Lila-avataras (pastime avataras)

By editor - 15.10 2020

Because almost all of these twenty-five lila-avataras [listed in SB 1.3] appear in one day of Brahma, which is called a kalpa, they are sometimes called kalpa-avataras. Out of these, the incarnation of Hamsa and Mohini are not permanent, but Kapila, Dattatreya, Rsabha, Dhanvantari and Vyasa are five eternal forms, and they are more celebrated. Kurma (the tortoise incarnation), Matsya (the fish), Nara-narayana, Varaha (the boar), Hayasirsa, Prsnigarbha, and Balarama are considered incarnations of vaibhava. (TLC 7)

"Not permanent" means naimittika, "eternal" means nitya:

So far the avataras are concerned there are two types. One is called nitya and the other is called naimittic [naimittika]. Nitya means eternal and naimittic avataras appear for some specific function in the material worlds. Nitya-avataras appear for some specific function in the material worlds. Nitya-avatars have their eternal abodes in the spiritual sky from which they may sometimes descend to the material worlds, but naimittic avataras are expansions of nitya-avataras for some timely purpose. So the non-human forms of avataras do not have their planets in the spiritual sky.” (SPL to Ekayani, 25th July, 1970)

1) Catuhsana - The four Kumaras, sons of Lord Brahma

They appeared in the beginning of creation and are specifically empowered to distribute transcendental knowledge. They are empowered with the Lord's jnana-sakti and therefore they are also known as saktyavesa-avataras.

2) Narada Muni - The son of Lord Brahma

He is empowered with the Lord's bhakti-sakti and therefore he is also saktyavesa-avatara.

3) Varahadeva - Sukara or the Boar incarnation

The Boar incarnation appeared in two different millenniums. During the period of Svayambhuva Manu, the earthly planet remained submerged in the water of devastation, so the Lord appeared as a white boar and lifted the earth and set it properly. During the period of Caksusa Manu Lord Boar was red and He killed the demon Hiranyaksa.

4) Matsya - The Fish incarnation

He appeared to show special mercy to Satyavrata Muni. After the period of Caksusa Manu when there was a partial inundation, he also protected Satyavrata Muni (who later became Vaivasvata Manu) by keeping him safe on a boat.

5) Yajna - The son of Prajapati Ruci and Akuti

During the period of Svayambhuva Manu there was no qualified Indra. So the Lord appeared as Yajna and took that position.

6) Nara Narayana - The twin sons of King Dharma and Murti

They are partial expansions of Krsna and Arjuna. Nara and Narayana Rsis exhibited the Lord's renunciation.

7) Kapiladeva - The son of Kardama Muni and Devahuti

He explained the original (personal) Sankhya philosophy. Kapiladeva exhibited the Lord's transcendental knowledge.

8) Dattatreya - The son of Atri Muni and Anasuya

He is a combined incarnation of Lord Visnu, Brahma and Siva. He spoke on the subject of transcendence to Alarka, Prahlada, Yadu, etc.

9) Hayasirsa - Lord Hayagriva

At the end of the millennium ignorance personified took the form of a demon, stole the Vedas and took them to the planet Rasatala. At that time the Lord, at the request of Brahma, retrieved them after assuming the form of a horse.

10) Hamsa - The Swan incarnation

Due to bewilderment, Brahma, could not answer some questions put forward by his sons. At that time the Lord appeared as a swan and answered the questions.

11) Prsnigarbha - The incarnation who appeared before Dhruva

He created the planet known as Dhruvaloka for the habitation of Dhruva Maharaja.

12) Rsabha - The son of King Nabhi and Merudevi

His oldest son was Bharata Maharaja of which the earth was named after as Bharat-varsa. He instructed his sons to follow the path of perfection by tapasya (asceticism).

13) Prthu - The incarnation of the Lord's ruling force

Due to the demonic nature of King Vena, the sages killed him by a curse. They prayed for the Lord to appear and churned the two arms of the dead body according to a specific method and the Lord appeared as Prthu.

14) Nrsimhadeva - The half-man half-lion incarnation

He appeared to protect Prahlada by killing his demoniac father Hiranyakasipu. Sri Nrsimha manifests various bhavas, mostly wrathful but also peaceful ones (like some of His murtis in Ahobilam or Santa Nrsimha in Puri). Gaudiya Vaisnava siddhanta about Sri Nrsimha appearing in this universe is that He's not a form of Sri Visnu residing in one of Vaikunthas but directly Sri Krsna. His lila manifests only in the material realm, although perpetually and in that sense is also eternal (Prahlada Maharaja worships Krsna, not Narayana. Nrsimha Purana 41.36 says that on his slate he has written the name 'Krsna' and he remembers Krsna nama.). This is hinted on in SB 3.24.33 p., last par., and BG 4.8. He personifies this BG verse.

nrsimha-rama-krsnesu sad-gunyam paripuritam: "In Narasimha, Rama and Krsna, all the six opulences (strength, wealth, renunciation, splendor, energy, wisdom) are fully manifest." (Padma Purana, quoted by Srila Rupa Gosvami in Laghu-bhagavatamrta 1.5.16)

Glories and worship of Nrsimha are described in Narada Purana 2.55.73-132 and Brahma Purana 58.4-70.

Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura has written five beautiful prayers in "Sri Navadvipa Bhava Taranga" for receiving the mercy of Lord Nrsimha. These prayers are certainly assurance to all sincere devotees that the worship of Lord Nrsimha is purely in the line of aspiring love and devotion to Sri Sri Radha and Krsna.

e dusta hrdaye kama adi ripu chaya
kutinati pratisthasa sathya sada raya
hrdaya-sodhana ara krsnera vasana
nrsimha-carane mora ei to' kamana

Within my sinful heart the six enemies headed by lust perpetually reside, as well as duplicity, the desire for fame, plus sheer cunning. At the lotus feet of Lord Narasimha, I hope that He will mercifully purify my heart and give me the desire to serve Lord Krsna.

kandiya nrsimha-pade magibo kakhana
nirapade navadvipe jugala-bhajana
bhaya bhaya paya yan'ra darsane se hari
prasanna hoibo kabe more daya kari

Weeping, I will beg at the lotus-feet of Lord Narasimha for the benediction of worshipping Radha and Krsna in Navadvipa, perfectly safe and free from all difficulties. When will this Lord Hari, whose terrible form strikes fear into fear itself, ever become pleased and show me His mercy?

yadyapi bhisana murti dusta-jiva-prati
prahladadi krsna-bhakta-jane bhadra ati
kabe va prasanna ho'ye sa krpa-vacane
nirbhaya karibe ei mudha akincane

Even though Lord Narasimha is terrifying toward the sinful souls, He offers great auspiciousness unto the devotees of Lord Krsna headed by Prahlada Maharaja. When will He be pleased to speak words of compassion unto me, a worthless fool, and thereby make me fearless?

svacchande baiso he vatsa sri-gauranga-dhame
jugala-bhajana hau rati hau name
mama bhakta-krpa-bale vighna jabe dura
suddha cite bhajo radha-krsna-rasa-pura

He will say, "Dear child! Sit down freely and live happily here in Sri Gauranga-dhama. May you nicely worship the Divine Couple, and may you develop loving attachment for Their Holy Names. By the mercy of My devotees, all obstacles are cast far away. With a purified heart, just perform the worship of Radha and Krsna, for such worship overflows with sweet nectar."

ei boli' kabe mora mastaka-upara
sviya sri-carana harse dharibe isvara
amani jugala-preme sattvika vikare
dharaya lutibo ami sri-nrsimha-dvare

Saying this, will that Lord delightedly place His own divine lotus-feet upon my head? I will experience sublime love for the Divine Couple Radha-Krsna and undergo the ecstatic transformations called sattvika. Falling on the ground, I will roll about at the door of Sri Narasimha's temple. (Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, Sri Navadvipa Bhava Taranga 36-40)
Bhaktivinoda Thakura prays to Sri Nrsimhadeva to clear his path to Radha Krsna worship. He wouldn't be praying to the equivalent of an "ordinary" Visnu tattva in Vaikuntha for entrance into Goloka.
Another argument against the identity of the two Nrsimhas is that the Pancaratra texts identify the Nrsimha avatara of the dasavatara as manifesting from Sankarsana: haris sankarsanamsena narasimha-vapur dharah (Padma tantra 1.2.31 and Visnu-dharmottara Purana 3.78(2).5-7) However, the vyuha Nrsimha is manifested from Pradyumna (CC Madhya 20.206).

Other Puranic narrations of the lila of Lord Nrsimha:

1. Nrsimha stuti from Garuda Purana describes a lila of Sri Nrsimha getting Siva out of trouble.

2. Puranic Encyclopedia: SARABHA VII. Virabhadra incarnated himself as Sarabha to defeat Narasimhamurti. (Siva Purana, Satarudrasamhita).
[See The position of tamasic sastras.]

3. As quoted by Srila Jiva Goswami in Bhakti Sandarbha, Anuccheda 106, the Visnu Dharmottara Purana describes a story of how Lord Nrsimhadeva once appeared from a Siva-linga to save a devotee named Visvaksena. Jiva Goswami says this Siva-linga is still present in South India and is known as "Linga-sphota".

Related:
Ahovalam—Revisited by Dhruva dasa
Ahovalam pilgrimage by Dhruva dasa (ITV video)
How Lord Narasimha came to ISKCON Sri Mayapur

15) Kurma - The Tortoise incarnation

He appeared to become the resting place of the Mandara Hill, used as a churning rod by the demons and demigods to produce nectar.

16) Dhanvantari - The father of Ayurveda

He appeared from the ocean of milk with the pot of nectar.

17) Mohini - The Lord's form of a beautiful woman

The Lord tricked the demons by appearing in the form of a beautiful woman and asked the demons for the nectar and distributed it to the demigods.

18) Vamanadeva - The dwarf incarnation, son of Kasyapa Muni and Aditi

Assuming the form of a dwarf brahmacari the Lord visited the fire sacrifice of Bali Maharaja. He begged three steps of land and with those steps He took the whole universe. He is the son of Kasyapa and Aditi.

19) Parasurama - Bhrgupati, the son of Jamadagni Muni and Renuka

He annihilated the ksatriyas twenty-one times because of their rebellion against the brahmanas.

20) Raghavendra - Lord Ramacandra, son of King Dasaratha and Kausalya

He came to perform pleasing work for the demigods, protect His devotees and kill Ravana and his followers. The Lord assumed the form of a human being and exhibited superhuman powers by controlling the Indian Ocean. His color is syama (dark blue) as per Ramayana Aranya khanda 17.7, 31.11, Sundara khanda 35.16, Yuddha khanda 28.18 and nava-dUrva dala-dyutiH (Laghu Bhagavatamrta 1.3.78). Bharata is dark as a raincloud and Sumitra's two sons are splendid as gold (bharato 'tra ghana-zyamah saumitrI kanaka-prabhau) (Laghu Bhagavatamrta 1.3.79).