Situation had turned askew for the rakshas prince, Prahlad, even before he was born. His father, King Hrinyakashipu, had gone off to forest to seek mystic powers to destroy his arch enemy, Vishnu. During Hrinyakashipu’s absence, Indra invaded the rakshas’ kingdom and carried off Kayadu, his pregnant queen, along with other rakshas women. While Queen Kayadu was in the captivity of devatas, Narad Muni happened to deliver discourses on devotion to the Godhead. Prahlad, still in his mother’s womb, heard those sermons and became a staunch devotee of Vishnu Bhagwan. The future course of his life was set.
Suman K Sharma
In time, Indra released Queen Kayadu on Narad Muni’s intervention. King Hrinyakashipu also returned to his land, having received Brahma’s boons. Prahlad was born in his father’s house. Hrinyakashipu fondly tried to initiate infant son into the ways of a rakshas prince. But the latter showed no inclination to follow his father’s instructions. On the contrary, he started showing signs of fervour for Vishnu.
That turned his father against him. At Harinyakashipu’s command to deviate him from his path of devotion, rakshasas inflicted intense pain on him. They threw him before wild elephants to be trampled under their feet, he survived. They set deadly snakes to bite him, but the creatures slithered away without harming him. They tortured him in all manners known to them, but he remained steadfast in his bhakti.
Hrinyakashipuwondered what to do. He consulted his sister, Holika, who was deft in magic. Holika assured Hrinyakashipu that she knew how to deal with such persistent devotees of Vishnu. She asked little Prahlad to come over to her. Pretending to shower on him the affection of a doting aunt, she made him sit in her lap. Prahlad willingly followed her instruction. Holika then folded the child tightly in her arms and in an instant huge flames engulfed both of them. When, after the fire had died away,Hrinyakashipu and his people found to their dismay thatHolika was burnt to cinders by her own ploy, while Prahlad came out of it, unharmed once again.
The path of intense love and devotion is not an easy one. It is beset with trials and tribulations. Hrinyakashipus of the world are wont to deter the devotees with fear and tyranny. Holikas think little of trying to scorch the delicate feelings of devoutness by their feigned affection or outright cruelty.But if Prahlads do not waver in his devotion to Vishnu, the Deity too stands by them through thick and thin.
As Krishna Bhagwan says in Gita (Chapter 12, verse 12), devote yourself entirely to Him; and He,holding you dearest of all, will not let any harm come to you.
But that kind of love and devotion demands firmest commitment, surpassing any other bond of kinship or loyalty. It is the child-like simplicity of Prahlad that makes him go for the unseen Vishnu and defy his powerful father who is present before him all the time in flesh and blood.
Such simplicity would be dismissed today as childish, if not outright madness.