[Editor’s note: Today is Narasimha Chaturdasi, the appearance day of Lord Narasimha. The following is a devotee’s recollection of his visit to Ahobilam in the 1970’s.]
I love India and have been there 17 times now. During this time I was fortunate enough to travel to some of the Holy places, which seem to be unlimited. My favorite places are Vrindavan, Rishikesh and Ahobilam. Ahobilam is the place where Lord Sri Narasimha deva appeared. I went there with an entourage of about 16 devotees headed by Achyutananda Swami and Yasodanandan Swami. We traveled all around India putting on public pandal programs. Our morning program always included chanting the Brahma Samhita and other mantras together. That was always a pleasure and very purifying and powerful. We traveled in a nice bus and thus were able to go to a lot of special places off the beaten path.
We arrived in the holy land of Ahobilam in the heat of the summer. At first the Ashram/hotel keeper said we could not stay, but was persuaded by Achyutananda Swami who had a letter from the Governor of Madras giving us permission. Once situated we were treated like royalty by the head pujari and his good family. They served us multi-courses of excellent prasadam on silver plates and even fanned us against our protests while we honored Lord Narasimha deva’s prasadam.
There are eight temples in a circle situated north, south, east, west and the directions in between, northwest etc. There is also a main temple in the middle. It was over 100 degrees when we started hiking up a mountain trail about five miles to reach one of the temples that Lord Chaitanya Himself visited. On the way we could see the cliff where Sri Prahlada Maharaja was thrown off and caught by Krsna. I was weak from the heat and was even thinking of staying back that day. I decided to go and depend on the Lord for the strength to hike up the mountain trail in the heat. I’m glad I decided to go after all.
When we arrived at the temple in the cave Achyutananda Swami told us to put some of the water on our heads from the creek called Rakta Kunda, that flowed by the temple before taking darshan of the self-manifested deity of Lord Sri Narasimha deva. I looked at the water and it was reddish so I didn’t want to use it thinking that someone must of sacrificed an animal up stream or something. Achutyananda told us that it was red because that’s where Narasimha deva washed his nails after killing Hiranyakasipu. Wow! After putting some of the water on my head I felt so refreshed and all of my fatigue disappeared. Our sweet Lord takes care of His devotees! Thank God!
We entered the temple which is situated in a cave. The pujari opened gate after gate to let us in to the end of the cave where Lord Narasimha deva is situated. A couple of ghee lamps light the cave and waves of spiritual energy were coming from the Deity. Lord Chaitanya is said to have passed out in ecstasy there. Being there in the same place was so ecstatic. It was so awesome that we didn’t want to leave! To see the self-manifested effulgent deity of Lord Narasimha deva and stand right there where Lord Chaitanya went into ecstatic trance was one of my most awesome experiences I’ve ever had. It was one of the highlights of my life. All of the austerites of being in India became worth it at that time.
Each of the eight temples in Ahobilam are situated in a different environment. One of the temples is situated in a desert area. The temple and deity are both self-manifested which is very rare! The Temple is a big round blackish rock about 10 feet high that is hollow with a hat like top. Lord Narasimha deva is called Yogananda Narasimha because he is teaching Prahlada Maharaja some yoga asanas. He is blackish and about seven feet high, seated! He has a big powerful chest and a small waist. You can go in the temple and circumambulate the awesome Deity of Sri Narasimha deva and Prahlada Maharaja.
I highly recommend to all devotees that can, to go to Ahobilam and experience the awesome atmosphere and kind Vaisnava hospitality that we experienced there. These are the treasures of the world. By visiting this and other holy places we attained the enthusiasm and strength to push on with the sankirtan mission of Sri Sri Guru and Gouranga.
We used to perform maha harinama pandal programs all over South India. Everywhere we went we were well received by the people, sometimes we had crowds of thousands at our huge pandal programs. We made a lot of life members and devotees and introduced thousands of people to the chanting of the Hare Krishna mahamantra. When large numbers of people chant the holy names together it has a very purifying and powerful effect. Swami Srila Prabhupada said that when he was a boy of just a few years old he did harinam sankirtan to save his birth city of Calcutta from a plague. He said he was only up to the knees of the other devotees, but he joined in and they stopped the plague by the power of the holy names. Harinam sankirtan ki jai!
Another nice Narasimha deva deity is at the famous ancient Sri Rangam temple. The gurukula children gather there daily and chant nice mantras to Lord Narasimha deva. It is a very pure and powerful experience. Lord Narasimha deva certainly protects His devotees!
Lord Narasimha deva is my favorite incarnation of Lord Krishna after Lord Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. He is a favorite of a lot of gurukuli students and most of the devotees. In this material world we all need protection and call for it in the times of need. Especially at the time of severe sickness and at the time of our or others death! Srila Prabhupada always asked the devotees to pray to Lord Narasimha deva when he was sick or when we needed to protect the movement and the devotees.
On Narasimha deva’s appearance day in 1977, I took my deity of Narasimha deva into Srila Prabhupada’s quarters in Vrindavan and set Him up on a table. Srila Prabhupada said the deity was very nice. I used to like to chant mantras on Srila Prabhupada’s steps after my regular services. I would like to chant the Brahma Samhita and the Narasimha Kavacha. I heard from the secretary that Srila Prabhupada heard my chanting of those prayers and liked it.
We had 24 hour kirtan going on for Srila Prabhupada in Sri Vrindavan Dhama at that time, in May of 1977, because he said he was going to leave the planet. There were many very good singers such as Satchitananda Prabhu and the gurukuli students who would please Srila Prabhupada by their nice chanting.
Sometimes scheduled singers did not show up on time. One day in the garden there was no one there to chant so I stopped fanning Srila Prabhupada and sat down and began to chant. Srila Prabhupada looked at me then shut his eyes so I kept chanting. I chanted the Narasimha deva prayers along with the mahamantra to try to get Lord Narasimha deva to help Srila Prabhupada recover his health so we could benefit from his personal association long as possible.
Now I have a beautiful Deity of Lord Narasimha deva dancing with Lakshmi Devi on His lap. It’s a South Indian style, very ecstatic. The Lord is like a kitten to the devotees but a lion to the demons, like the evil king who he killed with his nails, Hiranyakasipu. Hiranya means gold and Kasipu means soft bed. Those are what the evil kings main concerns were, instead of protecting the citizens and keeping the peace. So Lord Narasimha deva appeared to protect His five year old pure devotee, Sri Pralada Maharaja and He continues to protect us all!
Sri Nrisimha Jai Nrisimha,
Jai Jai Nrisimha!!!
Hoping this meets you in best of health and happiness in Krishna Consciousness!
Gauridasa Pandita Dasa