Viṣṇu Purāṇa | Book 1 - Chapter 18

Chapter XVIII

Hiraṇyakaśipu’s reiterated attempts to destroy his son: their being always frustrated.

THE Dānavas, observing the conduct of Prahlāda, reported it to the king, lest they should incur his displeasure.

He sent for his cooks, and said to them:

"My vile and unprincipled son is now teaching others his impious doctrines: be quick, and put an end to him. Let deadly poison be mixed up with all his viands, without his knowledge. Hesitate not, but destroy the wretch without delay."

Accordingly they did so, and administered poison to the virtuous Prahlāda, as his father had commanded them.

Prahlāda, repeating the name of the imperishable, ate and digested the food in which the deadly poison had been infused, and suffered no harm from it, either in body or mind, for it had been rendered innocuous by the name of the eternal.

Beholding the strong poison digested, those who had prepared the food were filled with dismay, and hastened to the king, and fell down before him, and said:

"King of the Daityas, the fearful poison given by us to your son has been digested by him along with his food, as if it were innocent.

Hiraṇyakaśipu, on hearing this, exclaimed: "Hasten, hasten, ministrant priests of the Daitya race! Instantly perform the rites that will bring his destruction!"

Then the priests went to Prahlāda, and, having repeated the hymns of the Sāma-Veda, said to him, as he respectfully hearkened:

"Thou hast been born, prince, in the family of Brahmā, celebrated in the three worlds, the son of Hiraṇyakaśipu, the king of the Daityas; why shouldest thou acknowledge dependence upon the gods? Why upon the eternal?

Thy father is the stay of all the worlds, as thou thyself in turn shalt be. Desist, then, from celebrating the praises of an enemy; and remember, that of all venerable preceptors, a father is most venerable."

Prahlāda replied to them:

"Illustrious Brahmans, it is true that the family of Marīchi is renowned in the three worlds; this cannot be denied: and I also admit, what is equally indisputable, that my father is mighty over the universe.

There is no error, not the least, in what you have said, 'that a father is the most venerable of all holy teachers:' he is a venerable instructor, no doubt, and is ever to be devoutly reverenced.

To all these things I have nothing to object; they find a ready assent in my mind: but when you say: 'Why should I depend upon the eternal?' who can give assent to this as right? The words are void of meaning."

Having said thus much, he was silent a while, being restrained by respect to their sacred functions; but he was unable to repress his smiles, and again said:

"What need is there of the eternal? Excellent! What need of the eternal? Admirable! Most worthy of you who are my venerable preceptors!

Hear what need there is of the eternal, if to hearken will not give you pain:

The fourfold objects of men are said to be virtue, desire, wealth, final emancipation. Is he who is the source of all these of no avail?

Virtue was derived from the eternal by Dakṣa, Marīchi, and other patriarchs; wealth has been obtained front him by others; and by others, the enjoyment of their desires:

whilst those who, through true wisdom and holy contemplation, have come to know his essence, have been released from their bondage, and have attained freedom from existence forever.

The glorification of Hari, attainable by unity, is the root of all riches, dignity, renown, wisdom, progeny, righteousness, and liberation. Virtue, wealth, desire, and even final freedom, Brahmans, are fruits bestowed by him. How then can it be said, 'What need is there of the eternal?'

But enough of this: what occasion is there to say more? You are my venerable preceptors, and, speak ye good or evil, it is not for my weak judgment to decide."

The priests said to him:

"We preserved you, boy, when you were about to be consumed by fire, confiding that you would no longer eulogize your father's foes: we knew not how unwise you were: but if you will not desist from this infatuation at our advice, we shall even proceed to perform the rites that will inevitably destroy you."

To this menace, Prahlāda answered, "What living creature slays, or is slain? What living creature preserves, or is preserved? Each is his own destroyer or preserver, as he follows evil or good."

Thus spoken to by the youth, the priests of the Daitya sovereign were incensed, and instantly had recourse to magic incantations, by which a female form, enwreathed with fiery flame, was engendered:

she was of fearful aspect, and the earth was parched beneath her tread, as she approached Prahlāda, and smote him with a fiery trident on the breast.

In vain! For the weapon fell, broken into a hundred pieces, upon the ground.

Against the breast in which the imperishable Hari resides the thunderbolt would be shivered, much more should such a weapon be split in pieces.

The magic being, then directed against the virtuous prince by the wicked priest, turned upon them, and, having quickly destroyed them, disappeared.

But Prahlāda, beholding them perish, hastily appealed to Kṛṣṇa, the eternal, for succour, and said:

"Oh Janārdana! Who are everywhere, the creator and substance of the world, preserve these Brahmans from this magical and insupportable fire. As thou art Viṣṇu, present in all creatures, and the protector of the world, so let these priests be restored to life.

If, whilst devoted to the omnipresent Viṣṇu, I think no sinful resentment against my foes, let these priests be restored to life.

If those who have come to slay me, those by whom poison was given me, the fire that would have burned, the elephants that would have crushed, and snakes that would have stung me, have been regarded by me as friends;

if I have been unshaken in soul, and am without fault in thy sight; then, I implore thee, let these, the priests of the Asuras, be now restored to life."

Thus having prayed, the Brahmans immediately rose up, uninjured and rejoicing; and bowing respectfully to Prahlāda, they blessed him, and said:

"Excellent prince, may thy days be many; irresistible be thy prowess; and power and wealth and posterity be thine."

Having thus spoken, they withdrew, and went and told the king of the Daityas all that had passed.