The Worship of Lord Narasiṁha

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The Worship of Govardhana

by Swami B.G. Narasingha

‘The Worship of Lord Narasiṁha’ was written by Swami B.G. Narasingha on May 1st 2004. In this article Narasingha Maharaja explains the reason why Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas, who generally worship Mahāprabhu and Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa, worship Kṛṣṇa in the fierce form of Narasiṁha.

Question: I have seen on your website that you have installed and worship Deities of Lord Narasiṁha in your āśrama. When Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas are devotees of Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa why do you worship Lord Narasiṁha?

Answer: The goal of a Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava is to develop pure love for Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa and all aspects of our practices lead to that end and to that end alone. Therefore, we worship Lord Narasiṁha who has the capacity to purify a heart filled with lust, to destroy the desire for fame and cunning behaviour, to purify us from duplicitous dealings, to bestow fearlessness upon our weary souls and who’s lotus feet bestow love for Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa.

By the association of Lord Narasiṁha’s devotees all obstacles (anarthas) are cast far away and one develops loving attachment for the holy names of Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa.

Lord Narasiṁha also gives the benediction of being able to worship Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa and to live peacefully without disturbance in the holy dhāma (in this case Govindajī Gardens).

The devotees of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu who have an affinity for Māyāpura-dhāma are often found to have an affinity for Lord Narasiṁha. This was especially true for the great Kṛṣṇa consciousness pioneer, Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura, and in recent times Śrīla Bhakti Pramoda Purī Gosvāmī. Both these great personalities manifested an affinity toward Lord Narasiṁha. Śrī Advaita Ācārya is also purported to have worshipped Lord Narasiṁha in the form of a narasiṁha-śāligrāma with tulasī leaves and Ganges water when He called Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu to manifest in this world at Māyāpura. So it is only natural for a follower of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu to have an affinity toward Lord Narasiṁha.

We find at Yogapīṭha, the birth site of Śrī Caitanya, that the Deity of Lakṣmī-Narasiṁha is established next to the shrine of Śrī Śrī Gaura-Gadādhara. Śrīla Bhaktivinoda has said that Lord Narasiṁha attends the maṅgala-āratika at Yogapīṭha every morning. Thus, a Deity of Lord Narasiṁha is established there.

Also at Nṛsiṅghapalli in Navadvīpa-dhāma, there is a very ancient temple of Lord Narasiṁha who came to that place and manifested His Deity form. After killing Hiraṇyakaśipu Lord Narasiṁha came to rest at Nṛsiṅghapalli and the Demigods and great devotees came there to worship Him.

At Gopīnātha Gauḍīya Maṭha, in the section of Māyāpura known as Iśodyāna (the Garden of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī), Śrīla Purī Mahārāja worshipped the Deity of Lakṣmī-Narasiṁha along with the worship of Śrī Śrī Rādhā Gopīnātha and Śrī Śrī Gaura-Gadādhara. And every year on the day before Śrīla Purī Mahārāja’s Vyāsa Pūjā, all the devotees would go to Nṛsiṅghapalli for darśana and a festival of kīrtana and hari-kathā. Invariably the hari-kathā always touched upon the section of Śrīmad Bhāgavatam call Prahlāda-caritra wherein the pastime of Prahlāda and Lord Narasiṁha is described. This section of Bhāgavatam was also a favourite of Śrīla Gaura Kiśora Dāsa Bābāji Mahārāja as it was for Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu and His associates in Jagannātha Purī.

gadādhara paḍena sammukhe bhāgavata
śuniñā prakāśe prabhu prema-bhāva yata
prahlāda-caritra āra dhruvera caritra
śatā-vṛtti kariyā śunena svahita

“Whenever Śrī Gadadhara would recite the Prahlāda-caritra and Dhruva-caritra from Bhāgavatam, the Lord would manifest various symptoms of love. The Lord would hear the glories of Prahlāda and Dhruva hundreds of times.” (Śrī Caitanya-bhāgavata, Antya-khaṇḍa 10.13-14)

Sometimes pseudo-devotees of Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa denounce the worship of Lord Narasiṁha and reject the chanting of Narasiṁha mantras. Such devotees do not know that if they themselves were to worship Lord Narasiṁha they might become free from their cunning and deceitful behaviour and advance in their worship of Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa.

However, we do not find in the writings of the Six Gosvāmīs that the gopīs in Goloka Vṛndāvana worshipped Lord Narasiṁha. But neither did they worship śāligrāma-sīlā or the tulasī plant, all of which are recommended activities for devotees in the stage of practice.

Also we do not find any temples of Lord Narasiṁha established by the Six Gosvāmīs in Vṛndāvana. This absence of temples of Lord Narasiṁha in Vṛndāvana is certainly understandable because Lord Narasiṁha is not present in His fierce form where the love dalliances of Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa are in progress.

But at Keśavajī Gauḍīya Maṭha in Mathurā established by Śrīla Bhakti Prajñāna Keśava Gosvāmī Mahārāja we find that the ugra (angry) form of Lord Narasiṁha is established in a small shrine on the roof of that maṭha (although no formal worship is offered). So at least in some situations we do find that Lord Narasiṁha is present in Vṛndāvana.

At Śrīvasa-aṅgana in Māyāpura, which is considered non-different from the mood of Vṛndāvana, and the place where Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu began His saṅkīrtana movement, there is a Deity of Ugra Narasiṁha killing Hiraṇyakaśipu. The Deity is placed just in front of the Pañca Tattva Deities. This is so because one day Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu came to the house of Śrīvāsa Paṇḍita and manifested His mood as Narasiṁha. Since that time devotees have always considered Lord Narasiṁha to be the protector of the sankirtana movement. This pastime is mentioned in Caitanya-bhāgavata, Madhya-khanda, Chapter 2, 253-269

“Walking by the riverbank, He (Śrī Caitanya Mahaprabhu) saw a herd of cows. They were mooing and drinking water. With raised tails some ran in the four directions. Some fought. Some napped. Some drank water. Seeing them, the Lord began to roar. I am He! I am He!” The Lord shouted again and again. In this way He ran to Śrīvāsa’s house.

“Śrīvāsa, what are you doing now?”, the Lord roared. Within his home, Śrīvāsa was worshiping Lord Narasiṁha. Pounding again and again, Śrī Caitanya broke the door open. Whom do you worship? On whom do you meditate? Look! The person you worship has come!” the Lord roared.

“Śrīvāsa saw a form like blazing fire, Then his meditation broke. He looked in the four directions. He saw Śrī Caitanya sitting in a vīrāsana yoga posture. Śrī Caitanya had four arms. He held a conch-shell, cakra, club, and lotus. He roared like a maddened lion. Slapping the palm of His hand against His left shoulder, He made a great sound. Seeing all this, Śrīvāsa trembled. Then he became stunned. He did not move.

“The Lord roared, O Śrīvāsa! For so many days you did not know My true identity? Because of your loud saṅkīrtana I left Vaikuṇṭha and came here with all My associates. Not knowing Me, You left Me and went to Śāntipura. I will rescue the devotees. I will kill all the demons. Don’t worry. Now recite prayers to Me.” Gazing at the Lord, Śrīvāsa wept tears of love. The fears in his heart died. Now He was confident. His whole body was filled with joy.

“He offered daṇḍavat obeisances. Then, folding his hands, he recited prayers. By his nature, Śrīvāsa Paṇḍita was a great devotee of the Lord. He accepted the Lord’s order. By the Lord’s desire, he recited prayers.”

The Deity form of Ugra Narasiṁha is usually not worshipped by the devotees of Mahaprabhu or by the devotees of Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa except in special situations or in special places. The ugra form of the Lord is very fearful and hard to please. Of course such has become the fashion among certain devotees, but it is actually imprudent on the part of a devotee to think that he can pacify Lord Narasiṁha when the Lord is in an angry mood.

At the time of killing Hiraṇyakaśipu Lord Narasiṁha manifested great anger, so much so that the Demigods, great devotees like Nārada Muni, and even Lakṣmī (the Goddess of Fortune) were afraid to approach Him. Only the pure devotee like Prahlāda Maharaja was able to approach Lord Narasiṁha at that time. So who are we to think that we are more qualified than great devotees like Nārada or that we are equal to Prahlāda Maharaja? But such is our audacity.

During the Ratha Yātrā festival each year in Jagannātha Purī, when Lord Jagannātha goes to the Guṇḍicā temple Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu used to take His saṅkīrtana devotees for darśana of Lord Narasiṁha at a small temple just adjacent to Guṇḍicā. In that temple Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu performed congregational chanting of the holy names of Kṛṣṇa and danced in ecstatic love of God before the Deity. Śrī Caitanya Mahaprabhu used to manifest the bodily symptoms of love of God before the Deity such as loudly chanting the Holy Name, dancing in ecstasy, shivering and sometimes fainting.

Based on all these facts it is safe to say that the aspiring devotees should not unnecessarily avoid the worship of Lord Narasiṁha, for such would be an offence.

Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura has written five beautiful prayers in ‘Śrī Navadvīpa Bhāva Taraṅga‘ for receiving the mercy of Lord Narasiṁha. These prayers are certainly assurance to all sincere devotees that the worship of Lord Narasiṁha is purely in the line of aspiring love and devotion to Śrī Śrī Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa. Those prayers are as follows.

e duṣṭa hṛdaye kāma ādi ripu chaya
kuṭinaṭi pratiṣṭhāśā śāṭhya sadā raya
hṛdaya-śodhana āra kṛṣṇera bāsanā
nṛsiṁha-caraṇe more ei to kāmanā

“Within my sinful heart the six enemies headed by lust perpetually reside, as well as duplicity, the desire for fame, plus sheer cunning. At the lotus feet of Lord Narasiṁha, I hope that He will mercifully purify my heart and give me the desire to serve Lord Kṛṣṇa.”

kāṅdiyā nṛsiṁha-pade magiba kakhana
nirāpade navadvīpe yugala-bhajana
bhaya, bhaya pāya yaṅra darśana se hari
prasanna haibe kabe more dayā kāri

“Weeping, I will beg at the lotus-feet of Lord Narasiṁha for the benediction of worshipping Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa in Navadvīpa, perfectly safe and free from all difficulties. When will this Lord Hari, Whose terrible form strikes fear into fear itself, ever become pleased and show me His mercy?”

yadyapi bhīṣaṇa mūrti duṣṭa jīva prati
prahlādādi kṛṣṇa-bhakta-jane bhadra ati
kabe vā prasanna ha’ye sakṛpā-vacane
nirbhaya karibe ei mūḍha akiñcane

“Even though Lord Narasiṁha is terrifying toward the sinful souls, He offers great auspiciousness unto the devotees of Lord Kṛṣṇa headed by Prahlāda Maharaja. When will He be pleased to speak words of compassion unto me, a worthless fool, and thereby make me fearless?”

svacchande baisa he vatsa śrī gaurāṅga-dhāme
yugala-bhajana hau, rati hau nāme
mama bhakta-kṛpā-bale vighna yābe dūra
śuddha citte bhaja rādhā-kṛṣṇa-rasapūra

“He will say, ‘Dear child! Sit sown freely and live happily here in Śrī Gaurāṅga-dhāma. May you nicely worship the Divine Couple, and may you develop loving attachment for Their Holy Names. By the mercy of My devotees, all obstacles are cast far away. With a purified heart, just perform the worship of Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa, for such worship overflows with sweet nectar.’”

ei bali’ kabe mora mastaka-upara
svīya śrī caraṇa harṣe dharibe īśvara
amani yugala-preme sattvika-vikāre
dharāya luṭiba āmi śrī nṛsiṁha-dvāre

“Saying this, will that Lord delightedly place His own divine lotus-feet upon my head? I will experience sublime love for the Divine Couple Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa and undergo the ecstatic transformations called sāttvika. Falling on the ground, I will roll about at the door of Śrī Narasiṁha’s temple.”

(Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura – Śrī Navadvīpa Bhāva Taraṅga, 36-40)

The Worship of Govardhana

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