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Nrsimha-tāpini Upanisad

From Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia

By Swami Harshananda

Nṛsimha-tāpini Upaniṣad is among the minor Upaniṣads those of the Tāpinī group have an important place. They mostly deal with the details connected with the upāsanās[1] of the particular deity whose name they bear. The Nṛsimha-tāpini Upaniṣad, like the other similar Upaniṣads, is also in two parts:

  1. The Purva
  2. The Uttara

The former has a bhāṣya[2] ascribed to Śaṅkara[3] whereas the latter has one called Dipikā by the sage Vidyāraṇya Upaniṣad.[4] Brahmayogin has also commented on them. The Purva has been divided into five sections, each being called an ‘Upaniṣad,’ and having a total of 77 mantras. They are mostly in prose, interspersed occasionally with Rgvedic mantras. It is assigned to the Atharvaveda and begins with the well-known śāntimantra,[5] ‘bhadrari karṇebhih’.

Analogy of Nrsimha-tāpini Upaniṣad[edit]

Before creation there were only causal waters. Prajāpati, the creator, was manifested out of the navel-lotus of the Supreme Lord Nārāyaṇa. He desired to create this world and did tapas.[6] He then saw or realized or obtained the famous Nārasimhamantra, the king or the crown-jewel of all mantras, in the anuṣṭubh metre. He then created the whole world out of the power of that mantra.

Neither the Upaniṣad nor the commentators give the actual Nārasimha-mantra in the anustubh metre which is sung as a sāma. The actual mantra as found in some mantra-śāstra works is:

ugrarii vlram mahāvisnurh jvalantarh sarvatomukham I nrsimham bhīsanam bhadram mrtyumrtyum namāmyaham II[7]

It means:

‘I bow down to Nṛsimha[8] who is terrible, valorous, blazing like the fire or the sun, all-pervading, awful, death of even the god of death, and yet, the ever-auspicious Mahāvisnu!’

Though there are other mantras of Nṛsimha in other metres like the gāyatri, it is this mantra in the anustubh metre that is meant in this Upaniṣad. In this metre there are four pādas or quarters and 32 akṣaras or syllables. This factor should be kept in mind while studying the concepts given later, in this work.] The Upaniṣad then compares or considers the entire earth, the demigods in the antarikṣa,[9] the dyuloka[10] and Brahman, the pure, as the four pādas or quarters of the Anuṣṭubh.[11] This analogy is then extended to the four Vedas also.

Eulogy of Nrsimha-tāpini Upaniṣad[edit]

Then comes a eulogy of the greatness of the repetition of this mantra by describing the wonderful results one gets. The identification of various beings and things in this universe like fire, gods, vital-airs, sun, moon, the trinity and so on with the four pādas of the mantra is further continued. The japa[12] of this mantra, it is then stated, will result in the vision of that deity. Thus ends the first section.

The second section describes how the gods in heaven, being afraid of transmigratory existence, approached Prajāpati who taught them this mantra. By that, they conquered sin and death. The description of meditation on the four parts of Praṇava[13] as identified with the four Vedas and some other objects like the gārhapatya fire or gods like Viṣṇu and Rudra comes next. How to use the mantra for nyāsas along with the syllable Om is described thereafter. Then follows a detailed exposition of each of the words contained in the mantra, like ugra, vīra, Viṣṇu and so on. Since man is the best of higher living beings and the lion[14] the best of the lower kind, he assumed the form of Nṛsimha, to show that he is the very best of creation in all its aspects.

The third section begins with the question of the devas or gods to Prajāpati regarding the śakti[15] and the bīja[16] of the Nārasimha-mantra. Prajāpati replies that māyā-power of the Lord is the śakti and ākāśa[17] is the bīja. It is because of the māyā-power that Prajāpati can create and it is from ākāśa[18] that everything else proceeds. The fourth section deals with the aṅgamantras[19] which are:

  1. Om
  2. The Sāvitrī of Yajurveda[20]
  3. The Laksmī-mantra of Yajurveda

Then the famous Nrsimhagāyatrī mantra is narrated. It is:

om nrsimhāya vidmahe vajranakhāya dhīmahi tannah sirfihah pracodayāt II

The fifth section describes the famous Sudarśanacakra[21] of Lord Narasimha.[22] It may have six spokes or eight or twelve or sixteen or even thirty two with corresponding teeth. The esoteric meditations connected with them are also described. This is then followed by a fairly long phalaśruti, the statement of the results one gets by repeating the Nārasimha-mantra. As a sample a few such results may be stated:

One who repeats this mantra becomes purified, as if by the five elements. He crosses over all sins and conquers even death. He can prevent the five elements from exercising their power by overpowering them. He can attract to himself other beings like the demigods[23] as also the gods. He ultimately attains the highest abode of Lord Viṣṇu.

The Uttaratāpini of the same Upaniṣad has nine khaṇḍas or sections and 84 mantras, all in prose, except for occasional quotations from the Vedas.

Topics of Nrsimha-tāpini Upaniṣad[edit]

This work, almost entirely, teaches Advaita Vedānta. The topics can be summarized very briefly as follows:

  • Identity of ātman and Brahman
  • The four states of consciousness, the fourth being the ātman
  • Meditation on the ātman with the help of Om or Praṇava
  • Gods conquering the demons with the help of the Nrsimhamantra
  • Creation of the world by Brahman with the māyā-power and entering into it
  • The gods deciding to acquire the knowledge or experience of the Advayātman, the one Ātman without a second
  • Prajāpati teaching it to them

Thus ends this Upaniṣad.


  1. Upāsanās means meditations.
  2. Bhāṣya means commentary.
  3. He lived in A. D. 788-820.
  4. He lived in A. D. 1296-1386.
  5. Śāntimantra means peace-chant.
  6. Tapas means austerity.
  7. Prapañcasārasārasañgraha 23
  8. Nṛsimha means the Man-lion incarnation of Viṣṇu.
  9. Antarikṣa means sky or upper regions.
  10. Dyuloka means heavenly regions including the gods like Vasus, Rudras and Ādityas.
  11. It is the Nārasimha-mantra.
  12. Japa means repetition.
  13. Praṇava means a, u, m and half-syllable at the end.
  14. Lion means simha.
  15. Śakti means the power.
  16. Bīja literally means seed.
  17. Ākāśa means sky or ether.
  18. It is referred to as the first product.
  19. Aṅgamantras means the mantras subsidiary to the main one.
  20. It is same as the first part of Māhā-nārāyaṇa Upaniṣad 15.2
  21. Sudarśanacakra means discus.
  22. He is an aspect of Mahāvisnu.
  23. They are yakṣas, nāgas and the grahas or planetary deities.
  • The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore

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