Narasimha - Mayapur
In the center of the temple is the merciful deity of Lord Nrisimhadeva. This rare form of Nrisimhadeva is known as “Sthanu-Nrisimha” and this is the only place where this particular form of Nrisimhadeva is known to be worshipped. With bent knees and in great anger with reddish eyes, He is ready to spring out of the pillar to attack the demons and protect His devotees. The Deity was installed here in 1986 after the temple was attacked by dacoits.
The appearance of Lord Narasimhadeva in ISKCON Sri Mayapur itself is an act of ‘Maya’ of the Supreme Lord. The story of how Lord Narasimhadeva came to Sri Mayapur Chandrodaya Mandir is really flabbergasting to know. The story below is reproduced ‘as such’ from the Mayapur journal based on experiences of HG Atma Tattva Prabhu (ACBSP)
On the 24th of March, 1984, at 12.20 a.m., thirty-five dacoits armed with weapons and bombs attacked Sri Mayapur Chandrodaya Mandir. They harassed the devotees and treated them with derision. But the greatest shock came when the dacoits decided to steal the Deities of Srila Prabhupada and Srimati Radharani. Fearlessly the devotees challenged the attackers. How could they see Srila Prabhupada and Srimati Radharani carried away? Shots were fired, a few dacoits fell, and their plans foiled. Srila Prabhupada was rescued, but the beautiful form of Srimati Radharani would no longer grace the main altar. This incident really disturbed the minds of the devotees. Those involved in management were especially concerned to make some permanent solution. This was not the first time the devotees had faced violence and harassment in Mayapur. The co-director of Mayapur suggested that Lord Narasimhadeva be installed. When the dacoits had threatened devotees at yoga-pitha, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura and his son Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura had promptly installed Sri Sri Lakshmi-Narasimhadeva. There had been no further disturbances. Other devotees in Mayapur were not so keen to follow so closely in these footsteps. The pujari must be a naisthika-brahmachari (celibate from birth), and the worship of Lord Narasimhadeva must be very strict and regulated. Who would be prepared to worship Him? Despite such hesitancy, the co-director was enthusiastic to bring Lord Narasimhadeva to Mayapur. He asked Bhaktisiddhanta Dasa and myself to draw some sketches. One day quite spontaneously he said that the Deity’s legs should be bent, ready to jump, he should be looking around ferociously, his fingers should be curled, and flames should be coming from his head. I sketched a Deity in this mood. The devotees liked it, and Pankajanghri Dasa agreed to worship him. Radhapada Dasa, a wealthy devotee from Calcutta offered to sponsor the sculpting and installing of the Deity.
It seemed Lord Narasimhadeva’s appearance in ISKCON Mayapur would be a simple, straight-forward affair. Radhapada Dasa promptly gave Rs.1, 30,000 and it was accepted that the Deity would be ready for installation in three months. I left for south India to get things organized. By Krishna’s grace I soon found a very famous sthapati. A sthapati not only sculpts Deities; he is also expert in temple architecture and engineering. The man was very obliging until I mentioned that the Deity we wanted to carve was Ugra-Narasimha. He emphatically refused to make such a Deity. I approached many Deity sculptors, but the answer was always the same: No. I had made a number of trips between Mayapur and south India, six months had passed, but Lord Narasimhadeva had not yet manifested in Deity form. Radhapada Dasa was very anxious to see Lord Narasimhadeva installed in Mayapur. He asked me to visit the original sthapati I have seen and once again I pleaded him with our case. This time the sculptor was a little more congenial and offered to read me a chapter from the silpasastra (a Vedic scripture on sculpture and temple architecture) that deals with the different forms of deities. He read aloud some verses describing Lord Narasimhadeva. A series of verses described his flame-like mane, his searching glance, and his knees bent with one foot forward ready to jump from the pillar. When he read this I was amazed. This was exactly what we wanted. I showed him the sketch I had done. He was impressed and offered to draw an outline based on the scriptural description which we could use as a guide for sculpting the Deity. He reminded me, though, that he would not carve the form himself. It took him a week to complete the sketch, and it was very impressive.
I returned to Mayapur and showed the sketch to the temple authorities. Everyone wanted this same sthapati to carve the Deity. Once again I was sent back to south India to try to convince him. I went straight to the house of the sthapati. I was feeling very anxious. What could I do but pray to Lord Narasimhadeva to be merciful and agree to manifest himself in our temple in Sri Mayapur Dhama? I had hardly said two sentences when the man very matter-of-factly said he would carve the Deity. The story of how he came to this decision is interesting. The sthapati had approached his guru, the Sankaracharya of Kanchipuram, about our request. His guru’s immediate reply was, “Don’t do it. Your family will be destroyed.” But then, after a moment’s reflection, he asked, “Who has asked you to carve this Deity?” when he heard that it was the Hare Krishna people from Navadvipa, he became very concerned. “They want Ugra-Narasimha? Are they aware of the implications of sculpting and installing Ugra-Narasimha? Such deities were carved over 3,000 years ago by very elevated sthapatis. There is a place on the way to Mysore where a very ferocious Ugra-Narasimha is installed. The demon Hiranyakashipu is torn open on His lap and his intestines are spilling out all over the altar. Once, the standard of worship there was very high. There was an elephant procession and festival everyday. But gradually the worship declined. Today that place is like a ghost town. The whole village is deserted. No one can live there peacefully. Is that what they want for their project?” The sthapati replied, “They are insistent. They are constantly coming to talk to me about the Deity. Apparently they have some problem with the dacoits.” Handing his guru a sketch of the Deity, he said, “This is the Deity they want.” His guru took the sketch and looked at it knowingly. “Ah, this is an Ugra category,” he said, “but a Deity in this particular mood is called Sthanu-Narasimha. He doesn’t exist on this planet. Even the demigods in the heavenly planets don’t worship a form like this. Yes, this Deity belongs to the Ugra category. Ugra means ferocious, very angry. There are nine forms within this category. They are all very fierce. The one they want is Sthanu-Narasimha: stepping out of the pillar. No. Don’t carve this Deity. It will not be auspicious for you. I will talk with you about this later. A few nights later the sthapati had a dream.
In the dream his guru came to him and said, “For them you can carve Sthanu-Narasimha.” The next morning he received a had-delivered letter from Kanchipuram. The letter was from Sankaracharya and gave some instructions regarding temple renovations. There was a footnote at the bottom. It read, “For ISKCON you can carve Sthanu-Narasimha. The sthapati showed me the letter and said, “I have my guru’s blessings. I will carve the Deity.” I was overwhelmed with joy. I gave him an advance payment and asked him how much time it would take to carve the Deity. He said the Deity would be ready for installation within six months. I returned to Mayapur. After four peaceful months in the holy dhama, I decided to go to South India and purchase the heavy brass paraphernalia required for Narasimhadeva worship and then collect the Deity. The trip was well organized and trouble-free until I visited the sthapati. I explained to him that all the paraphernalia required for the worship had been purchased and that I had come to collect the Deity. He looked at me as if I’d lost my sense and exclaimed, “What Deity? I haven’t even found the suitable stone!” I couldn’t believe my ears. “But you told me he would be ready in six months,” I exclaimed. “I will keep my promise,” he said. “Six months after I find the stone the Deity will be ready for installation.” His reply was emphatic, but I just couldn’t understand or accept the delay. In frustration I challenged him, “There are big slabs of stone all over South India. What’s the problem?” he looked at me the way a teacher would view a slow student and said very deliberately, “I am not making a grinding mortar, I am making a Deity. The scriptures tell us that only a stone that has life can be used to make a Vishnu Deity. When you hit seven points of the stone slab and they make the sound mentioned in the scriptures, then that stone may be suitable. But the there is a second test to indicate whether the stone is living stone. There is a bug that eats granite. If it eats from one side of the stone to the other and leaves a complete trail visible behind it, then the second test of living stone has been passed. That stone is living stone, and expression can manifest from it. Only from such a slab can I carve your Narasimhadeva. Such stone speaks poetry. All features of Deity sculpted from such stone will be fully expressive and beautiful. Please be patient. I’ve been searching sincerely for your six foot slab.” Appearance of Lord Narasimhadeva… I was amazed and little anxious. The devotees in Mayapur were expecting the arrival of the Deity soon. How was I going to explain the “living stone” search to them?
Maybe they would decide to make Narasimhadeva from marble. I decided to try to lighten the subject by discussing the Prahlada Maharaja murti with the sthapati. “Please forgive me, but I forgot to tell you last time I came that we want a Prahlada murti. We want to worship Prahlada-Narasimhadeva. What do you think?” “I don’t think that will be possible,” the sthapati replied matter-of-factly. I looked at him incredulously, not sure what to say. He smiled and continued, “You want everything done exactly according to scritptures. You Narasimhadeva will be four feet high. Comparatively speaking, that will make Prahlada Maharaja the size of an amoeba.” “But we want Prahlada Maharaja one foot high,” I interrupted. “Fine,” the sthapati replied, “but that means your Narasimhadeva will have to be about 120 feet high.” We began to argue back and forth about Prahlada Maharaja’s form. Finally the sthapati sighed in resignation and agreed to make Prahlada Maharaja one foot tall. At least I now had something positive to report when I returned to Mayapur. After two months I returned to South India. There had been no developments. I shuttled back and forth from Mayapur to South India every thirty or forty days. Finally our stone was found and the sthapati became a transformed man. For over a week he hardly spent any time at home. Hour after hour, day after day, he just sat staring at the slab. He had a chalk in hand but didn’t draw anything. He refused to allow his laborers to do anything except remove the excess stone to make the slab rectangular. The next time I visited him, he had made a sketch on the stone. That was all. I was worried. The Mayapur managers were becoming impatient. “Are you sure this Deity will be finished in six months?” I asked in desperation. “Don’t worry. The work will be done.” He replied.
I returned to Mayapur, only to be sent back to South India to check on some details of the Deity. I found the sthapati carving the form himself with intense care and dedication. At that stage the stone had gone and the shape had come. The sthapati had just started on the armlets. He took two weeks to carve them. All the features were so refined and delicate. I was impressed and very happy. It took the sthapati a little over twelve months to finish the Deity. When he completed the work he didn’t immediately inform me but decided to visit some friends for a few days. It was the monsoon season, there were few visitors, and he felt it safe to lock up Lord Narasimhadeva securely in his thatched shed. Two days later his neighbors ran to inform him that the thatched shed was on fire. There was heavy rain and everything was wet, but the coconut-tree roof had caught fire. He ran to the scene to find Narasimhadeva untouched but the shed burned to ashes. Immediately he phoned me, “Please come and take your Deity. He’s burning everything. He’s made it clear He wants to go NOW!”
Enthusiastically I traveled to south India, hired a truck, and half-filled it with sand. I arrived at the sthapati’s studio thinking this final stage would be relatively simple. I had foolishly forgotten that Lord Narasimhadeva is a very heavy personality: he weighed one ton! After two or three hours we managed to lift the Deity safely from the shed onto the truck. To travel across the border safely, we also needed police permission, along with signed papers from the Central Sales Tax Department, the Archeological Director, and the Art Emporium Department in Tamil Nadu. All the officers demanded to see the Deity before signing the necessary papers. Once they took darshan of Lord Narasimhadeva, they all became very obliging and efficient. We had all the necessary papers in hand within twenty-four hours – a miracle given the usual quagmire of bureaucracy found in government offices in India. The trip back to Mayapur was also amazingly trouble-free and peaceful. Our protector was certainly with us. Usually the sthapati comes on the day of the installation ceremony, goes into the Deity room and carves the eyes of the Deity. This is called netranimilanam (opening the eyes). It was an exceptional case that our Narasimhadeva’s sthapati had already carved the eyes. He had not only carved the eyes; he had also done the prana-pratistha (installing the life force), a little puja and an arati. I am sure that is why all the papers were prepared so obligingly, and transporting the Supreme Lord was so easy. He was already present. And who could dare to say no to Lord Narasimhadeva? The installation of Lord Narasimhadeva was very simple and lasted three days; from the 28th to the 30th of July 1986. I remember feeling apprehensive that perhaps the installation was too simple. The grave warnings of the Sankaracharya of Kanchipuram had deeply impressed me. But my mind was soon appeased by an awareness of loud, dynamic kirtana, sankirtana-yajna, the only true opulence of kali yuga, was dominating the scene. I felt enlivened and satisfied. Lord Narasimhadeva, the protector of the sankirtana mission, had finally decided to manifest at Sri Mayapur Chandrodaya Mandir.