Veena in his hands, the greatness of devotion to you. Though born in the asura clan, child Prahlada, who had developed deep love for you, set a great example to your devotees.
सुरारीणां हास्यं तव चरणदास्यं निजसुते
स दृष्ट्वा दुष्टात्मा गुरुभिरशिशिक्षच्चिरममुम् ।
गुरुप्रोक्तं चासाविदमिदमभद्राय दृढमि-
त्यपाकुर्वन् सर्वं तव चरणभक्त्यैव ववृधे ॥५॥
Seeing in his son devotion to Your lotus-feet and knowing that such devotion is mocked by the asuras, the wicked Hiranyakashipu tried to discipline him through his teachers. But Prahlada firmly rejected whatever was taught by his teachers (relating to dharma, artha or Kama) saying these were not good or auspicious and grew up with loving devotion to you in his heart.
अधीतेषु श्रेष्ठं किमिति परिपृष्टेऽथ तनये
भवद्भक्तिं वर्यामभिगदति पर्याकुलधृतिः ।
गुरुभ्यो रोषित्वा सहजमतिरस्येत्यभिविदन्
वधोपायानस्मिन् व्यतनुत भवत्पादशरणे ॥६॥
Asked by his father what was the best thing he had learned Prahlada replied that Bhakti, loving devotion to You, was the best thing he had learned. Hearing this Hiranyakashipu was completely upset and he got angry with the teachers. Then he understand that it (Bhakti) was the natural instinct of Prahlada (and not the fault of his teachers). He then resorted to methods of killing Prahlada who had taken refuge at your feet.
स शूलैराविद्धः सुबहुमथितो दिग्गजगणै-
गिरीन्द्रावक्षिप्तोऽप्यहह! परमात्मन्नयि! विभो!
त्वयि न्यस्तात्मत्वात् किमपि न पीडामभजत॥७॥
O Lord ! O Paramatman ! Prahlada, whose mind always rested in you in complete surrender, did not experience any pain though pierced by tridents several times, trampled over by the elephants from the eight quarters, bitten by deadly poisonous serpents, made to starve, fed poisoned food and thrown from the top of mountains
ततः शङ्काविष्टः स पुनरतिदुष्टोऽस्य जनको
गुरूक्त्या तद्गेहे किल वरुणपाशैस्तमरुणत् ।
गुरोश्चासान्निद्ध्ये स पुनरनुगान् दैत्यतनयान्
भवद्भक्तेस्तत्त्वं परममपि विज्ञानमशिषत् ॥८॥
Hiranyakashipu was frustrated (at the failure of his attempts to kill
his son Prahlada) and, at the instance of the teachers, Prahlada was incarcerated in the house of the guru, bound by varuna pasha. In the absence of the guru Prahlada taught the asura children the greatness of bhakti and imparted to them the highest knowledge about the atman.
पिता शृण्वन् बालप्रकरमखिलं त्वत्स्तुतिपरं
रुषांधः प्राहैनं कुलहतक ’कस्ते बलमिति’ ।
बलं मे वैकुण्ठस्तव च जगतां चापि स बलम्
स एव त्रैलोक्यं सकल’मिति धीरोऽयमगदीत् ॥९॥
O Lord! Hearing that all the asura boys had taken to praising you, Hiranyakashipu was blind with anger. He asked Prahlada
“ You the disgrace of the asura clan ! who is the power behind you?” The courageous Prahlada said “ The power behind me is Lord Vishnu, he is the power behind you and all those in this world. He is all the three worlds”.
’अरे क्वासौ क्वासौ सकलजगदात्मा हरि’रिति
प्रभिन्ते स्म स्तंभं चलितकरवालो दितिसुतः ।
अतः पश्चाद्विष्णो न वदितुमीशोऽस्मि सहसा
कृपात्मन्! विश्वात्मन्! पवनपुरवासिन् मृडय माम् ॥१०॥
“Where is this Hari who is the soul of all these worlds?” saying thus Hiranyakashipu broke open one of the pillars in the hall with a blow of his sword. O Lord Vishnu ! What happened afterwards I am unable to narrate immediately. O Embodiment of compassion! Indwelling spirit of all the worlds! Lord of Guruvayoor! protect me (your devotee)
स्तंभे घट्टयतो हिरण्यकशिपोः कर्णौ समाचूर्णय-
न्नाघूर्णज्जगदण्डकुण्डकुहरो घोरस्तवाभूद्रवः ।
श्रुत्वा यं किल दैत्यराजहृदये पूर्वं कदाप्यश्रुतम्
कंपः कश्चन संपपात चलितोप्यंभोजभूर्विष्टरात् ॥१॥
As soon as Hiranyakashipu struck the pillar you let out a terrible roar which pulverized his ears and reverberated through the whole of the cosmos shaking it thoroughly. Hearing the sound, never heard before, there was a trembling in the heart of the asura king and even Brahma was displaced from his seat.
दैत्ये दिक्षु विसृष्टचक्षुषि महासंरंभिणि स्तंभतः
संभूतं न मृगात्मकं न मनुजाकारं वपुस्ते विभो!
किं किं भीषणमेतदद्भुतमिति व्युद्भ्रान्तचित्तेऽसुरे
विस्फूर्जद्धवलोग्ररोमविकसद्वर्ष्मा समाजृंभथाः ॥२॥
While the asura, beside himself with anger, was looking around him in all directions, you suddenly emerged from the pillar with a terrible body, neither of beast nor of man, seeing which the asura, with utter commotion in his mind, speculated what this wondrous and terrifying form was. At this moment Your body, covered with white, sharp and pointed hairs standing on end, started growing in size.
प्रोत्कंपप्रनिकुंबितांबरमहो जीयात्तवेदं वपुः ।
O Lord ! victory to this wonderful body of yours with rolling and fearful eyes of the colour of molten gold, your mane covering the whole of the sky, your open mouth resembling a big cave and the two frightening very large canine teeth which become visible when you thrust out your big tongue resembling the blade of a sharp sword.
ग्रीवं पीवरदोश्शतोद्गतनखक्रूरांशुदूरोल्बणम् ।
स्पर्द्धालुप्रकरं नमामि भवतस्तन्नारसिंहं वपुः॥४॥
I prostrate before the form of Narasimha you assumed, with frightening lower chin with its folds which stand erect, short and extremely stout neck, fearful with powerful scorching rays emanating from the nails of your many stout hands, touching the sky and making the hordes of enemies run away in fear by your roar competing with the thunder of clouds ready for downpour.
नूनं विष्णुरयं निहन्म्यमुमिति भ्राम्यद्गदाभीषणं
दैत्येन्द्रं समुपाद्रवन्तमधृथा दोर्भ्यां पृथुभ्याममुम् ।
वीरो निर्गलितोऽथ खड्गफलकौ गृह्णन् विचित्रश्रमान्
व्यावृण्वन् पुनरापपात भुवनग्रासोद्यतं त्वामहो ! ॥५॥
The king of asuras, certain in his mind that this must be Vishnu who must be killed, approached you with great speed swinging his mace. You caught of hold him with your two stout hands but he wriggled out of your grip and, taking up a sword and armour, and displaying different skills in fighting, approached You who stood there as if you would devour all of this world
भ्राम्यन्तं दितिजाधमं पुनरपि प्रोद्गृह्य दोर्भ्यां जवात्
द्वारेऽथोरुयुगे निपात्य नखरान् व्युत्खाय वक्षोभुवि ।
पायं पायमुदीरयो बहुजगत्संहारिसिंहारवान् ॥६॥
You again caught hold of the meanest of Asuras, who was circling around you, with both of your hands. You then knocked him down at the door and, laying him on your thighs, dug your nails into his chest and, ripping it open, drank the copious blood gushing out in a festive mood and let out great many roars of a lion,sending the worlds into a turmoil.
त्यक्त्वा तं हतमाशु रक्तलहरीसिक्तोन्नमद्वर्ष्मणि
प्रत्युत्पत्य समस्तदैत्यपटलीं चाखाद्यमाने त्वयि ।
भ्राम्यद्भूमि विकंपितांबुधिकुलं व्यालोलशैलोत्करं
प्रोत्सर्पत्खचरं चराचरमहो दुःस्थामवस्थां दधौ ॥ ७॥
O Lord ! When you left Hiranyhakashipu dead and, with your body smeared with blood and stretched to its full height, you sprang up and started eating the horde of asuras, both the moving and non-moving life became highly unstable with the earth spinning furiously, the seas becoming tumultuous, mountains quaking and the celestial bodies (stars and planets) moving erratically.
त्वां मध्येसभमिद्धरोषमुषितं दुर्वारगुर्वारवम् ।
अभ्येतुं न शशाक कोऽपि भुवने दूरे स्थिता भीरवः
सर्वे शर्वविरिञ्चवासवमुखाः प्रत्येकमस्तोषत ॥८॥
By then, with your body frightening with the flesh and blood of (those killed), wearing a fearful garland of intestines and seated in the centre of the hall with burning anger and deafening lion’s roar, no one dared to come anywhere near you and timidly stayed away. Devas led by Siva, Brahma and Indra sang your praises separately.
भूयोप्यक्षतरोषधाम्नि भवति ब्रह्माज्ञया बालके
प्रह्लादे पदयोर्नमत्यपभये कारुण्यभाराकुलः ।
शान्तस्त्वं करमस्य मूर्ध्नि समधाः स्तोत्रैरथोद्गायत-
स्तस्याकामधियोऽपि तेनिथ वरं लोकाय चानुग्रहम् ॥९॥
Even then, there was no abatement in your anger. At the instance of Brahma, Prahlada bowed at your feet without fear and you, pressed down by the weight of compassion for your devotee, regained your calmness, put your hand on the head of Prahlada who was profusely singing hymns in your praise and granted him boons though Prahlada himself did not have any desires. You also blessed all the worlds by killing the asura hordes
एवं नाटितरौद्रचेष्टित ! विभो ! श्रीतापनीयाभिध-
तत्तादृङ्निखिलोत्तरं पुनरहो! कस्त्वां परो लंघयेत् ?
प्रह्लादप्रिय! हे मरुत्पुरपते सर्वामयात् पाहि माम् ॥१०॥
O Lord ! You of the purest form, whose greatness is extolled in shri Nrisimhatapani Upanishad, did enact this drama of terrible anger (It is not your real nature). Who can violate or transgress you who are above everything else? O Lord of Guruvayur for whom Prahlada is very dear! save me from all my afflictions.