Lord Narasimha Disemboweling Hiranyakashipu, Bhagavata Purana, India, Himachal Pradesh, Nurpur (1760-1770) (Old Indian Paintings)

Story of Narasimha and Hiranyakashipu

Lord Vishnu takes the form of Narasimha in his fourth incarnation, the previous one being that of a Boar (Varaha). Vishnu kills the demon Hiranyaksha during his Varaha avatar.

Hiranyaksha’s brother Hiranyakashipu wants to take revenge by destroying Lord Vishnu and his followers. He performs penance to please Brahma, the god of creation. Impressed by this act, Brahma offers him anything he wants.

Lord Narasimha Disemboweling Hiranyakashipu, Bhagavata Purana, India, Himachal Pradesh, Nurpur (1760-1770) (Old Indian Paintings)

Lord Narasimha Disemboweling Hiranyakashipu, Bhagavata Purana, India, Himachal Pradesh, Nurpur (1760-1770)

Lord Narasimha Disemboweling Hiranyakashipu, Bhagavata Purana, India, Himachal Pradesh, Nurpur (1760-1770)

Lord Narasimha Disemboweling Hiranyakashipu, Bhagavata Purana, India, Himachal Pradesh, Nurpur (1760-1770)

Narasimha Disemboweling Hiranyakashipu, Folio from a Bhagavata Purana (Ancient Stories of the Lord)

India, Himachal Pradesh, Nurpur, circa 1760-1770

Drawings; watercolors

Opaque watercolor and gold on paper

From the Nasli and Alice Heeramaneck Collection

Hiranyakashipu asks for a tricky boon. That he would not die either on earth or in space; nor in fire nor in water; neither during day nor at night; neither inside nor outside (of a home); nor by a human, animal or God; neither by inanimate nor by animate being.

Brahma grants the boon. With virtually no fear of death he unleashes terror. Declares himself as god and asks people to utter no god’s name except his. However his son Prahlada (who a devoted worshiper of Lord Vishnu!) refuses. Repeated pressurization on him yields no results for Hiranyakashipu. Prahlada declares the omnipresence of Lord Vishnu.

Once Hiranyakashipu points to a pillar and asks if Vishnu is present in it. Prahlada nods in affirmative. Angered at it, he draws his sword and cuts the pillar; Narasimha appears out of the broken pillar.

Narasimha (being a man-lion god form) kills Hiranyakashipu. He comes out to kill at the twilit (neither day nor night);on the doorsteps of his palace (neither inside nor outside); uses his nails to kill (neither animate nor inanimate); puts him on his lap before killing (neither earth nor in space). Thus making power of the boon ineffective.

The death of this demon king is celebrated as Holi (the celebration of colors) in India, especially in the northern parts.

Nasli and Alice Heeramaneck Collection

Nasli Heeramaneck (1902-March 29, 1971) was an Parsi-American art dealer, specializing in Asian and Pre-Columbian art. Born in Bombay, he moved to New York in the 1920s, and lived and worked there until his death. Works collected by him and his wife, Alice, are now held by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the National Museum of New Delhi, and Yale University.

Nurpur Paintings

The paintings of Nurpur style are very famous all over the world. The skilled artists of pahari made very excellent paintings. Nurpur paintings of Himachal Pradesh usually employ bright colors and flat backgrounds. However, in the later periods, the dazzling colors were replaced by muted ones.

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