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In Hinduism, Narasimha ("man-lion") is one of the avatars of Vishnu. In his previous avatar, Vishnu was Varaha and killed the demon Hiranyaksha, whose brother, Hiranyakashipu, was greatly angered by this. Hiranyakashipu decided to gain magical powers by performing a penance for Brahma. Hiranyakashipu asked for a boon from Brahma that he would not die on Earth or in space, nor in fire or water, not during the day or night, not inside or outside, and not by the hand of a human, god, animal or any other animate or inanimate species. Brahma was pleased with his penance and granted the boon.

Hiranyakashipu, a Daitya, hated the gods and most especially Vishnu, the followers of whom he began to torture. Hiranyakashipu's son, Prahlada, was a very devoted follower of Vishnu. Hiranyakashipu failed in convincing his son to join him against Vishnu, and tried to kill him, but Prahlada was protected by Vishnu. When asked, Prahlada refused to acknowledge his father as the supreme lord of the universe (though he had used his boon to conquer the entire world) and claimed that Vishnu was omnipresent. Hiranyakashipuasked if Vishnu was in a particular pillar and Prahlada answered he was. Hiranyakashipu smashed the pillar, and Narasimha came from it. Narasimha killed Hiranyakashipu, since he was neither human nor animal nor god (an avatar is a human, but this avatar was only part human and part animal) and did so during twilight (neither day nor night), placing him on Narasimha's thighs (not on earth, nor in space), on the threshold of the entrance to a courtyard (neither inside nor out) and using nails (neither animate nor inanimate) as weapons.

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