Narasimha ("man-lion") is the fourth incarnation (Avatara) of Lord Vishnu. He is worshipped in deity form by a significant number of Vaishnava groups throughout India (especially in the South) and is primariliy known as the 'Great Protector', being a form of Vishnu who specifically defends and protects his devotees in times of need.
The most famous story regarding Narashima is described in the Bhagavata Purana :
In his previous avatar (incvarnation) of (Varaha), Vishnu killed a rakshasa known as Hiranyaksha. Hiranyaksha's brother Hiranyakashipu, greatly angered by this, started to abhor Lord Vishnu and His followers. Further, he decides to put an end to Vishnu by gaining mystical powers through performance of a great penance for Brahma, the chief among the demigods (devas). Brahma, pleased with his austere penance, then appeared before Hiranyakashipu and granted him a boon. Hiranyakashipu asked for the following:That he would not die on Earth or in Space, nor in fire or water, neither during the day or at night, neither inside a building nor outside, not by a weapon of holding (i.e a sword) or throwing (i.e an arrow), nor by anyone created by Brahma. Thus being granted this boon, Hiranyakashipu then believed himself to be immortal and decided it was now time to avenge the death of his brother Hiranyaksha.
Meanwhile, while Hiranyakashipu had been performing his penance, the divine sage (rishi) called Narada protected Hiranyakashipu's wife Kayadhu after her home had been overtaken by a war party. While under the guidance of Narada, her unborn child (Hiranyakashipu's son) Prahlada, was affected by his transcendental instructions even at such a young stage of development (through the sound vibrations). Thus, Prahlada when born was gradually recognised as being a very devoted follower of Vishnu, much to his father's disappointment.As Prahlada grows in age, his father Hiranyakashipu becomes upset at his devotion to Vishnu, who he sees as his mortal enemy. Eventually his anger leads him to attempt to kill the boy Prahlada in many ways, but each time Prahlada is protected by Vishnu's mystical power. When asked, Prahlada refuses to acknowledge his father as the supreme lord of the universe and claims that Vishnu is omnipresent.
Finally in disgust Hiranyakashipu points to a particular pillar and asks if his Vishnu is in it? Prahlada answers, He was, He is and He will be. In an alternate version of the story, Prahlada answers He is in pillars, and he is in the least twig. Hiranyakashipu, unable to control his anger, smashes the pillar with his mace, and then following a tumultuous sound, Vishnu in the form of Narasimha appears from it and in defence of Prahlada moves to attack his father. In order to kill Hiranyakashipu and not upset the boon given by Brahma, the form of Narasimha was chosen. Hiranyakashipu could not be killed by human, deva or animal, Narasimha is neither one of these, as he is a form of Vishnu incarnate as a part-human, part-animal. He comes upon Hiranyakashipu at twilight (when it is neither day nor night) on the threshold of a courtyard (neither indoors nor out), and puts the demon on his lap (neither earth nor space). Using his nails (neither animate nor inanimate) as weapons, he disembowels and kills the demon.
Even after killing Hiranyakashipu, Narasimha cannot control his fury. None of the present demigods were able to calm Narasimha's fury. Thus, at the request of Narada, Prahlada was presented to Narasimha, and finally, he was calmed by the prayers of his devotee. He is invoked by His devotees in danger and there are testimonies of people who were saved by Him. There is one story in which He saved Adi Sankara from being sacrificed to goddess Kali by a Kapalika. Thus Adi Sankara composed Laksmi-Nrsimha stotra.
Due to the nature of Narasimha's form (divine anger), it is considered essential that worship is given with a very high level of attention compared to other deities. In many temples only life-long celebates (brahmacarya) will be able to have the chance to serve as priests to perform the daily puja. Forms where Narasimha appears sitting in a yogic posture, or with the goddess Lakshmi are the exception to this rule, as Narasimha is taken as being more relaxed in both of these instances compared to his form when first emerging from the pillar to protect Prahlada.
Narasimha indicates God's omnipresence and the lesson is that God is everywhere . Prahlada's devotion indicates that pure devotion is not one of birthright but of character. Prahlada, although born an asura, demonstrated greatest bhakti to God. Killing Hiranykashyapu by incarnating as Narasihma is one of Vishnu's major exploits. In Indian tradition of festivity this episode is related with Holi, India's one of four most important festivals and hence the legend has a nation-wide popularity. In South Indian art - sculptures, bronzes and paintings, Vishnu's incarnation as Narsimha is one of the most chosen themes and amongst Avatars perhaps next only to Rama and Krishna in popularity.
Narasimha Temples in Kerala
Thuravoor Narasimha-Sudarsana Temple
Elamkulam Narasimha Swami Temple
Anayadi Narasimha Swami Temple
Vazhenkada Narasimha Swami Temple
Rishinaradamangalam Narasimha Swami Temple
Manganam Narasimha Swami Temple
Aymanam Narasimha Swami Temple(Aymanam Valiyachan Santha Narasimha Moorthy)
Kadamuri Narasimha Swami Temple Vakathanam
Palakkattumala Narasimha Swami Temple
Peruva Narasimha Swami Temple
Kozha Narasimha Swami Temple
Pala Narasimha Swami Temple
In Thiruvananthapuram Sree Padmanabha Temple, Thrikkodithanam Vaishnava Maha Temple and Tidanadu Maha Temple Narasimhamoorthy is also as important as the main dieties.