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By Swami Harshananda

Narasimha literally means ‘Man-lion incarnation’.

Reference of Narasimha

Independent shrines of Narasimha are quite common in South India, whereas he has small shrines or niches in the temples of Viṣṇu in the North. Iconographic descriptions of the deity are provided in several āgama treatises like:

  1. Vihagendrasamhitā
  2. Pādmasamhitā
  3. Iśvarasamhitā
  4. Parāśarasamhitā
  5. Sāttvatasamhitā

Forms of Narasimha

The forms delineated are too numerous to mention. Some of these are:

  1. Āsīna - seated
  2. Sthānaka - standing
  3. Yānaka - striding
  4. Ugra - ferocious
  5. Varada - boon- giving
  6. Lakṣmīnarasimha - in the company of Laksmī
  7. Yogānarasimha - seated in yoga
  8. Girija - emerging from a cave in a mountain
  9. Etc.

The hands of the image may be two or four. In the latter case, the two back-hands hold the śaṅkha[1] and cakra[2] the other two being shown in the act of killing the demon Hiraṇyakaśipu.

Literary Works on Narsimha

An entire Upaniṣad, the Narsimhatāpinī, in two parts is devoted to his worship and meditation. There are several authors of dharmaśāstra literature by this name, but not much is known of them. Some of them are:

  1. Narasimha, the author of Āpastamba-grhyasutra-kārikā- vrtti[3]
  2. Narasimhadeva, author of Durgābhaktitarañgini[4]
  3. Narasimha Vājapeyin, author of Nityācāra-pradīpa
  4. Narasimha Somayājin, author of Viṣṇupratisthāvidhidarpana.

Many of these works are still in the manuscript form and not printed.


  1. Śaṅkha means conch.
  2. Cakra means discus.
  3. He lived in A. D. 1614.
  4. He lived in A. D. 1425-50.
  • The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore