The Bhagavata Purana

by G. V. Tagare | 1950 | 780,972 words | ISBN-10: 8120838203 | ISBN-13: 9788120838208

This page describes The Life of Prahlada—Hiranyakashipu attempts to kill Prahlada which is chapter 5 of the English translation of the Bhagavata Purana, one of the eighteen major puranas containing roughly 18,000 metrical verses. Topics include ancient Indian history, religion, philosophy, geography, mythology, etc. The text has been interpreted by various schools of philosophy. This is the fifth chapter of the Seventh Skandha of the Bhagavatapurana.

Chapter 5 - The Life of Prahlāda—Hiraṇyakaśipu attempts to kill Prahlāda

[Sanskrit text for this chapter is available]

Nārada said:

1. As is reported, the glorious Kāvya (Śukra) was selected by demons to fill the office of the royal priest. His two sons, Śaṇḍa and Amarka, stayed near the palace of the king of Daityas.

2. They taught the course of studies (in politics and such other sciences) to Prahlāda and other eligible Asura students sent to them by the king, even though Prahlāda was expert in philosophy.

3. Whatever was taught there by the teacher, he (carefully) listened and reproduced it. But he did not approve of the teaching that was on the false notion of distinguishing between (man and man) as friends and enemies.

4. Oh Pāṇḍava, once upon a time, the king of Asuras seated the child on his lap and asked him, “What do you regard as good, my child?”

Prahlāda replied:

5. Oh Prominent Asura! To embodied beings who are always mentally harassed with the false notion of ‘I’ and ‘Mine’, I regard that it is in their interest that they should abandon the hidden-well-like household which is degrading to the Soul and should enter into the woods and seek shelter with Hari.

Nārada said:

6. Having heard the words of his son which were in favour of the hostile party, he laughed (derisively) and exclaimed: “How the understanding of children gets perverted through contact with others (inimical element)!”

7. Let the child be so carefully guarded in his preceptor’s house, that this intellect should not be vitiated by Brāhmaṇas who are the partisans of Viṣṇu in cognito.

8. When brought home (from the palace of Hiraṇyakaśipu), the royal priests of Daityas sent for him. Praising him in soft words, they enquired of him in coaxing terms and in a conciliatory tone.

9. “Oh child Prahlāda! May you be happy! Please tell (us) the truth; do not tell a lie. What caused this perversion of intellect which is beyonḍ(i.e. not found in) boys of your age?

10. Is this change (distraction) in your mind brought out by others? Or has it taken place automatically due to your innate nature?

Prahlāda said:

11. Obeisance to the glorious Lord whose deluding power (Māyā) has created the wrong concept that ‘this is mine’ and ‘this is another’s’, found in men whose intellect is deluded by Māyā.[1]

12. When He is favourable, the beast-like understanding apprehending differentiation that “This is different (from me) and I am different (from him)”, comes to an end.

13. It is the Supreme Soul which is looked upon as one’s own Self and another, by stupid people to whom His ways are inscrutable and indescribable. (It is however no wonder.) Even god Brahmā and other exponents of the Veda, are stupefied when they enquire about his nature. It is that Soul who has changed my mind (and outlook).

14. Oh Brahman! Just as a piece of iron within the vicinity of a magnet is automatically attracted towards it, my mind, of its own accord (without any ostensible reason), is gravitated to Lord Viṣṇu.

Nārada said:

15. Having spoken (explained) as above, the highly intelligent Prahlāda stopped (speaking). Reproaching him threateningly, the wretched royal servant got enraged (and ordered):

16. “Who is there? Bring me a cane. This boy brings disreputation to us. The fourth expedient (corporal punishment) has been prescribed in the Śāstras, in case of such a wicked-minded fellow who ruins his family.

17. This boy is like a thorny tree grown in the forest of sandal trees in the form of Daityas. He serves as a handle to Viṣṇu who is (like) an axe cutting the roots of that forest.”

18. Intimidating him with various expedients like threats (corporal punishment and others), they made Prahlāda to learn (the text dealing with) the first three objects of human life (viz. dharma, artha and kāma).

19. Later on, the teacher was convinced that Prahlāda had mastered (known) the four branches in political strategy (viz. sāma, dāna, daṇḍa and bheda). After Prahlāda’s mother bathed, dressed and adorned him, he was brought to the presence of the king of Daityas.

20. The Asura (Hiraṇyakaśipu) greeted with blessings his child who lay prostrate at his feet. For a long time he hugged him in his arms and felt deep satisfaction and happiness.

21. Placing him on the lap and smelling the crown of his head, he bathed him with tears. Oh Yudhiṣṭhira, then he spoke to the child of cheerful countenance.

Hiraṇyakaśipu said:

22. “My dear child Prahlāda! Please recite some excellent passages that you have learnt well from what your teacher has taught you up to this time, Oh long-lived one!”

Prahlāda said:

23-24. “There are nine forms of devotion to Lord Viṣṇu—(1) to hear the names, episodes etc. of Viṣṇu, (2) to sing of his name and glories, (3) to Remember him (his name), (4) to render service unto him, (5) to worship him, (6) to pay obeisance to him, (7) to dedicate all one’s actions to him, (8) to confide to him as a friend, (9) to offer one’s body and belongings to his service and care. I regard it as the highest type of learning, if one offers himself completely to the Lord and performs this nine-fold devotion[2] (regards complete dedication as the condition precedent of real devotion)

25. Hearing these words of his son, Hiraṇyakaśipu, with his lips quivering with rage, reproached Śukra’s son (the preceptor’s son) as follows:

26. “You wretch of a Brāhmaṇa! What does this mean? Wicked fellow! You sided with the enemies and disregarding me completely, you have taught some non-sense to the child.

27. There are wicked persons in this world who assume a friend’s garb, but their friendship is treacherous. Their sin (sinfulness) becomes manifest in due time, like the grave diseases of sinners.”[3]

Preceptor’s (Śukra’s) son said:

28. What this son of yours speaks is not taught by me or by any person. Oh foe of Indra! It is his innate intelligence! Oh king! Please control your anger. Do not lay the blame on us.

Nārada said:

29. When he was thus replied by (Prahlāda’s) preceptor, the Asura (Hiraṇyakaśipu) again asked his son: “If this perverted understanding has not been caused by the teaching of your preceptor, whence has it come, you inauspicious boy?”

Prahlāda said:

30. (Unswerving attachment and) firm fixation of the mind on Kṛṣṇa does not arise through (the advice of) another, or of one’s own accord, or by mutual efforts in the case of those who are firmly devoted to their household (as if it were a sacred vow). Nor (is it engendered) in persons who have not controlled their senses, and who now and again enter the darkness of Saṃsāra, and who again and again ruminate (repeatedly experience) what they have enjoyed (in former births).

31. They whose heart is polluted (by their attachment to worldly objects) do not know Viṣṇu, to be their (real) objective in life and goal. For they look up for guidance to those who regard the external objects as their aim in life, and are like the blind persons led by the blind. They are tied down (like beasts) with Lord Viṣṇu’s long rope in the form of Vedic injunctions prescribing rites to be performed for future good. (These persons are like persons who go to the east in search of an object lost in the west).

32. So long as persons do not seek bath in the dust on the feet of those noble Souls (the devotees of Viṣṇu) who have shed off attachment to worldly objects, the mind of such persons cannot touch (reach) the feet of Lord Viṣṇu (the Lord of long strides as Trivikrama or the Lord of infinite prowess), the object of which is the cessation of Saṃsāra (the cycle of births and deaths and the miseries involved).”[4]

33. Hardly did the son (Prahlāda) stop speaking, when Hiraṇyakaśipu with his mind blinded with rage, hurled him from his lap, down to the ground.

34. Overwhelmed with unbeareble (violent) wrath, and with eyes reddened with anger, he ordered, “This boy deserves capital punishment. Let him be executed immediately. Oh Nairṛtas, take him away from my presence.

35. This (boy) is verily the murderer of my brother. For this wretched fellow, deserting his own well-wishers, worships like a slave the feet of Viṣṇu, the assassinator of his paternal uncle.

36. Or even to Viṣṇu what good purpose can he serve, I doubt; for even as a child of five, he forfeited his parental affection which is so hard to sever.

37. If beneficial, even a stranger should be treated as a child, like medicine (though the medicinal herbs grow into the forest—outside and away from one’s home—they are preserved at home). If a son begotten by one’s own self becomes inimical (works against one’s interest) he should be treated like a disease. One should amputate that part of the body which is injurious to the body as a whole, if by removing it, the rest (of the body) can live in happiness.

38. Like an uncontrolled sense-organ, in the case of a sage, he is a veritable enemy masquerading as a friend (son.). He should be disposed of by all expedients, e.g. administering poison in food, killing him while sitting unguarded or while asleep.”

39-40 Commanded thus by their master, the demons with sharp teeth, terrific faces and reddish hair and beard, armed themselves with tridents, and giving out terrible yells and shouting “Gut him, kill him”, pierced Prahlāda in all the vital parts with their tridents while he was sitting quietly.

41. All their attempts on (the life of) Prahlāda proved fruitless and ineffectual, like the pious acts of a person with no past meritorious deeds to his credit; for Prahlāda’s mind was in communion with the glorious Lord who is the Soul of all beings, the incomprehensible Supreme Brahman.

42. When that attempt was thwarted, the king of demons grew alarmed and he persistently devised other expedients to kill Prahlāda, Oh Yudhiṣṭhira.

43-44. When the Asura could not kill his innocent son by employing elephants guarding the quarters, great serpents, by use of black magic, by hurling him down from mountain peaks, by using illusive powers (māyā), by confining him in dark holes (silos), administering him poison, by starvation, by exposing him to snow, winds, by throwing him in fire and by throwing mountains on him, he was plunged in the deepest anxiety and could not think of any other (effective) measure to kill him.

45. (Hiraṇyakaśipu thought to himself). “This boy has been severely reproached by me now and again. Measures to kill him were also adopted. But by dint of his own power and energy, he has survived unaffected by those tortures and black spells.

46. He is not away from my presence. Though he is still a boy, his mind is not daunted (through my fear). He is so powerful that he will not forget (and forgive) my unrighteousness (and maltreatment) like Śunaḥśepa.[5]

47. He is of immeasurable prowess; he entertains fear from nobody as if he is immortal. It is certain that my death will take place by confronting him or possibly it may not (overtake at all)

48. In this anxious mood, he was sitting with his countenance pale and downcast, when Śaṇḍa and Amarka, the two sons of Śukra spoke to him in private, as follows:

49. “You have single-handedly conquered the three worlds by terrifying all the Lokapālas (guardian deities of the world) by merely contracting your eye-brows. For such a (powerful) Lord as you are, we see no reason for anxiety. The behaviour of children should not be seriously judged as good or bad.

50. Keep him bound down by the noose of Varuṇa so that he should not run away out of fear, till your teacher Śukra returns. A man’s understanding may improve with advancement of age and service of the noble ones.”

51. Expressing his assent to the proposals of the preceptor’s sons, he ordered, “The duties prescribed for royal householders be taught to him.”

52. Oh King! Then they taught in serial order the details only of Dharma, Artha, Kāma, to Prahlāda who was both modest and obedient.

53. (Though taught systematically), Prahlāda did not approve of the teaching of only the first three objects of human life (as mentioned above), as this instruction was meant for those who were interested in pairs like attachment and hatred, and in the enjoyment of objects of senses.

54. When the teacher was not present (at his class) due to some household duties, he was invited by the school-companions of his age who found opportunity for play (and merrymaking).

55. Responding to their call in sweet words, the wise Prahlāda, knowing their attachment to him, spoke to them with a smile, out of grace.

56-57. Out of great regard for him, all the boys whose minds were not vitiated by the advice or actions of persons (teachers) who were given to worldly enjoyments and were subject to love, hate etc., set aside all their play-things. With their eyes and hearts fixed on him, they sat round him. The Asura (Prahlāda) who was a great devotee of Viṣṇu and full of compassion and friendship, addressed them.

Footnotes and references:


Padaratnāvalī attributes this delusion to the Lord.

vimohitetyanenā pīśvara-kartṛtvaṃ jñāyate /”


Kramasandarbha. has given a long but excellent exposition of Bhakti and its nine forms which deserve perusal in the original.


Bhāvāratha Dīpikā quotes a smṛti text according to which certain types of sinners, e.g., murderer of a Brāhmaṇa, a habitual drunkard, a debaucherous person violating his teacher’s bed have to suffer from heinous diseases even after completing their term in hell. The question is repeated by VC., Bhāvārtha-dīpikā-prakāśa, Bālaprabodhini and others.


Bhāvāratha Dīpikā states: Unless one secures the grace of such exalted Souls, the exact implication of Vedānta and the consequent liberation is impossible.

Anvitārthaprakāśikā. also agrees with this view.

Bālaprabodhini and Bhaktamanorañjanī state that hereby Prahlāda suggests that it was through Nārada’s grace that he got this spiritual revelation.


This refers to the legend of Śunaḥśepa in the Aitareya Brāhmaṇa. Śunaḥśepa disowned his father Ajīgarta for selling him for sacrifice to Hariścandra and adopted another—Viśvāmitragotra.—Bhāvāratha Dīpikā

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