H for Hiranyaksha and Hiranyakashipu

Hiranyaksha and Hiranyakashipu

Hiranyaksha and Hiranyakashipu are two Asura brothers from the Hindu Puranic scriptures. They were born to sage Kashyap and his wife Diti. They were the  gatekeepers of Viakunta, Vishnu’s abode, in their earlier life. Their names were Jaya and Vijaya. Legend says that Jaya and Vijaya ridiculed and did not allow four kumaras to enter Vaikunta to pay visit to Vishnu. Four Kumaras, four sages who roam the universe as naked children, were angered with the gatekeepers behavior and cursed them to be born on Earth with bad traits of lust, anger and greed. Thus were born Hiranyaksha and Hiranyakashipu.

Hiranyaksha determined to create havoc in the universe prayed to Brahma and got blessed with a boon that he could not be killed by either a human or animal. Feeling mighty with the boon Hiranyaksha kidnaps Mother Earth or Bhudevi and takes her into primordial waters. Bhudevi prays Vishnu to rescue her. Vishnu assumes his Varahavatar, an anthropomorphic form with a boar’s head and human body, and lifts the Earth on his tusks. Varaha gets into a duel with Hiranyaksha and slays him after a thousand year battle thus saving Earth. Bhudevi falls in love with Varaha and gives birth to Narakasura after their marriage.

Hiranyakashipu now wanted to avenge the murder of his brother and prayed Brahma and asked for immortality. Brahma denied this boon but said that he could bind Hiranyakashipu’s death based on some conditions so Hiranyakashipu laid out his conditions. He asked for a boon such that no living being, human being, animal, weapon  can kill him within any residence or outside a residence, during daytime or night, not on earth or space. He asked that no demigod or demon or by any great snake from the lower planets can kill him. Brahma granted him his wish and Hiranyakashipu was happy to have won over death. The only problem Hiranyakashipu was now left with was his Son Prahalad. Hiranyakashipu badgered by Prahalad’s devotion to Vishnu decides to commit filicide. Vishnu appears in the form of Narasimha to kill Hiranyakashipu. In this avatar, he is  part-human and part-animal having a human-like torso and lower body, with a lion-like face and claws. Adhering to the Hiranyakashipu’s boon, Narasimha kills Hiranyakashipu in twilight (neither daylight nor night), on the threshold of a courtyard (neither inside nor outside a residence)  putting the asura on his thighs (neither earth nor space) and using his sharp fingernails as weapons.

Jaya and Vijaya were born as Hiranyaksha and Hiranyakashipu in their first life and lead to two avatars of Vishnu. They were born as Ravana and Kumbhakarna and were killed by Vishnu who descended as Rama in their second life.  They were born as Shishupala and Dantavakra in their third life and were killed by Vishnu in his Krishnavatar. Statues of Jaya and Vijaya standing as gatekeepers can be seen in many ancient Hindu temples like the Jagannath temple in Puri and Chennakesava temple in Belur.

One thought on “H for Hiranyaksha and Hiranyakashipu

  1. Good one. The legend goes like this.
    Vishnu gave them a choice. They could continue to love Him for 7 cycles of birth or hate Him for 3 cycles before coming back. Since they could not be separated from the Lord for 7 cycles, they chose the other option and hence became Vishnu Haters in all the 3 cycles before attaining the Lotus Feet for Vishnu.

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