QUESTION: I have seen on your website that you have installed and worship Deities of Lord Narasimha in your ashram. When Gaudiya Vaisnavas are devotees of Sri Sri Radha-Krsna why do you worship Lord Narasimha?
ANSWER: The goal of a Gaudiya Vaisnava is to develop pure love for Sri Sri Radha-Krsna and all aspects of our practices lead to that end and to that end alone. Therefore, we worship Lord Narasimha who has the capacity to purify a heart filled with lust, to destroy the desire for fame and cunning behavior, to purify us from duplicitous dealings, to bestow fearlessness upon our weary souls and who's lotus feet bestow love for Sri Sri Radha-Krsna.
By the association of Lord Narasimha's devotees all obstacles (anarthas) are cast far away and one develops loving attachment for the holy names of Radha and Krsna.
Lord Narasimha also gives the benediction of being able to worship Sri Sri Radha-Krsna and to live peacefully without disturbance in the holy dhama (in this case Govindaji Gardens).
The devotees of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu who have an affinity for Mayapura-dhama are often found to have an affinity for Lord Narasimha. This was especially true for the great Krsna consciousness pioneer, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, and in recent times Srila Bhakti Pramoda Puri Gosvami. Both these great personalities manifested an affinity toward Lord Narasimha. Sri Advaita Acarya is also purported to have worshipped Lord Narasimha in the form of a Narasimha-saligrama with Tulasi leaves and Ganges water when He called Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu to manifest in this world at Mayapura. So it is only natural for a follower of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu to have an affinity toward Lord Narasimha.
We find at Yogapitha, the birth site of Sri Caitanya, that the Deity of Laksmi-Narasimha is established next to the shrine of Sri Sri Gaura Gadadhara. Srila Bhaktivinoda has said that Lord Narasimha attends the mangala-aratika at Yogapitha every morning. Thus a Deity of Lord Narasimha is established there.
Also at Nrsimhapalli in Navadvipa-dhama there is a very ancient temple of Lord Narasimha who came to that place and manifested His Deity form. After killing Hiranyakasipu Lord Narasimha came to rest at Nrsimhapalli and the Demigods and great devotees came there to worship Him.
At Gopinatha Gaudiya Matha, in the section of Mayapura known as Isodyana (the Garden of Srimati Radharani), Srila Puri Maharaja worshipped the Deity of Laksmi-Narasimha along with the worship of Sri Sri Radha Gopinatha and Sri Sri Gaura-Gadadhara. And every year on the day before Srila Puri Maharaja's Vyasa Puja all the devotees would go to Nrsimhapalli for darsana and a festival of kirtana and Hari-katha. Invariably the Hari-katha always touched upon the section of Srimad Bhagavatam call Prahlada-caritra wherein the pastime of Prahlada and Lord Narasimha is described. This section of Bhagavatam was also a favorite of Srila Gaura Kisora Dasa Babaji Maharaja as it was for Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and His associates in Jagannatha Puri.
gadadhara parena summukha bhagavata
suniya prakase prabhu prema-bhava yata
prahlada-caritra, ara dhruvera-caritra
sata-vrtti kariya sunena sarhita
"Whenever Sri Gadadhara would recite the Prahlada-caritra and Dhruva-caritra from Bhagavatam, the Lord would manifest various symptoms of love. The Lord would hear the glories of Prahlada and Dhruva hundreds of times."
(Sri Caitanya-bhagavata, Antya.10.13-14)
Sometimes pseudo-devotees of Radha-Krsna denounce the worship of Lord Narasimha and reject the chanting of Narasimha mantras. Such devotees do not know that if they themselves were to worship Lord Narasimha they might become free from their cunning and deceitful behavior and advance in their worship of Radha-Krsna.
However, we do not find in the writings of the Six Gosvamis that the gopis in Goloka Vrndavana worshipped Lord Narasimha. But neither did they worship Saligrama-sila or the Tulasi plant, all of which are recommended activities for devotees in the stage of practice.
Also we do not find any temples of Lord Narasimha established by the Six Gosvamis in Vrndavana. This absence of temples of Lord Narasimha in Vrndavana is certainly understandable because Lord Narasimha is not present in His fierce form where the love dalliances of Radha-Krsna are in progress.
But at Kesavaji Gaudiya Matha in Mathura established by Srila Bhakti Prajnana Kesava Gosvami Maharaja we find that the Ugra (angry) form of Lord Narasimha is established in a small shrine on the roof of that Matha (although no formal sringara or worship is offered). So at least in some situations we do find that Lord Narasimha is present in Vrndavana.
At Srivasangan in Mayapura, which is considered non-different from the mood of Vrndavana, and the place where Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu began His Sankirtana movement, there is a Deity of Ugra Narasimha killing Hiranyakasipu. The Deity is placed just in front of the Panca-tattva Deities. This is so because one day Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu came to the house of Srivasa Pandita and manifested His mood as Narasimha. Since that time devotees have always considered Lord Narasimha to be the protector of the sankirtana movement. This pastime is mentioned in Caitanya-bhagavata Madhya-khanda, ch. 2, 253-269
"Walking by the riverbank, He (Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu) saw a herd of cows. They were mooing and drinking water. With raised tails some ran in the four directions. Some fought. Some napped. Some drank water. Seeing them, the Lord began to roar. I am He! I am He!" The Lord shouted again and again. In this way He ran to Srivasa's house.
"Srivasa, what are you doing now?", the Lord roared. Within his home, Srivasa was worshiping Lord Narasimha. Pounding again and again, Sri Caitanya broke the door open. Whom do you worship? On whom do you meditate? Look! The person you worship has come!" the Lord roared.
"Srivasa saw a form like blazing fire, Then his meditation broke. He looked in the four directions. He saw Sri Caitanya sitting in a virasana yoga posture. Sri Caitanya had four arms. He held a conch-shell, cakra, club, and lotus. He roared like a maddened lion. Slapping the palm of His hand against His left shoulder, He made a great sound. Seeing all this, Srivasa trembled. Then he became stunned. He did not move.
"The Lord roared, O Srivasa! For so many days you did not know My true identity? Because of your loud sankirtana I left Vaikuntha and came here with all My associates. Not knowing Me, You left Me and went to Santipura. I will rescue the devotees. I will kill all the demons. Don't worry. Now recite prayers to Me." Gazing at the Lord, Srivasa wept tears of love. The fears in his heart died. Now He was confident. His whole body was filled with joy.
"He offered dandavat obeisances. Then, folding his hands, he recited prayers. By his nature, Srivasa Pandita was a great devotee of the Lord. He accepted the Lord's order. By the Lord's desire, he recited prayers."
The Deity form of Ugra Narasimha is usually not worshipped by the devotees of Mahaprabhu or by the devotees of Radha and Krsna except in special situations or in special places. The Ugra form of the Lord is very fearful and hard to please. Of course such has become the fashion among certain devotees, but it is actually imprudent on the part of a devotee to think that he can pacify Lord Narasimha when the Lord is in an angry mood.
At the time of killing Hiranyakasipu Lord Narasimha manifested great anger, so much so that the Demigods, great devotees like Narada Muni, and even Laksmi (the Goddess of Fortune) were afraid to approach Him. Only the pure devotee like Prahlada Maharaja was able to approach Lord Narasimha at that time. So who are we to think that we are more qualified than great devotees like Narada or that we are equal to Prahlada Maharaja? But such is our audacity.
During the Ratha-yatra festival each year in Jagannatha Puri when Lord Jagannatha goes to the Gundica temple Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu used to take His sankirtana devotees for darsana of Lord Narasimha at a small temple just adjacent to Gundica. In that temple Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu performed congregational chanting of the holy names of Krsna and danced in ecstatic love of God before the Deity. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu used to manifest the bodily symptoms of love of God before the Deity such as loudly chanting the Holy Name, dancing in ecstasy, shivering and sometimes fainting.
Based on all these facts it is safe to say that the aspiring devotees should not unnecessarily avoid the worship of Lord Narasimha, for such would be an offence.
Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura has written five beautiful prayers in 'Sri Navadvipa Bhava Taranga' for receiving the mercy of Lord Narasimha. These prayers are certainly assurance to all sincere devotees that the worship of Lord Narasimha is purely in the line of aspiring love and devotion to Sri Sri Radha and Krsna. Those prayers are as follows.
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 sown 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)