Narashimha Jayanti is celebrated on the fourteenth day of the shukla paksh (dark side) of Vaishaka month. He is the fourth reincarnation of Lord Vishnu, born to free the world from the tyranny of the Asura Hiranyakashipu. Hiranyakashipu was the arch rival of Lord Vishu, as one of his avatars Varaha slained the asura’s younger brother Hiranyaksha. To avenge his brother’s death, Hiranyakashipu offered penance to Lord Brahma for a boon. Pleased Lord Brahma offered his blessings, enquiring what he wished for. Hiranyakashipu smartly replied that he wants to be invincible and asked for a boon whereby – “He can’t be killed by either a man or an animal, he can’t be killed at home or outside, that he can’t be killed on earth or in air, and no weapons – whether arrow or sword can perforate his body”. Once Hiranyakashipu received the boon, he went on a rampage, killing every devotee of Lord Vishnu. He banned his kingdom from worshipping Lord Vishnu. With the boon of invincibility, Hiranyakashipu established his rule in all of heaven and earth and endorsed himself to be the prime god of all.
However his own son Prahlad was an ardent devotee of Lord Vishnu, as he learnt about the Lord’s greatness from Devarishi Narada while he was still in his mother – Queen Kayaadu’s womb. Hiranyakashipu could not bear his own son – Prahlad pray to Lord Vishnu with his innocent devotion. Irate with his own son’s rebel, Hiranyakashipu tried to kill Prahlad many a times. Whether it was by throwing him in the boiling pot of oil or making him sit with his aunt Holika in the pit of fire, each time Prahlad was saved by his unwavering faith in Lord Vishnu. Dreading the ridicule and rebel of his kingdom that may arise out of his son’s mysterious life-saving stories, Hiranyakashipu decided to kill his son himself.
Prahlad was called in the court and asked to finally give up his faith in Lord else he would be executed. Undeterred by the threat, Prahlad defied his father again. Aggravated Hiranyakashipu asked – “Who will come to save you when I kill you? Your God isn’t here”. Prahlad calmly replied that –“God is everywhere”. Hiranyakashipu picked up his Mace (Gada) and raced to the pillar asking Prahlad if his God for in there. Prahlad smiled and replied yes. Hiranyakashipu raised his mace thrashing down the pillar and from within appeared Lord Narashima with a lion head and man-trunk. Stunned Hiranyakashipu tried to fight Lord Narashimha yet could match up against him and started to run. Lord Narashimha caught him just at the edge of the palace’s door, placed him on his lap and dug his sharp claws in Hiranyakashipu’s chest ripping it apart, killing him instantly and saving the world from his oppression.
People pray to Lord Narashimha in the evening (sayankal) on his Jayanti, since that is the time when he appeared out of the pillar to slay the Asura. Observing fast during the day is a normal ritual with people eating only one meal and abstaining from any cereals or grains and followed by the night vigil observed by most people. The fast is broken on the second day after the sunrise next morning.