An avatara is the descent of God that leads to the ascent of man, said Damal Ramakrishnan. The word, ‘avatara’ in Sanskrit means ‘descent.’ Avataras are meant to protect the virtuous and to inculcate moral values in us. In the Narasimha avatara, Lord Narayana has shown us how He responds to our cries for help.
It requires the kind of unflinching devotion Prahlada shows to the Lord, even when his life is under threat from his father. When the Lord appears as Narasimha and kills Hiranyakasipu, Prahlada begs Him to stay on and rule the kingdom.
Prahlada says the kingdom, which had a wicked asura for a king, now deserves no less than Narayana Himself as a ruler. But Narasimha refuses, for the very purpose of His avatara is to save Prahlada and to kill Hiranyakasipu.
Prahlada then asks Him at least to sit on Hiranyakasipu’s throne for a few minutes, so that the throne becomes a blessed one. The Lord agrees. The Sanskrit word for throne is ‘nripasana.’ Prahlada says that since Narasimha sat on the throne, henceforth it will be known as ‘simhasana.’ The name Prahlada gave his father’s throne has become a generic term for all thrones.
But there are two avataras that are exceptions to the rule that God leaves as soon as the purpose of the avatara is accomplished. They are Lord Rama and Lord Krishna. The purpose of the Rama avatara is to slay Ravana, but this comes long after Rama’s birth, his accompanying Viswamitra to the forest, His marriage, the plans for His coronation, His exile, the kidnap of Sita by Ravana, and finally Rama’s assault on Lanka. And the avatara does not end with the killing of Ravana; Rama is crowned king and rules for 11,000 years.
Again in the Krishna avatara, Krishna does not slay Kamsa right away. He grows up in Nandagokulam, and performs miracles there. It’s only later that He kills Kamsa. And even after Kamsa is killed, Krishna continues on this earth. Through these two avataras, Narayana has demonstrated His simplicity by living amidst human beings for many years, long after the purpose of the avataras is fulfilled.