uring the time of the early Jug (ages), the gods and demons used to live in Hindustan. Before Sri Raam Chandar Ji (Incarnation of Treta Jug) came, Bhagat Prahalad was born in Uttarakhand. Bhagat Prahlad Ji has been praised by many, and there are many mentions of Bhagat Prahlad in Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji. He would recite and remember God’s Name. At that time, the meaning of Raam was ‘The Almighty God,’ the praises of Raam were sung by all the Vedas (Hindu Scriptures). The story of Prahlad is mentioned in the Puranas (Hindu Scripture). Once, there was a Rishi named Keshav Rishi who carried out penance and meditated a lot. One day, while meditating in the forest, he thought of going into the village. While wandering, his gaze fell upon a girl called Ditti, and he had the wish of marrying her. She agreed, and so did her parents. Soon, they got married.
After some time, Ditti gave birth to two sons and a daughter. The names of the sons were Hirankeshav and Harnakash, and the girl’s name was Holika. These three siblings were strong, and their bodies were well-built. The two brothers became mighty kings. One day, Hirankeshav was killed by God Virah. Harnakash was full of fear of death. He was afraid that one day God Virah would kill him too, but it was necessary to seek revenge on his brother’s death. He decided to get boons from God and carried out penance and meditation to do so. Harnakash was so adamant in his penance that Gods like Indra (King of Demigods) were also worried.
King Indra Attacks Harnakash
During this time, King Indra attacked Harnakash’s kingdom and killed many demons. He also kidnapped Harnakash’s wife, Kiadhu, and took her to Indrapuri. On the way, Narad Muni (A Sage) met King Indra and Kiadhu. Narad Muni, through his powers, knew that Kiadhu was pregnant. He could tell that the child that would be born was not ordinary and would be God’s devotee. He said to King Indra, “Oh King of Gods, this fight is with men, do not drag women into it. It is not right to place a hand on women. She is innocent, leave her.”
King Indra let go of Kiadhu. Narad Muni took Kiadhu to his ashram (place of meditation) and took care of her like his own daughter. While staying in the ashram, Kiadhu’s sangat (congregation) changed. She started carrying out devotional worship and started meditating on God’s Name. Every day, Kiadhu would listen to sermons from Narad Muni. The knowledge from the discourse affected the child’s growth positively. After a few days, Kiadhu gave birth to a son whose name was Prahlad.
Bhai Gurdaas Ji mentions Bhagat Prahlad in their Vaaran (Ballads written by Bhai Gurdas Ji, known to be the key to unlocking the wisdom of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji),
੨: ਪ੍ਰਹਲਾਦ ਭਗਤ
ਘਰਿ ਹਰਣਾਖਸ ਦੈਤ ਦੇ ਕਲਰਿ ਕਵਲੁ ਭਗਤੁ ਪ੍ਰਹਿਲਾਦੁ।
ਪੜ੍ਹਨ ਪਠਾਇਆ ਚਾਟਸਾਲ ਪਾਂਧੈ ਚਿਤਿ ਹੋਆ ਅਹਿਲਾਦੁ।
ਸਿਮਰੈ ਮਨ ਵਿਚਿ ਰਾਮ ਨਾਮ ਗਾਵੈ ਸਬਦੁ ਅਨਾਹਦ ਨਾਦੁ।
ਭਗਤਿ ਕਰਨਿ ਸਭ ਚਾਟੜੈ ਪਾਂਧੇ ਹੋਏ ਰਹੇ ਵਿਸਮਾਦੁ।
ਰਾਜੇ ਪਾਸਿ ਰੂਆਇਆ ਦੋਖੀ ਦੈਤਿ ਵਧਾਇਆ ਵਾਦੁ।
ਜਲ ਅਗਨੀ ਵਿਚਿ ਘਤਿਆ ਜਲੈ ਨ ਡੁਬੈ ਗੁਰ ਪਰਸਾਦਿ।
ਕਢਿ ਖੜਗੁ ਸਦਿ ਪੁਛਿਆ ਕਉਣੁ ਸੁ ਤੇਰਾ ਹੈ ਉਸਤਾਦੁ।
ਥੰਮ੍ਹੁ ਪਾੜਿ ਪਰਗਟਿਆ ਨਰਸਿੰਘ ਰੂਪ ਅਨੂਪ ਅਨਾਦਿ।
ਬੇਮੁਖ ਪਕੜਿ ਪਛਾੜਿਅਨੁ ਸੰਤ ਸਹਾਈ ਆਦਿ ਜੁਗਾਦਿ।
ਜੈ ਜੈ ਕਾਰ ਕਰਨ ਬ੍ਰਹਮਾਦਿ॥੨॥
Harnakash Receives a Boon
Seeing the devotional worship of Harnakash, Brahama (Deity of Creation) came to him and said, “Your devotion has been accepted. Ask what you desire.” Harnakash said, “God, I want this boon that I shall not die in the day or night, not inside or outside. No weapon can kill me, and no fire can burn me. I shall not drown in water. I shall be alive forever.” When Brahama heard this, he became frightened. He thought, “Harnakash is a demon and will cause chaos, but I have given my word to him.” Brahama said “Tatha asthu (as you wish)” and left. Harnakash stood up and was full of ego, thinking now he cannot be killed. He went to his palace, and at the same time, Narad Muni came with Kiadhu and Prahlad. Narad Muni narrated everything to Harnakash. He became furious upon listening to what King Indra did and called all the demons for a meeting. He told his story to them, and the demons gained faith and strength that they cannot be destroyed now. They decided to seek revenge from the gods.
Harnakash and the demons attacked Indrapuri and all the kingdoms of the gods. King Indra could not fight back, so he took all his wives and went to the Brahmapuri. Harnakash destroyed Indrapuri and killed many gods. After the destruction, Harnakash came back. When he returned, he announced to the whole kingdom that every man, woman, and child could no longer chant the name of any god or goddess, they must only chant, “Hare Harnakash! Jale Harnakash! Thale Harnakash! The master of all powers, Harnakash!” The gods heard about this, and became full of fear and worry.
The Deities Plan to Save Religion
Some heads of the deities got together to meet Vishnu. They said, “Oh God, your greatness is slowly decreasing. The names of the gods and goddesses are slowly being wiped out. Through this, religion and righteousness will perish, and sins and corruption will prevail. Do something. Brahama did not do right by giving this boon to Harnakash. All the gods will be killed this way.”
Vishnu summoned Brahma. Brahama said, “He did penance and tricked me into giving him the boon. Please find a way to kill him.” After some contemplation, Vishnu said, “Oh fellow deities, do not be afraid. Righteousness will stay intact. Harnakash’s death will be caused by his own sins and ego. In his house, a son named Prahlad took birth. In the heart of this child, the Name of Raam resides. Do not worry, the fight of good and bad will begin.” Upon hearing this, the deities were pleased and went back to their respective homes. Vishnu began his task of destroying Harnakash. He manifested wisdom, devotion, truth, and fearlessness in Prahlad. When Prahlad was six years old, he was admitted into a school.
Bhagat Prahlad at School
The name of the school’s principal was Sanda Marka. He was delighted that a prince came to study in his school and thus, his fame would increase. He would get many gifts, and his hunger for ages would be fulfilled. With immense joy, he started teaching Prahlad the alphabet. After teaching, he told Prahlad to say, “Hail King Harnakash.” All the other kids repeated after Sanda Marka, but Prahlad just stood watching. He was quiet. A few days passed like this. One day, Sanda Marka realized that Prahlad doesn’t say Harnakash’s name. Understand, O readers, this is the game of Vishnu, and he has started playing.
Sanda Marka said, “Prahlad, recite your father’s name.” Prahlad responded, “Teacher, Harnakash is my father. How can I say his name? This is not possible.” “That is true,” Sanda Marka said, “but he has won over all the demons and deities, and he commands that we chant His Name. Hail Harnakash!” To this, Prahlad said, “Raam Raam. Teacher, above the deities, there is a God. My father has not won over Raam. That is why the giver of all is Raam.” Upon hearing this, Sanda Marka shivered and thought this child must be an incarnation of God to be able to speak such at the age of six. He tried explaining to Prahlad but failed. Prahlad was a devotee of Raam. He even inspired the other children to recite Raam’s Name. Sanda Marka got really upset, and with much anger in him, he hit Prahlad, terrorized him. In the end, he heard a voice of a grown-up man that said, “Teacher, no matter what, there is only Raam, nothing and no one is greater than Raam, only Raam will destroy the demons!”
Sanda Marka ran to Harnakash’s court. He bowed to Harnakash and, with folded hands, said, “Oh King! I am desperate to tell you that your son is not chanting your name. He is only chanting ‘Raam’.” God played such a game that when the teacher said ‘Raam,’ it echoed in the court of Harnakash so loud that Harnakash covered his ears. He got angry and shouted, “This cannot be. No one can chant anyone’s name apart from mine! I will interrogate him myself!” All the ministers in the court shivered. What was going to happen? Prahlad was summoned into the court by his father. With an angry face, he asked, “Prahlad! Your teacher complained that you do not chant my name?”
Bhagat Prahlad is Confronted by his Father
Prahlad responded, “Father! You are my father, how can I say your name? It does not suit me. We should respect our father.” Prahlad was smiling, he was fearless. In reality, it was Vishnu answering and smiling in the form of Prahlad. His father said, “This is not the issue!” Prahalad asked, “Then what is the issue, father?” “Do not chant the name of Raam. Instead, chant my name, Harnakash! Harnakash!” said Harnakash. Upon hearing this, Prahlad laughed. He laughed as though a wise man would laugh. “O’ King! This is your pride! You did penance and got a boon from God. From whom you took this boon, he is my Raam.”
Harnakash angrily remarked, “Do not say this name. I will kill you!” Prahalad then said, “Why shouldn’t I chant his name! I obtained this teaching from the school of Narad Muni when I was still in my mother’s womb. I can never forget his name. Raam is in every particle of blood in my body. Raam! Raam!” Harnakash gave the command, “Take him away! Take him! Drown him in the river! Kill him!” Harnakash took his own son to be his enemy.
The Demons Attempt to Kill Bhagat Prahlad
The court of the demons shook. Prahlad’s mother begged, but Harnakash didn’t listen to anyone. Melancholy prevailed in the court, but Prahlad was just smiling. His eyes were sparkling. The demons took him away. Due to the fear of Harnakash, no one said anything, but they were sad because everyone loved Prahlad. River Rarr, now known as River Satluj, used to flow through the town of Multan, and Multan is the town of Harnakash. He was the king of half of Punjab. The demons threw Prahlad into the river without tying his hands and feet. They threw him as they would a rock. Great is God, Raam arrived there earlier and carried Prahlad on his palm. Prahlad crossed the river and reached the river bank.
ਹਰਿ ਜੁਗੁ ਜੁਗੁ ਭਗਤ ਉਪਾਇਆ ਪੈਜ ਰਖਦਾ ਆਇਆ ਰਾਮ ਰਾਜੇ ॥
The demons looked at Prahlad, and Prahlad was smiling. The demons got hold of Prahlad again, and this time, they tied a heavy stone to his body and threw him into the river. Prahlad was drowning, but soon he came back up, and with no stone on his body. The rock broke into pieces. The demons were shocked and terrified. They understood that there is a mystical power behind this. They left Prahlad and ran back and told Harnakash, “He cannot be drowned. He only recited Raam! Raam!” Harnakash commanded, “Go and throw him down from a tall mountain! I will give you powers. Take him!”
The demons did as such. They carried him to the top of the mountain. When they were about to push him down, Prahlad uttered, ‘Raam.’ He felt that he was floating like a flower. His feet touched the ground, and he was not hurt. Raam protected his devotee again. A flash of lightning came from the mountain that burned the demons, and they turned into ashes. Prahlad walked back to the kingdom. He was chanting ‘Raam, Raam’ loudly. The whole town, animals, birds, and buildings were chanting ‘Raam.’ Harnakash got scared. In anger, he got hold of Prahlad and slapped him. But Prahlad kept smiling. He didn’t get angry, nor did he feel any pain.
Harnakash had a sister called Holika. Upon giving her powers, he directed her to carry Prahlad on her lap and sit on a pyre. Fire will be lighted, she will not burn, but Prahlad will burn and turn into ashes. Holika did as told. But when the pyre was lighted, Holika was the first to burn. She screamed and jumped. Prahlad just laughed, and as he laughed, the fire got bigger and bigger. Holika couldn’t come out from the pyre. She burned and turned into ashes. All the demons got shocked. Prahlad laughed and walked out.
ਕਢਿ ਖੜਗੁ ਸਦਿ ਪੁਛਿਆ ਕਉਣੁ ਸੁ ਤੇਰਾ ਹੈ ਉਸਤਾਦੁ।
ਥੰਮ੍ਹੁ ਪਾੜਿ ਪਰਗਟਿਆ ਨਰਸਿੰਘ ਰੂਪ ਅਨੂਪ ਅਨਾਦਿ।
Harnakash is Killed
When nothing worked, Harnakash tied Prahlad to an iron pole. Prahlad smiled, but Harnakash’s face was red with anger, just as the sun looks red in the evening. Harnakash said, “Tell me, who is your protector?” Prahlad said, “My protector is Raam.” “Where is he?” Harnakash asked. “He is with me. He sees everything. He resides in the heart of every creation. Beware! Your death is coming!” Prahlad replied. Harnakash in ego said, “Not my death! But yours!”
As he said this, he was about to lift the sword when the pole broke. From the pole, Vishnu, in the form of Narsingh (face of a lion, body of a human), came out. He got hold of the demon Harnakash. With Harnakash on his lap, he tore Harnakash’s body with his nails. “O’ proud and egoistic demon! See! You are not dying during the day or night. Now, it is evening. You are not dying on the ground. You are on my lap!” After saying this, Harnakash was killed. Vishnu took his actual form and liberated Prahlad. He gave the kingdom to Prahlad and gave the command to spread religion and righteousness. Prahlad’s praises were sung in the whole universe!