Belur Chennakeshava Temple: Vishnu’s incarnation Narasimha slaying Hiranyakashipu

Belur Chennakeshava Temple - Story of Narasimhavatara - Vishnu's incarnation Narasimha slaying Hiranyakashipu

Narasimhavatara – Vishnu’s incarnation Narasimha slaying Hiranyakashipu

Narasimhavatara – Slaying of Hiranyakashipu
The Narasimhavatara relief is carved on a pillar attached to the exterior wall surrounding the garbhagriha of the Chennakeshava Temple at Belur in Karnataka, India. This pillar is located near the two-storied shrine on the south side.

Narasimhavatara is the fourth avatar of Vishnu. In Sanskrit, nara means man and simha means lion. In this avatar, Vishnu has a man’s torso with a lion’s face and claws. He adopted this body to kill an asura named Hiranyakashipu, who wanted to take revenge on Vishnu for killing his brother Hiranyaksha in his previous avatar, i.e., Varahavatara, the third avatar of Vishnu. Check the Dashavatara painting on the Hampi Virupaksha Temple Murals for a list and description of all the ten avatars of Vishnu.

Here is the story of Narasimhavatara in brief:
To exact revenge for his brother’s death, Hiranyakashipu performs an intense tapasu (austerity and meditation) to please Brahma from whom he expects to obtain a vara (boon) that would give him special powers and make him immortal.

Pleased with Hiranyakashipu, Brahma asks for his wish. When Brahma realizes that he wants to become immortal, Brahma refuses his request but suggests that he can ask for other varas. Hiranyakashipu then cleverly asks Brahma that he must not be killed by a man or animal, or by any weapons.

Brahma accedes to this request and endows him with the vara. With the superpowers he gained from the vara, Hiranyakashipu assumes the godly status and starts tormenting Vishnu’s devotees, including his own son Prahlada. To solve this problem, Vishnu cleverly transforms himself as Narasimha (lion-man) and kills Hiranyakashipu in a gruesome manner by ripping off his entrails with his bare claws.

The relief depicts Vishnu with the lion head and human torso having multiple hands with claws. With the body of Hiranyakashipu lying on his lap, Vishnu is seen ripping the entrails of Hiranyakashipu with his claws.

Related Images
Dashavatara (Ten Incarnations of Vishnu) painted on the ceiling of Hampi Virupaksha Temple
Lakshmi – Narasimha sculptural relief in Somanathapura Chennakeshava Temple
Narasimhavatara sculpture in Cave – 3 of the rock-cut caves of Badami
Ugra Narasimha carved on the lintel of the south garbhagriha door in the Kappe Chennigaraya Temple

Related Pages
Belur Chennakeshava Temple – Bracket Figures
Belur Chennakeshava Temple – Navaranga
Belur Chennakeshava Temple – Garbhagriha Outer Wall
Somanathapura Keshava Temple – A Masterpiece of Hoysala Temple Art
Hampi Virupaksha Temple Murals
Badami, Cave – 1, Cave – 2, Cave – 3, Cave – 4

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