Sudarshana Narasimha- A rare Combination.
It was in the month of March, I visited Srirangam, a temple town in the Trichy district of Tamil Nadu, to take darshan of Ranganatha swami, a huge deity of Lord Vishnu lying down on Seshanag. When I reached the temple vicinity I saw many gates, each with beautifully carved and colorfully painted gopurams. Passing through about 7 gates I reached a giant temple complex made of stone. The day I reached the temple was a busy day, there was a long queue, and devotees were penitently waiting for their turn to take darshan of the lord of the universe. Since this is the only temple with Lord Vishnu deity lying on Seshnag and goddess Laxmi massaging his lotus feet, the temple attracts many devotees. Soon the time passed by contemplating the divine form of the supreme lord and it was my turn to take darshan, I took darshan of the divine lord who had big sparkling eyes and was carved in single black stone, the deity was as large enough to accommodate two rooms. On the extreme end, Lakshmi Devi was massaging his feet, and right before the original deity was Utsava Murti of the lord, the deity to which puja is done or is brought out for the procession. The Utsava Mutri was golden in color, may be made of gold. Lord Vishu was in the center with two of his wives Lakhmi Devi and Bhumi Devi. After paying obeisance to the lord of the universe, I came out of the sanctum and proceeded to take darshan of other shrines. Out of a couple of shrines present in the temple complex one shrine caught my attention. It was a shrine of my favorite deity, Narasimha Deva. Lord Narasimha here was in Yogananda form, seated in padmasana with the yoga bands around his knees. But the most intriguing part was he was right behind Sudarshana chakra. So one side of the deity was Narasimha and the other side was Sudarshana chakra. Behind the two deities, a pentagram with six sides was connecting them and a flaming circle enclosed the deities.
Seeing the divine form I remembered my visit to Vardaraja Kovil in Kanchipuram, where I saw the same form of Sudarshana Narasimha. I know that Sudarshana chakra is the weapon of Lord Vishnu and Narasimha is one of the Dashavatars. But the Narasimha form is never seen holding the chakra.
The divine form of Sudarshana Narasimha mesmerized me and looking at the two sides, immediately remembered the concept of duality in nature. The existence of yin-yang, the Purusha-Prakriti, Shakti- Shaktiman, concept. Then I thought for a while, in the idea of Pursha Prakriti the union is between male and female counterparts whereas, in the case of Sudarshana Narasimha, both the deities belong to the male gender. Can they be united?
I started by drawing parallels between Narasimha and Sudarshana . Narasimha and Sudarshana chakra both have appeared to fight the evil and protect the devotees. It is believed that when lord incarnates he comes with all his possessions. For example, during the Rama avatar, Sheshnag came as Laxman, Lakshmi appeared as Sita, and lords Shankara and Sudarshana chakra incarnated as Bharat and Shatrughana. Similarly, according to Agama Shastras, this Sudarshana chakra incarnated as the tusk of Varaha, the axe of Parshurama, and nails of Narasimha. Sudarshana chakra accompanied lord in his various avatars.
The Agamic and tantric texts mention that Sri Lakshmi becomes the Moola Prakriti or shakti of Vishnu. The Purusha and Prakrti are inseparable and their union leads to the creation of the universe. Lakshmi Tantra, Chap. 29-35, mentions that the entire system of creation is conducted day and night by the Vyuhas, Pradyumna, Anirudha, Sankarshana which are direct expansions of the kriya shakti of Lakshmi. Further, it is said that this Kriya shakti manifests as the Sudarshana chakra. It is believed that no single act by Vishnu can be performed without Sudarshana.
The Kriya shakti manifests as the Sudarshana chakra when sustaining and absorbing creation. This supreme Kriyasakti born from a part of Lakshmi is identical with Agni that pervades the whole of creation from Brahma to a tuft of grass in six different courses of creation. This Kriya shakti consists of the body of Agni who combines all weapons and sharp instruments. This shakti resides in the heart of Sudarshana. The text further describes Sudarshana possessing sixteen arms, standing in the posture of ‘Pratyalldha’ facing the enemy. He is decorated with muscular arms raised, as it were, to strike; in his right hands proceeding upwards from the lowest, he holds the flaming spear, the sword, a hundred-flamed fire, the goad, the staff, the burning dagger, the axe, and the disc, while his left arms proceeding from the uppermost downwards are (decorated with) the blazing weapons viz. the conch-shell, the bow and arrow, the noose, the plough, the thunder, mace, the club and also a lance. He is enwrapped in a profusion of flames from the fierce fire caused by the luster of his teeth and is encircled with the vanamala, which effuses the realities. He drives away the frightened king of the demons and titans with his fierce laughter.
Looking at the perspective from the Lakshmi Tantra the form of Sudarshana Narasimha is a union of Sudarshana chakra as Kriya Shakti and Narasimha as the supreme Purusha. Some interpret the six corners as the Chakras in the body and Narasimha in Yogananda form as a symbol of dhyana, meditation to awaken Kundalini, and gain self-realization.
The origin of Yogananda form of Narasimha is mentioned in the 87th chapter of the Uttara Kanda of the Brahmanda Purana, the text says that a sage did penance on the banks of the Padma Thadagam, as it was filled with lotus flowers, near the Gaja Giri Kshetram (the present Anaimalai) seeking progeny, and wanted the lord to appear in his Narasimha avatar. The lord appeared as Ugra Narasimha and the heat that emanated from him was unbearable. Even the celestials were affected by it and they all came to Gaja Giri Kshetram and prayed to the lord to calm down. The lord could not be pacified and then they sought the help of Prahlada, whose arrival calmed him to some extent. They prayed to the goddess Mahalakshmi, who also took her abode in him as Narasingavalli, after which he became Yoga Narasimha.
The Ahirbudhnya Samhita draws parallels between Narasimha and Sudarshana chakra, the text mentions that both Sudarshana and Narasimha are the remover of miseries, protectors of devotees and killer of the demons, the chakra is attributed to a mighty Jwala, with the radiance of thousand suns. This mighty Jwala is the symbolized with Jwala Narasimha , the fierce form who killed Hiranyakashipu and protected Prahalad. The presence of Lord Narasimha in the wheel is mentioned for the first time in the Padma Samhita, a Pancharatra Agama text. Also, a description of Lord Narasimha with sixteen arms (Shodasa Ayudha aspect) is a trait shared by the Sudarshana Chakra. Sudarshana Narasimha is indeed a mesmerizing incarnation.