A demon of this magnitude would have quite a lineage and an appropriate source of his tremendous powers. There was a time before the life when he had this name when he was the very doorkeeper (dvârapâlâkas) of Lord Vishnu at Vaikuntha. His name in that previous birth was Jâya.
His elder twin brother was Vijâya, also a doorkeeper. One day a group of hermits led by Sanaka came to Vaikuntha to see Vishnu. They were stopped by Jâya and Vijâya. But the sages took offense and cursed the doorkeepers to be reborn three times as demons (asuras). The frightened doorkeepers begged the angry brâhmins for forgiveness, but they only slightly lessened the punishment: after three births, they would be redeemed by the weapon of Lord Vishnu.
Accordingly, the twins were reborn on earth as twin demons, Hiranyakas´ipu and Hiranyâksha, who came from the womb first. Their first earthly parents were Kas´yapa-Prajâpati and his wife Ditî. After Hiranyâksha was killed by Lord Vishnu in his Vâmana (boar) avatâra (incarnation), Hiranyakas´ipu did austerities (tapas) in order to increase his strength and get revenge.
He was so good at ascetic disciplines that he earned boons from Brahmâ and immediately conquered the three worlds. He was crowned Triloka Cakravarti (emperor of the three lokas [worlds]). He prevented everyone from saying Vishnu’s name or even thinking about him. He instituted his own worship with the mantra Hiranyâya namah (salutation to Hiranya).
However, his son, Prahlâda became a devotee to Vishnu and chanted Nârâyanâya namah (salutation to Nârâyana, in other words, Lord Vishnu). Hiranyakas´ipu was killed by the Narasimha incarnation of Vishnu (as man-lion).