Bhakta Kavi Jayadeva Goswami

Bhakta Kavi Jayadeva Goswami, was a Sanksrit poet during the 12th century. He is most known for his epic composition Gita Govinda which vividly describes Shri Krishna’s love for Gopikas in general and Radha in particular.

The Gita Govinda is organized into twelve chapters. Each chapter is further sub-divided into twenty-four divisions called Prabandhas. The Prabandhas contain couplets grouped into eights, called Ashtapadis. The poem presents the view that Radha is greater than Shri Krishna, is considered an important part of the Bhakti movement, in which Jayadeva describes Lord Shri Krishna’s yearning for Radha!

The poems also elaborates the eight moods of the Heroine, the Ashta Nayika, which has been an inspiration for many compositions and choreographic works in Indian classical dances.

Sri Jayadeva – Ashtapadi reveals the  True Essence of Love between Radha and Shri Krishna.  Sri Gita Govinda Mahakavyam declares the beautiful blend and unison of JivAtma with ParamAtma.

The twelve chapters of Gita Govinda vividly describes the different facet of Shri Krishna:

  1. Samoda Damodaram (Exuberant Krishna)
  2. Aklesha Keshavam (Blithesome Krishna)
  3. Mugdha Madhusudanam (Winsome Krishna)
  4. Snigdha Madhusudanam (Tender Krishna)
  5. Sakankṣa Puṇdarikakṣham (Passionate Krishna)
  6. Dhrṣta Vaikuṇṭa (Audacious Krishna)
  7. Nagara Narayanah (Dexterous Krishna)
  8. Vilakṣya Lakṣmipatih (Apologetic Krishna)
  9. Mugdhada Mukunda (Unpretentious Krishna)
  10. Chatura Chaturbhujah (Tactful Krishna)
  11. Sananda Damodaram (Joyful Krishna)
  12. Suprita Pitambaraj (Exultant Krishna)

Jayadeva’s birth

jayadevaJayadeva was born to Kamalabai and Narayana Sastri, a very pious Brahmin couple. Kamalabai was very devout and longed for a child. She prayed to the Lord to be blessed with a child.  One night, Lord Krishna appeared in his dream and told him that his wife’s prayer would be fulfilled and they would soon be blessed with an illustrious son. Soon, Kamalabai gave birth to Jaya Deva.

Jaya Deva was very devoted to Shri Krishna from his childhood and his Upanayanam ceremony was performed when he was only five years old.  He learnt the scriptures at a very young age and was incessantly lost in prayers of Shri Krishna.  His parents left for Vanaprastha after sometime and Jayadeva led a nomadic life with no fixed abode.

One day, he had a divine visualization and went into an ecstatic state. In his divine vision, he saw the Yamuna River flowing through four Blue Mountains. Beside the river bank, under a tree, Lord Shri Krishna was playing his flute delightfully. The vision of Krishna and His music enthralled Jayadeva so much that he composed a Shloka extempore. This gave birth to the famous epic, ‘Gita Govinda’, validating the words ‘Poetry is a spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings and emotions’.

Jayadeva described Sriman Narayana’s Dasha Avataar in his first Astapadi ‘Jaya Jagadeesha Hare! He had a visualisation of these ten avatars and was in a trance as he witnessed the vast ocean which depicted the presence of God in His vast creation. He prayed to the Lord and sought his blessing.  Later, he went to Jagannath Puri Temple with his friend Parasara and spent all his time in prayer, meditation and chanting the name of the Lord.

Deva Sharma, a Brahmin in Puri, had a daughter by the name Padmavathi.  As he was keen to get his daughter married, he prayed to Lord Jagannath for His blessings. The Lord appeared in Deva Sharma’s dream and advised him to perform her marriage with His ardent devotee Jayadeva.

Accordingly, Deva Sharma and his wife went in search of Jayadeva.  When they found him they told him of Lord’s wish. Jayadeva refused to marry as he was leading the life of Sanyasi and said he was unfit for Grihastadharma. But Deva Sharma refused to accept that and since it was Lord Jagannath’s order, he could not go against it.  Jayadeva was forced to oblige as he too wouldn’t oppose the Lord’s wishes. He married Padmavathi and came back to his village Kendybilva and they lived happily there and prayed to Radha Madhav in their house regularly.

After sometime Jayadeva went on a pilgrimage. On his way he met King Lakshmana Sena who was very much impressed with Jayadeva and forced him to stay with him and accepted him as his Guru. Later, Padmavathi joined Jayadeva, and the King was surprised to learn that his Guru was a Grihasta.

Jayadeva explained to the King that one can be a Sanyasin even as a Grihasta if one is performs one’s duties without attachment to the fruits. He explained that renunciation meant gaining control over the mind and all the senses. Jayadeva’s life is an example to the world that God-realisation can be had even as a Grihasta. Several other Saints such as Swamy Desikan, Ramakrishna Paramahamsa have gained self realisation while leading the life of a Grihasta.

Padmavathi was a perfect match for Jayadeva as she too was a pious lady and was inspired by her husband’s faith, treated him like a God. She spent her hours in spiritual discourses to other ladies in the court. The Queen too was one of her disciples but unknowingly had the pride of a royal family that propped up every now and then.

Once Padmavathi was discussing Sati Sahagamanam with the Queen. She opined that ‘whoever dies on her husband’s funeral pyre is not a great lady. A true wife is one who breathes her last, the minute she hears of her husband’s demise.’  The Queen wanted to test Padmavathi on her assertion, so she decided to play a practical trick on her.

The next day she informed Padmavathi, with tears in her eyes, that Jayadeva was killed by a lion while accompanying the King in the forest. As soon as she completed her statement, Padmavathi fell unconscious and upon close examination the Queen discovered that Padmavathi had breathed her last! The Queen was shocked and remorseful of her action and was worried how Jayadeva and the King would react to her foolish behaviour. While the King got furious, Jayadeva was not perturbed and he picked her up and prayed to God.  Within no time Padmavathi woke up as if from sleep and she too joined their prayer. The Queen was relieved and humbly acknowledged the Bhakti of Jayadeva and the pious nature of Padmavathi.

After some time Jayadeva came back to his village and while residing here, he composed his famous  “Gita Govinda”.

Gita Govinda

jayadevas_gitagovindaJayadeva wrote poem Gita Govinda which celebrates the glorious divine love of Radha and Krishna. The Gita Govinda comprising of Sanskrit songs describes Shri Krishna’s courtship of Radha. With lucid and tender lyrics, the Gita Govinda explored many aspects of love and passion.

At a mundane level, it narrates the love of Radha and Krishna as simple cowherds, but at a spiritual level the poem describes the union of JivAtma with ParamAtma.


One day while Jayadeva was composing the Ashtapadi, he got the inspiration to write the beautiful lines ’Smara Garala  Kandanam Mama Shirsi Mandanam Dhehi Padha Pallavam Udharam ….’

O’ love, place the tender-leafy foot of yours on my head as it is an antidote to the venom of Love God…

But as soon as he penned these lines, he rubbed it off immediately and felt extremely guilty. He threw away his pen and with a wavering mind got up from his seat.  His eyes welled with tears as he lamented, ‘What sin have I committed… Apacharam…Apacharam.  How could I write these lines? How can a devotee (Radha) place her feet on Lord Krishna’s head?

Jayadeva felt very restless and could not stop thinking of the sin he had committed.  He walked out of the house towards the river bank.  After seeing her husband’s restlessness Padmavathi prayed to Lord to help her husband complete the compositions of Ashtapadi without any break.

Padmavathi expressed her surprise and went to get the shlokas and the stylus.  Jayadev said ‘I was struck with the poem but got flash with wonderful lines to complete the poem and so I came back.’

He completed the poem as below:
Smara-Garala-Khandanam Mama Shirasi Mandanam
Dehi Pada-Pallavam Udaaram
Jvalati Mayi Daruno Madana-Kadanaruno
Haratu Tad-upahita-vikaram ||19.8||

O’ Dear Radha, your tender-leafy foot is an antidote to the venom of Love God. Please place it on my head, and make it my motif and my glory… for that scorching fire of Love God is burning me intolerably… hence, tread my body to tread on that Love God, to tread out his fire and its abnormalities.

After that he asked Padmavathi to arrange water for his bath and his bath, he offered nivedanam to God and had food and dozed off comfortably on his bed.

A little while later, Padmavathi began to eat, but there was a knock on the door again.  She was shocked and confused to see Jayadeva standing before her. Jayadeva was even more than surprised and questioned her ‘What’s wrong with you today? Have you ever dined before offering food to the Lord or before I had my food? I have never seen such a thing before!’

Padmavathi was even more shocked and stammered, “but you came back from a little while ago, took the poem, and completed it. After that had your bath, did prayers, had food and were resting. Jayadeva immediately knew what might have transpired and rushed into the room. But nobody was there in the room. He asked Padma to bring the Shloka to see how it was completed. He had guessed it right! The Lord Himself came to complete the poem and had written the same words as Jayadeva had originally composed it.

Jayadeva was ecstatic at one level that his composition was accepted by the Lord but at another level felt sad that he missed Lord’s Darshan.  He thought, how lucky Padmavathi was as she saw the Lord and served Him personally. He cried unto the Lord. O’ Prabhu, O’ Krishna! What wrong have I done that you did not grace me your Darshan? You left me out and blessed Padmavathi alone.’ He grabbed the food from Padvamathi’s leaf since it was the food enjoyed by the Lord Himself! He did not care for Padmavathi’s protest that he was eating from her half-eaten leaf.

After this incident, Jayadeva completed his Gita Govindam with renewed vigour. He was deeply involved in his songs and sang them wholeheartedly. The Lord followed him, invisibly and wholeheartedly, to listen to his rendition.

The Ashtakas are sung before Lord Jagannath during the annual festival. People were struck with the splendid music and poetry of Gita Govinda and praised it highly. The fame of Jaya Deva reached far and wide.

ggOnce a woman was singing the Gita Govinda beautifully in the forests as she was collecting fruits for her daily trade. Lord Jagannath was very pleased with her singing and He began to wander in the forest after her to hear her rendition. The Lord’s garment was torn to pieces while He was running all over the forest, as it was caught in the thorny bushes of the forest.  Next morning, the priest of the temple and the King saw the Pitambara of the Lord in rags. They were not able to find the reason for the torn condition of the Pitambara. They prayed to the Lord to make them know the reason.

The Lord appeared in their dream and said, ‘A woman was singing Gita Govinda in the forest. I ran in the forest to hear her song. When I ran, the Pitambara was torn to pieces by the thorns.’

The Lord becomes a slave of His devotees and will do anything for the sake of His devotees.  The King honoured the Lady for her devotion.

Jayadeva’s last days

Jayadeva had taken a vow that he would take bath in the Ganga till the end of his life. As he became old he became indisposed. The King offered a palanquin to Jayadeva but he declined to accept it. Due to his tapas, Ganga herself appeared with lotus flowers in the well of Jayadeva’s house.  Finally, Jayadeva attained the Lotus feet of Lord Shri Krishna.

Every year on Sankranthi day, a big event is organised in memory of Jayadeva in his village Kendubilva and devotees chant Gita Govinda.

Such was the glorious life of Jayadeva, one of the greatest devotees of Lord Shri Krishna.  He led a simple, humble, unpretentious life with no possessions, and always found joy and happiness in meditating on Lord Shri Krishna, and was a perfect embodiment of forgiveness.

Glory to Jayadeva Goswami whose life inspires us all!



Swami Desikan composed 10 verses on “Saranagati” (absolute surrender) in his “Adaikkala Patthu” wherein he seeks refuge of Lord Varadarajar of Kancheepuram for Moksha (Liberation).  Swami Desikan has also composed ‘Nyasa Dasakam’ in Sanskrit which has a similar set of Shlokas for Saranagati.

Before we delve into the meanings of Adaikkala Patthu or the approach to Saranagati, let’s understand the rationale of our Acharyas preferring Saranagati as a means to attain Moksha as opposed to the Jnana Marga or the Bhakti Marga as detailed in the Bhagavad Gita, both of which were available to them.  In the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 12 Verse 1) Arjuna asks Bhagavan Sri Krishna this very question, which is seeking Bhagavan’s view on Jnana Marga and Bhakti Marga:

Arjuna Uvaca:
Evam satata-yukta ye bhaktas tvam paryupasate
Ye capy aksaram avyaktam tesam ke yoga-vittamah ||12.1||
Meaning: Arjuna asks: Which is considered to be more perfect, those who are properly engaged in Your devotional service, or those who worship the impersonal Brahman, the unmanifested?

Bhagavan Sri Krishna, true to his nature, does not give a straight answer but instead lays out the paths to ‘Realisation’ and the rigour required for each of these paths.

Sri Bhagavan Uvaca:
mayy avesya mano ye mam nitya-yukta upasate
sraddhaya parayopetas te me yuktatama matah ||12.2||

ye tv aksaram anirdesyam avyaktam paryupasate
sarvatra-gam acintyam ca kuta-stham acalam dhruvam ||12.3||

sanniyamyendriya-gramam sarvatra sama-buddhayah
te prapnuvanti mam eva sarva-bhuta-hite ratah ||12.4||

kleso ‘dhikataras tesam avyaktasakta-cetasam
avyakta hi gatir duhkham dehavadbhir avapyate ||12.5||

Bhagavan Sri Krishna says – He whose mind is fixed on My personal form, always engaged in worshiping Me with great and transcendental faith, is considered by Me to be most perfect.

But those who fully worship the unmanifested, that which lies beyond the perception of the senses, the all-pervading, inconceivable, fixed, and immovable-the impersonal conception of the Absolute Truth-by controlling the various senses and being equally disposed to everyone, such persons, engaged in the welfare of all, at last attain Me.

For those whose minds are attached to the unmanifested, impersonal feature of the Supreme, advancement is very troublesome. To make progress in that discipline is always difficult for those who are embodied.

ye tu sarvani karmani mayi sannyasya mat-parah
ananyenaiva yogena mam dhyayanta upasate ||12.6||

tesam aham samuddharta mrtyu-samsara-sagarat
bhavami na cirat partha mayy avesita-cetasam||12.7||

Meaning: For those who worships Me, giving up all their activities unto Me and being devoted to Me without deviation, engaged in devotional service and always meditating upon Me, who have fixed their mind upon Me, O son of Prtha, for them I am the swift deliverer from the Samsara of birth and death.

Hence, Bhagavan clearly explains that both the Jnana Marga and the Bhakti Marga lead to salvation but require great rigour and discipline. However, even Sri Adi Sankara, who propounded the Advaita philosophy (Jnana Marga), composed the famous Bhaja Govindam song emphasising the need for Bhakti.

Finally, in Chapter 18 of the Bhagavad Gita, Bhagavan says there is an easier approach to reach Him:
Man-mana bhava mad-bhakto mad-yaji mam namaskuru
Mam evaisyasi satyam te pratijane priyo ‘si me ||18.65||

Sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja
Aham tvam sarva-papebhyo moksayisyami ma sucah ||18.66||

Always think of Me and become My devotee. Worship Me and offer your homage unto Me. Thus, you will come to Me without fail. I promise you this because you are My very dear friend.

Relinquish all forms of righteous actions, just surrender unto Me exclusively. I will deliver you from all sinful reactions. Do not despair.

Bhagavan gives his assurance to Arjuna that by simply surrendering unto Him exclusively, He guarantees Moksha.

Our Acharyas led a life of austerity with discipline and rigour. They followed the path of Dharma as well as engaged in staunch Bhakti which would have made them eligible for liberation under either of those two Margas (Jnana or Bhakti).  Yet, they chose Saranagati (Absolute Surrender) as an approach to gain Moksha.  This was mainly to show the path to liberation to the followers out of their compassion as they knew that following the Jnana or the Bhakti Marga which requires rigour and discipline would be extremely difficult for the common folks who are caught in this Samsara.

Ashtanga Yoga

Before we go into Saranagati, let’s also understand Yoga as a means of attaining liberation.  Patanjali begins his treatise by stating the purpose of Yoga sutra by defining the word “yoga” in his second sutra of Book:

योग: चित्त-वृत्ति निरोध:
yogah citta-vṛtti-nirodhaḥ — Yoga Sutras 1.2

This terse definition means ‘Yoga is the restraint (nirodhaḥ) on the modifications (vṛtti) of the mind (citta). Swami Vivekananda translates the sutra as ‘Yoga is restraining the mind-stuff (Citta) from taking various forms (Vrittis)’.

Yoga essentially consists of meditative practices culminating in attaining a state of consciousness free from all modes of active or latent thought, and of eventually attaining a state where consciousness is unaware of any object external to itself, that is, is only aware of its own nature as consciousness unmixed with any other object.  Yoga has eight different stages or ‘Angas’ and hence called as the “Ashtanga Yoga”. They are described by Patanjali as: Yama (abstinences), Niyama (observances), Asana (postures), Pranayama (breath control), Pratyahara (sense withdrawal), Dharana (concentration), Dhyana (meditation), and Samadhi (Realisation).

Since it is difficult to practice Yoga to perfection, Bhagavan Sri Krishna offers unconditionally the ultimate option of Saranagati for release from the cycle of Samsara.

There are many ways of performing Saranagati.  For example:

  1. Pranava Mantra: AUM iti Atamanam yunjita (Narayana Upanishad 147.8)
  2. Dwaya Mantra (as shown by Sri Ramanuja Acharya in Gadya Trayam):
    Sriman Narayana charanau Saranam prapadye
    Srimathe Narayanaya Namah
    Meaning:  Sriman Narayana, I surrender at your feet, Sriman Narayana, my obeisance to you. I hold Sriman Narayana’s feet, who is forever associated with the compassionate Goddess Sri Lakshmi, as the object of my surrender.
  1. Venkatesa Prapatti: Shree Venkatesha charanau Saranam Prapadhye
  2. Part of Nitya Karma:
    Shankha Chakra Gadha paane Dwaraka NilayAcyutah
    Govinda Pundarikaksha Rakshamaam Sharanagatam
    Meaning: O’ Acyuta, who resides in Dwaraka, holding a Conch (Shanku), Discus (Chakra) and a Mace (Gadha) in his hands (paane), O’ Govinda, who has Lotus-like eyes (Pundarikaksha), please protect me, for I have come to you seeking your refuge.

Saranagati (Prapatti) consists of three steps:

  1. Firstly, surrender one’s Atma (self) — Recognize that this Atma is not independent but is subservient to the Lord. This is called Svarupa Samarpanam.
  2. Second, surrender the responsibility for our protection to the Lord — this is called Bhara Samarpanam or Bhara Nyasam.
  3. Finally, surrender all the fruits of our actions arising out of existence to Bhagavan with humility as if we had no part in it — this is called Phala Samarpanam.

In the first Shloka of Nyasa Daskam, Swami Desikan bring this out nicely – ‘aham, mad rakshana bharah, mad rakshana phalam tatha, na mama, Sripatereva iti, Atmanam nikshipet, budhah’.

Saranagati has five pre-conditions (Angas) that are to be embraced before offering oneself to Lord’s feet (Surrender) to serve Him:

  1. Accepting those things that are favourable for devotion to God (Anukulya Sankalpam)
  2. Rejecting those things that hinder righteous actions (Pratikulya varjanam)
  3. Considering God to be the protector in all circumstances (Maha Vishvasam or Raksishyati Vishvasah)
  4. Accepting God as one’s maintainer (Goptrtva Varanam)
  5. Cultivating a humble attitude (Karpanyam)
  6. Finally, the sixth one is called the ‘Angi’ which is the act of surrendering everything at the Lord’s feet (Atma-niksepam)

The five Angas of Saranagati, namely Anukulya Sankalpam, Pratikulya varjanam, Raksishyati Vishvasah, Goptrata Varanam and Karpanyam should be practiced along with the Angi namely ‘Atmaniksepa’. The Atmaniksepa is the act of Saranagati while the Angas precursors that prepare us and equip us for Saranagati.

Vibheeshana Saranagati – Illustrates all the Saranagati Vidhis

Ramayana is admitted as a practical guide and is considered as the Saranagati Veda in which Vibhishana’s Saranagati to Rama is regarded as the Upanishad. The surrender of Vibhishana illustrates the five ‘Angas’ of Saranagati and the ‘Angi’ the act of surrender as specified in the Saranagati Vidhi.

Vibhishana sought refuge in Rama, rebelling against the authority of his brother, who symbolised evil for him.  He requested his brother Ravana to set Sita free and return her safely to Rama and seek forgiveness. He expressed this in quite a number of times.


The Shloka in Ramayana states:
पुरा शरत् सूर्य मरीच्चि सम्निभान् |
नव अग्र पुन्खान् सुदृढान् नृप आत्मजः |
सृजति अमोघान् विशिखान् वधाय ते |
प्रदीयताम् दाशरथाय मैथिली || ६-९-२१
Meaning: Before Rama the prince discharges for your destruction, very strong and unfailing arrows equal to the rays of autumnal sun and provided with new heads and shafts, let Seetha be given away to Rama.

तदेवम् प्रस्तुते कार्ते प्रायश्चित्तमिदम् क्षमम् |
रोचये वीर वैदेही राघवाय प्रदीयताम् || ६-१०-२२
Meaning: O’ brave man! When the omens of evil forces are appearing this way, I would like you to atone for your sins by giving back Seetha to Rama.

This is an illustration of the first Anga namely, Anukulya Sankalpam, acts that are righteous and conducive to the devotion of the Lord.

Ravana’s refusal to heed to Vibhishana’s advice and the latter’s subsequent abandonment of Ravana when he rebukes Vibhishana can be interpreted as the avoidance of evils i.e., Pratikulya Varjanam.  This is further elaborated by his rejection of all the possessions including his sons, wife, friends etc. -‘परित्यक्ता मया लंका मित्राणि च धनानि च || ६-१९-५’. The very abandonment of Lanka shows this Anga.

The third Anga, namely Raksishyati Vishvasah or Maha Vishvasah, is indicated in the following verse of Vibhishana – Sarvalokesarnyaya Raghavaya Mahatmane which means Raghava is the refuge to all the living creatures in all the worlds.

The fourth Anga Goptrata varanam consists in Vibhishana’s faith as expressed in the words:
भवद् गतम् हि मे राज्यम् च जीवितम् च सुखानि च | ६-१९-५
Meaning:  I place my kingdom, life and happiness at your disposal.

The fifth Anga namely Karpanyam (humility or helplessness) is traced in the following utterances of Vibhishana when he introduced himself to Sugriva and others.

अनुजो रावणस्य अहम् तेन च अस्मि अवमानितः || ६-१९-४
Meaning: I am the younger brother of Ravana and I have been humiliated by him.  

The Angi, Atmaniksepa or surrender of the Self is expressed in:
निवेदेअयत माम् क्षिप्रम् राघवाय महात्मने |
सर्व लोक शरण्याय विभीषणम् उपस्थितम् ||६-१७-१७
Meaning: Inform immediately to high soul Rama, the protector of all the worlds, that Vibhishana, has come.

And then Vibhishana says: भवन्तम् सर्व भूतानाम् शरण्यम् शरणम् गतः | ६-१९-४ – I place my kingdom, life and happiness at your disposal.

Lord Rama declares that He is ready to admit into His fold even one who poses himself to be friendly and assures that He would not forget him even though there are defects in him. He states:
मित्र भावेन सम्प्राप्तम् न त्यजेयम् कथंचन |
दोषो यदि अपि तस्य स्यात् सताम् एतद् अगर्हितम् ||६-१८-३
Mitra bhavena sampraptam na tyajeyam katamcana I
Dosho yadyapi tasya syat satam etad agarhitam II
Meaning: I will never give up anybody who approaches Me with friendly attitude even if he is full of defects. This is the way of noble people.

Sri Rama further says:
Sakrdeva prapannaya tavasmi ca yacate |
Abhayam sarva bhutebhyo dadamy etad vratam mama ||18.33||
Meaning: He who seeks refuge in me just once, telling me that ‘I am yours’, I shall give him the assurance of safety against all types of beings. This is my solemn pledge. 

Now let’s look at Swami Desikan’s Adaikkala Patthu.

Adaikkala Patthu

Adaikkala Patthu (also written in Sanskrit by Swami Desikan as ‘Nyasa Dasakam’) elaborates on the approach to Saranagati (absolute surrender to the God), the main approach for the followers of Vishisht Advaitha philosophy. Bhara-nyasam, Bhara-Samarpanam, Prapatti or Saranagati are all acts of surrendering oneself to the service of the Lord and offering the fruits of all actions at the feet of the Lord.

Swami Desikan describes in 10 verses, the approach to Saranagati wherein he surrenders to the Lord Varadaraja of Kancheepuram, whose temple stands on a hill called Hastha Giri (also called Atthi giri in Tamil), and seeks Moksham or Liberation. Let’s now look at the verses:

Pasuram 1

பத்தி முதலாம் மவதில், பதி எனக்கு கூடாமல்,
எத்திசையும் உழன்றோடி, இளைத்து விழும் காகம் போல்,
முத்திதரு நகர் ஏழில் முக்கியமாம் கச்சி தனில்,
அத்திகிரி அருளாளற்கு, அடைக்கலம் நான் புகுந்தேனே ||1||

Patthi mudhalaam mavathil, pathi yenakku koodamal,
Yethisayum uzhandru odi ilaithu vizhum kakam pol,
Mukthi tharum nagar ezhil mukkiyamaam kachi thanil,
Athigiri arul aalarkku, adaikkalam naan pugundhene     ||1||
Meaning: I was not able to practice the path of devotion as there wasn’t any suitable place for Bhakti that allowed me to focus without distraction of the mind.  Just like the crow which scurried in eight different directions that got very tired in the end only to come back and fall at the Lord’s feet for mercy, I surrender to the blessed Lord Varadaraja presiding over Hasthagiri, who is in Kancheepuram, which is the greatest blessed towns among the Seven towns that lead to Salvation.

In his opening line, Swami Desikan laments on the lack of a suitable place for praying to the Lord without distraction and single minded devotion.  He compares his condition to that of the Crow which scurried frantically in all eight directions seeking refuge from others but in the end fell at Lord’s feet.

Swami Desikan in this verse is referring to the Kakasura’s episode from Srimad Ramayana. Kakasura (Indra’s son in a crow form) committed a blunder by physically hurting and injuring Sita. This enraged Rama attacked Kakasura with a simple grass and ultimately fell at Rama’s feet helplessly. The crow’s father Indra abandoned him and so did the sages as they could not intervene against Rama’s arrow.  Kakasura wandered all the worlds and at last surrendered before Rama seeking his forbearance.  Valmiki lucidly narrates this in the following Shlokas:

Sa pitra ca parityahtah suraisca samaharscbhih,
trin lokan samparikramya tamova saranam gatah.
satam nipatitam bhumah sapranyah saranagatim,
vadhirhemepi kakutstah krupaya paryapalayat ||
Meaning: That Kakasura, having been disowned by his father the Gods and the Sages, wandered all the three worlds and took refuge in Rama. Kakasura deserved death but was protected because he took refuge in Rama and fell on the ground before Him. Sri Rama forgave him but plucked one of the eyes as a measure to thwart its wickedness by constantly reminding of the incident leading to loss of an eye.

Swami Desikan says after wandering many places, just like the Kakasura, I have come to you, O’Lord Vardaraja seeking your refuge.

In the third line of his Pasruam, Swami Desikan says of the seven holy places – Ayodhya, Mathura, Maya (Haridwar), Kashi, Kanchi, Avanti (Ujjain) and Dwarkavati – that grant Liberation, Kanchipeerum is one of the important ones and hence I am seeking Lord Varadaraja of Kanchi, residing on top of Hastha Giri to grant me refuge.

Pasuram 2

சடை முடியன், சது முகன் என்று, இவர் முதலாம் தரம் எல்லாம்,
அடைய வினை பயன் ஆகி, அழிந்து விடும் படி கண்டு,
கடி மலராள் பிரியாத, கச்சி நகர் அத்திகிரி,
இடமுடைய அருளாளர், இணை அடிகள் அடைந்தேனே ||2||

Sadai mudiyan, chathur mukanendru, ivar mudhalaam tharam yellam,
Adaya vinai payanagi, azhindu vidum padi kandu,
Kadi malarial piriyatha, kachi nagar athi giri,
Idamudaya arulaalar, inay adikal adainthene ||2||
Meaning: I have seen the boons granted by Shiva, Brahma and other Gods, have a limited span and dilapidate over time. I have seen Shiva and Brahma seek Lord’s refuge to rid of their sins. Knowing this, I surrender to the twin feet of the great Lord of Hasthigiri of Kanchi with whom the Goddess Lakshmi is ever present, and seek his grace to grant me Moksha, the eternal bliss.

Swami Desikan refers to Lord Shiva seeking Lord’s help when he had incurred Brahmahatya dosham when plucked one of Brahma’s five heads. Brahma cursed Shiva for that act which resulted in the skull getting stuck to Shiva’s hand. Shiva was forced to seek alms with that skull in hand.  He cursed such that he can get rid of his sin only if the Kabaalam is completely filled-up with food.  Shiva went around the world on a pilgrimage to find salvation from the curse by begging for food with Brahma’s skull as the begging bowl. Every time someone filled the vessel with food, it vanished immediately to Shiva’s horror.

Finally, Shiva reached Goddess Lakshmi and appealed to her.  She filled the vessel with food ending Shiva’s hunger. However, to Shiva’s dismay, Brahma’s skull still lay fixed on his hand. Shiva did penance and offered His worship to Sriman Narayana. Vishnu answered Shiva’s prayer for salvation and asked him to bathe at Kandiyur Pushkarini. Shiva took a dip in the Pushkarini and with the Lord Kamalanathan’s blessing, the kapalam detached itself from his hand. As a result, the Bhagavan, at this temple, is known as Hara Saapa Vimochana Perumal and the Pushkarini is recognized as Kapaala Thirtham.  Hara is another name for Shiva.

Swami Desikan also refers to Brahma losing the Vedas to the two demons, Madhu and Kaitapa.  Once Lord Brahma was tired of his creative activities and took some rest. Given his fatigue, Lord Brahma yawned. All the four Vedas slipped out of his open mouth. The two demons Madhu and Kaitapa, who were nearby, stole the Vedas from Brahma.  Brahma was powerless in creating life anymore without the knowledge of the Vedas. Brahma approached Lord Narayana who took the form of Hayagreeva (A man’s body with a horse’s head) and slayed the demons and retrieved the Vedas. Since Lord Hayagreeva rescued the Vedas, which are the essence of all knowledge, we worship Hayagreeva as the God of Knowledge.

Swami Desikan emphasises that it is Lord Narayana who is the saviour and protector of all the worlds including that of Brahma and Shiva.  Hence, he is approaching Lord Varadaraja of Hastha Giri who is forever with Lakshmi Piratti, who is full of compassion, as the ultimate protector and grantor of Moksha.

Sri Thirumazhisai Azhwar says similarly:

சாக்கியம் கற்றோம், சமணம் கற்றோம், சங்கரனார் ஆக்கிய ஆகமநூல் ஆராய்ந்தோம்; பாக்கியத்தால் வெங்கடகிரியனை சேர்ந்தோம்.
Saakkiyam katrom Samanam katrom, Sankaranaar Aakkiya Agamanool arinthom bhaaghyataal Venkatkariyaaanai Sernthom
Meaning: We learnt Saakkiyam (Jainism), Samanam (Buddhism) and the Agamic Scriptures by Lord Shankara (Shiva) and due to sheer grace, we landed at the feet of Lord Thiruvengadathaan (Lord Venkateshwara).

Pasuram 3

தந்திரங்கள் வேரின்றித், தமது வழி அழியாது,
மந்திரங்கள் தம்மாலும், மற்றும் உள்ள உரையாலும்,
அந்தரம் கண்டடி பணிவார், அனைவர்க்கும் அருள் புரியும்,
சிந்துர வெற்பிரையவனார், சீலம் அல்லதறியேனே ||3||

Thanthirangal verindri thamathu vazhi azhiyaadhu,
Manthirangal thammalum, mathumulla urayalum,
Antharam kandu adi panivaar, anaivarkkum arul puriyum,
Sinthura verpu iraiyavanaar, seelam allathu ariyene ||3||
Meaning: After understanding the rigours of Jnana Yoga and Bhakti Yoga to reach Him as prescribed in the Vedas, Upanishads and other scriptures, and after appreciating the Saranagati vidhi as well; and seeing the differences between them, many may choose Prapatti to get His grace. Lord Varadaraja of Kanchi, whose unbounded compassion is beyond compare, blesses all of them with his Grace, no matter the path chosen by His devotee.

Pasuram 4

காகம் இராக்கதன், மன்னர் காதலி கத்திரபந்து,
நாகம் அரண் அயன் முதலா, நாகநகரார் தமக்கும்,
போகம் உயர் வீடு பெறப், பொன் அருள் செய்தமை கண்டு,
நாகமலை நாயகனார் நல்லடி போதடைந்தேனே ||4||

Kaagam irakkadhan, mannar kadali katthira bandhu,
Nagam aran ayan mudhalaa naga nakaraar thamakkum,
Bhogamyuar veedu pera ponnarul cheythamai kandu,
Naga malai nayakanar nalladi podadainthene. ||4||
Meaning: Seeing that that Bhagavan showered aishwaryam and granted moksham to Kaagam (Kakasura), Rakshasas (Vibheeshana), Mannar Kadhali (Draupadi), Kshatrabandhu (a sinner who gets liberated by chanting Govinda), Naagam (can refer to Gajendra or Kaliyan), Aran (Shiva), Ayan (Brahma) and to the Devas etc. I surrendered myself with full faith at the feet of the Lord of Hastha Giri, (the elephant mountain) and attained Him.

Pasuram 5

உகக்கும் அவை உகந்து, உகவா அனைத்தும் ஒழிந்து, உறவு குணம்
மிக துணிவு பெற உணர்ந்து, வியன் காவலன்  என வரித்து,
சகத்தில் ஒரு புகல் இல்லாத், தவம் அறியேன் மதிட்கச்சி,
நகர்க் கருணை நாதனை, நல் அடைக்கலமாய் அடைந்தேனே ||5||

Ugakkum avai ugandhu, ugava anaithum ozhindhu, uravu gunam
Miga thunivu pera unarnthu, viyan kavalen ena varithu,
Jagathil oru pugal illa, thavam ariyen mathitkacchi,
Nagar karunai nathanai, nalla adaikkalamai adainthene. ||5||
Meaning: Choosing those that are conducive to serve the Lord, and leaving out those actions that are hindering the path, Understanding the relation between Jiva and Paramatma with great courage, taking Him as one who protects and guards, and understanding that there is no greater glory than to serve Him, I surrender completely to the merciful Lord of Kanchi.

This Pasuram covers the Shad-vidha Saranagati:

  1. Anukulya Sankalpam – Ukakkum avai uhandhu
  2. Pratikulya Varjanam – Ukava anaithum ozhindhu
  3. Maha Vishvasam – Uravu guna Miga thunivu pera unarnthu
  4. Goptretva Varanam – viyan kavalan ena varithu
  5. Karpanyam – Jagathil oru pugal illa thavam ariyen
  6. Atmaniksepam – Kachi nagar karunai nadhanai nal adaikkalamai adainthene

Bhagavan has Shad Gunas of Jnana, Shakti, Veeryam, Balam, Aishwaryam and Tejas, but above all these are qualities like Karunyam (compassion), Vatsalyam (affection), Sausheelyam (excellent disposition) and Saulabhyam (affability or ease of access) are paramount. Without, compassion all other qualities would not be of much benefit to the devotee and Bhagavan has unbounded compassion. His compassion extends even to His enemies where He gave them time to reform (e.g. Ravana, Kakasura, Shishupala etc.).

Pasuram 6

அளவுடையார் அடைந்தார்க்கும், அதன் உரையே கொண்டவர்க்கும்,
வளவுரை தந்தவன் அருளே, மன்னிய மாதவத்தோர்க்கும்,
களவொழிவார் எமர் என்ன, இசைந்தவர்க்கும் காவலராம்,
துளவ முடி அருள் வரதர், துவக்கில் எனை வைத்தேனே ||6||

Alavudayar adaintharkkum, athan uraye kondavarkkum,
Valavurai thandhavan arule, manniya mathavathorkkum,
Kalavozhivaar amar yena, isainthavarkkum kavalaraam,
Thulava mudi arul varadar, thuvakkil yenai vaithene.  ||6||
Meaning: People with great knowledge of Prapatti surrender on their own (Sva Nishtai); some depend on their Guru who have great understanding of the scriptures and follow the instructions for surrender (Ukti Nishtai); for some the Guru performs the prapatti on their behalf (Acharya Nishtai) and some people benefit from the prapatti of great devotees who surrender to the Lord with a clear understanding that their Atma or Self belongs to the Lord.  Such devotees are dear to lord and those people who are with such great devotees gain salvation by their mere association (Bhagavatha Nishtai). I surrendered myself to Varadan who is adorned with Thulasi garland who gives boon of salvation to all those who surrender unto Him by any of the four methods.

Four kinds of Prapatti have been referred in this Pasuram:

  1. Sva Nishtai – This followed by those with knowledge. Such jnanis perform Prapatthi at the sacred feet of the Lord directly (e.g. Azhwars, Acharyas)
  2. Ukthi Nishtai: The Mumukshu (One who desires Moksham) repeats the Prapatti words as per Acharyan’s instructions.
  3. Acharya Nishtai: Acharyan performs prapatti for Mumukshu.
  4. Bhagavatha Nishtai: The Mumkshu is covered within the prapatthi performed by a Bhagavatha, who is not an Acharyan. (e.g. People who were associated with Koorathazhwan or accompanied Vibheeshana were liberated by mere association or Satsang).

Pasuram 7

உமதடிகள் அடைகின்றேன் என்று, ஒரு கால் உரைத்தவரை,
அமையும் இனி என்பவர் போல், அஞ்சல் என கரம் வைத்து,
தமது அனைத்தும் அவர் தமக்கு, வழங்கியும் தாம் மிக விளங்கும்,
அமைவுடைய அருளாளர், அடி இணைய அடைந்தேனே ||7||

Umadhu adikal adaikendren yendru oru kaal uraithavarai.
Amayum ini yenbavar pol, anjal yena karam vaithu,
Thamadhu anaithum avar thamakku vazhangiyum thaam miga vilangum,
Amaivudaya arulaalar adiyinayai adainthene. ||7||
Meaning: To the one who committed to surrender at His feet even once, He Kept His hand on them assuring them to be not be afraid, and as He becomes their protector. He gives them all the goodness and wealth and is delighted at that even as His Tejas and Aishwaryam keeps growing. I surrender at the feet of that great Lord Varadaraja of Kanchi.

Pasuram 8

திண்மை குறையாமைக்கும், நிறைகைக்கும் தீவினையால்,
உண்மை மறவாமைக்கும், உள மதியில் உகக்கைக்கும்,
தன்மை கழியாமைக்கும், தரிக்கைக்கும், தணிகைக்கும்,
வண்மையுடை அருளாளர், வாசகங்கள் மறவேனே ||8||

Thinamai kuryamaikkum, niraikaikkum thee vinayaal,
Unmai maravamaikkum, ula mathiyil ugakkaikkum,
Thanmai kazhiyamaikkum tharikkaikkukm, thanikkaikkum,
Vanmai yudai arulalar vachakangal maravene ||8||
Meaning: I seek His blessing so that my faith is not diminished, and grant me wisdom.  I seek his blessing so that I never forget the truth as a result of any sin committed by me.  I seek His grace to attain bliss as a result of my surrender, and for continuing with this state of mind without feeling inferior and free from the pains of this Samsara. I would never forget the teachings of the very powerful Lord of Kanchi.

Pasuram 9

சுரிதி நினைவிவை அறியும், துணிவுடையார் தூ மொழிகள்,
பரிதி மதி ஆசிரியர், பாசுரம் சேர்ந்தருக்கணங்கள்,
கருதி ஒரு தெளிவாளால், கலக்கம் அறுத்தத்திகிரி,
பரிதி மதி நயனமுடைப், பரமன் அடி பணிந்தேனே ||9||

Surithi ninivu ivai ariyum , thunivudayor thoo mozhigal,
Parithimathi aasiriyar pasuram chernthu arukkanangal,
Karuthiyoru theli vaalaal kalakkam aruthathathu kiri,
Parithi mathi nayanamudai paraman adi paninthene.  ||9||

Meaning: I learnt from those who knew the Vedas and the Smritis.  I gained knowledge from the Divya pasurams of great Saints, and from the wise words of great Sages having brains as bright as the Sun. I cut off my confusions and attained clarity of thought.  I surrendered at the feet of the Great Lord, who has Sun and Moon as His eyes, and who is the SarvaLokeswara.

Pasuram 10

திருமகளும், திருவடிவும், திருவருளும், தெள் அறிவும்,
அறுமை இலாமையும் உறவும், அளப்பரிய அடி அரசும்,
கருமம் அழிப்பளிப்மைப்பும், கலக்கம் இலா வகை நின்ற,
அருள் வரதர் நிலை இலக்கில், அம்பென நான் அமிழ்ந்தேனே ||10||

Thirumagalum, thiruvadivum, thiruvarulum, thellarivum,
Marumai ilamayum uravum, alappariya vadivarasum,
Karumam azhippu alippu amaippum, kalakkam ilaa vagai nindra,
Arul varadar nilai ilakkil, ambena naan amizhndene.  ||10||
Meaning: With Goddess Lakshmi, who has a very beautiful and charming form, with divine grace and knowledge, and Who is easily accessible to His devotees and having great association having an immense form, and accomplishing the duty of creation, sustenance and destruction with great precision; and standing with stability sans confusion, Lord Varada with divine grace is my steady aim and I attain and merge with him like an arrow released from a bow.

In the Mundaka Upanishad (2.4), it says:
Pranavo dhanuh sharo hi atma brahma tal lakshyam ucyate
apramattena veddhavyam sharavat tan-mayo bhavet ||
Meaning: Using AUM as the Bow (Dhanuh), the Self (Atma) as the Arrow and fixing the Supreme Being as Target, a seeker should reach Him like an arrow (Atma) to its target (Brahman).


ஆறு பயன் வேறில்லா, அடியவர்கள் அனைவர்க்கும்,
ஆறும் அதன் பயனும் இவை, ஒரு காலும் பலகாலும்,
ஆறு பயன் எனவே கண்டு, அருள் ஆளர் அடியினை மேல்,
கூறிய நற்குண உரைகள், இவை பத்தும் கோதிலவே ||11||

Aaru payan verilla, adiyavarkal anaivarukkum,
Arum athan payanum ivai, oru kaalum pala kaalum,
Aaru payan yenave kandu, arul aalar adiyinai mel,
Kooriya narkunai uraigal, ivai Patthum kothilave.  ||11||

For all those devotees who do not have any other method, these ten pasurams would be useful to bring them peace.  Even if one surrenders once after understanding that these are going to be useful, they benefit forever. I attained Varada after reciting these ten verses at His Lotus feet.  Bhagavan is both Upaayam (path) and Upeyam (goal).

கவி தர்கா சிம்ஹைய கல்யாணி குண ஷாலினே,
ஸ்ரீமதே வேங்கடேசாய வேதாந்த குரவே நாம.
Kavi tarkika simhaya kalyana Guna shaline,
Srimathe Venkatesaya Vedantha gurave nama ||
Meaning: A Lion among poets and philosophers who is endowed with sublime, divine and auspicious qualities.  Our obeisance Lord Venkatesha and to the Vedanta Guru.

Swami Desikan Thiruvadigale Saranam




On 21st September 2018, we will be commemorating the 750th birth anniversary of Swami Vedanta Desikan.

While it will require more than a life time to fully read and comprehend Swami Desikan’s works, this is a humble beginning to understand some of his works and will carry on over the next several months.  I begin with an overview of Swami Desikan’s life and works as a first in the first of the series on his works and offer this as a mark of reverence to this giant of a Vedanta Guru.

Swami Somayaji Ananthasuri and Tottarambha were leading an ideal householder’s life in their house at Thuppul. Years passed by and their desire to beget a son grew. They started on a pilgrimage and visited several divya desams and finally came to Tirumala (Tirupati). They bathed in the Pushkarini and paid obeisance to Lord Varaha and then went on to worhip Lord Srinivasa inside the temple.  They prayed to the Lord for a son and after their evening worship, they went back and retired. That night Lord Srinivasa appeared in their dream and gave them the divine hand bell (Ghantamani) from the Sanctum. Tottarambha swallowed it in her dream and next day at dawn they both felt invigorated and and shared their dream with each other feeling extremely happy.

At the Sanctum, the Bhattar (priest) of the Sannidhi came in to conduct the daily morning Aradhana. When he opened the door, he observed that the divine bell was missing and he immediately initiated his enquiries. Just at that time, the Tirumalai jeeyar appeared on the scene and said that he had a wonderful dream in which he saw the Lord Himself giving the divine Bell to the devoted pilgrim couple.

They decided not to replace the small bell and even to this day, the Big bell outside the sanctum is used for Thiruvaradhanam at the Tirupati Temple.

Anantasuri and Tottarambha took leave of the Lord after worshipping him and returned to Kanchi with great joy. Tottarambha was soon blessed with the divine child and day by day, her whole body shone with extraordinary lustre.

Swami Desikan was born as Venkatanathan in Thuppul in Kanchipuram in the Tamil month of Purattasi (mid-September to mid-October) under the Thiruvonam Star in 1268 CE as the ‘Amsam’ (form) of Sri Tirupati Venkateshwara’s Ghantam (Divine Bell).

Venkatanathan mastered the Vedas, Vedanta and Shastras under the guidance of Guru Appullar (brother of Tottarambha).

Sri Appullar taught Venkatanathan the sacred Garuda mantra. By the age of 20, he was well versed in all Shastras.

At the age of 21 (in 1289 CE), Venkatanathan was married to Kanakavalli.   He started his family life as ordered in the Shastras and was strictly performing all the duties required by a Srivaishnava, living on uncha vritti i.e. their daily supply of food provided by disciples or secured by seeking alms. A Brahmin is supposed to do Veda adhyayanam and teach every one in the village and their needs are taken care by the students and other residents who learn from him. Desika in Sanskrit means a ‘Guru or a spiritual teacher’ and hence Venkatanathan came to be known as Swami Desikan.

Some of the local people in Kachipuram felt bad that a great master like Swami Desikan was doing uncha vrutti i.e. seeking alms for grains. As Swami Desikan refused to accept money or Gold given as dakshina, the students and residents started mixing gold coins along with rice and offered him.

Swami Desikan did not notice this and gave the rice to his wife for making prasadam. She called Swami Desikan’s attention to the glittering coins and Swami Desikan promptly chucked all the coins out of the window saying they were vermins.

In the year 1317 CE, Swami Desikan and Kanakavalli were blessed with a son with the grace Sri Varadaraja Perumal, in the Tamil month of Avani (birth star Rohini), and they named the child as Varadhacharya.

Varadhacharya followed the footsteps of Swami Desikan and shone just like his father.

After the death of Sri Appullar Swami, Swami Desikan wanted to chant the Garuda mantra taught to him by Sri Appullar.  He observed fast for many days to receive the blessings of Garuda, as Garuda is known as Veda Swarupi. Swami Desikan went to Thiruvaheendrapuram and went up a small hill before he began to chant the Garuda Mantra. Garuda was pleased with his devotion and blessed him with the Hayagreeva mantra and instructed him to chant the Hayagreeva mantra continously to receive the blessings of Lord Hayagreeva.


As Swami Desikan continuously recited the mantra, Lord Hayagreeva was pleased and appeared before him.  Lord Hayagreeva blessed him and agreed to reside on the tip of Swami Desikan’s tongue as desired by him. Lord Hayagreeva gave a Vigraha (idol) of Himself to Swami Desikan for his daily worship. This Vigraham is still being preserved in the Devanatha temple in Thiruvaheendrapuram.

While in Thiruvaheendrapuram, Swami Desikan composed the ‘Hayagreeva Stotram’, Devanayaka panchashat in Sanskrit, Achyutha Satakam in Prakrut, and Mummanikkovai and Navamani maalai in Tamil.

Swami Desikan came back to Kanchipuram and composed various Stotrams explaining the concept of prapatti or surrender. These Stotrams are Nyasa Vimshati, Nyasa Dashakam and Nyasa tilakam in Sanskrit and Adaikkala pathu and Artha Panchakam in Tamil.

While in Kanchi, Swami Desikan was enchanted by the beauty of Varadharaja Perumal and composed fifty Shlokas on Him. He also wrote Stotrams on Perumal by visiting the various temples in and around Kanchi.

While in Srivilliputhur Swami Desikan composed the famous Godha Sthuthi. He was observing mounam (silence) befitting the occasion of the Pradhosham evening. He was planning to go to Sri Andal’s Sannidhi later for MangaLasasanam. When he heard the sounds of Koil Vaadhyams (percussion), he stepped out from the house and found to his greatest surprise and joy, the archa murthy of Sri Andal being carried by the devotees approaching.  While the normal processional route did not include the street where Swami Desikan was staying, but on this special day, there was some obstacle on the main street and hence the temple priests had re-routed the procession. Swami Desikan’s astonishment at this unexpected bhagyam and his Bhakthi for Sri Andal came out pouring the form of 29 Shlokas (Godha Sthuthi) in two beautiful Sanskrit poetic metres known as Vasantha Tilakam and Maalini.

Godha Sthuthi First Shloka:
Sri Vishnuchittha Kulanandana Kalpavalleem
Sri Rangaraja Harichandana yoga dhrusyam |
Saakshath Kshamam Karunaya Kamalamivanyam
Godham Ananya Sharana Sharanam Prapadhye ||
Meaning: Godha Piraatti is the wish-granting Kalpaka tree in flower garden of the clan of Sri VishNu Chitthar; She is most beautiful as She gives us Her darsanam as the Karpaka creeper united with Her Lord Sri Rangarajan standing majestically as the Harichandana tree in that Nandavanam; She is the incarnation of Bhumi Devi known for Her auspicious qualities of forbearance; Godhai is the embodiment of forbearance; When it comes to the quality of Her Mercy, Godhai is a veritable Maha Lakshmi (Kamala). I, who has no other refuge, seek Her as my sole refuge.

Later, Swami Desikan went to Tirupati and composed the beautiful Stotram called Daya Satakam.  Lord Srinivasa blessed Swami Desikan and he was conferred the title ‘Vedanta-Acharya’. Later, Swami Desikan went to Badrinath, Ayodhya, Kashi, Nepal and other places in North India on foot to visit the temples over there.

Swami Vedanta Desikan wrote extensively in Sanskrit and Tamil and some of his compositions are:

  • Desika-prabhandham which enjoys a status equal to that of the Azhwars’ Divya Prabhandham
  • Many Storams such as – Bhu Stuthi, Daya Satakam, Godha Sthuthi, Hayagreeva Stotram, Kamasika Ashtakam, Paduka Sahasram, Shodasha Ayudha Stotram, Sri Sthuthi, Sudharsana Ashtakam, Yathiraja Saptati etc.
  • Gadyams e.g. Raghuveera Gadyam (a.k.a. Mahveera Gadyam)
  • Dandakams e.g. Garuda Dandakam
  • Adaikkala Patthu, Artha Panchakam, Nyasam Vimshati, Nyasa Dashakam for Saranagati
  • Paramapada Sobanam (Way of Living)

He composed over 2000 Shlokas of exquisite Sanskrit poetry on a variety of religious themes mostly in praise of SriRangam Raganatha, Thiruvengadam (Venkateswara), Kanchi Varadar etc. His poetry flowed in an impressive variety of forms ranging ‘Stotras’, ‘Gadyams’ to ‘Dandakams’, in every known metric rhythm – from the simple ‘Malini’ metre to the long-winded ‘Saardulavikreedita’.

In his famous work praising the Lord Thiruvengadam, titled ‘Daya-Satakam’, Swami Desikan composed 108 Shlokas in 10 different metres each most appropriate to the underlying theme of the verse. He was known as ‘Kavi Kesari’, ‘Tarkika Simham’, ‘Kalyana Guna Shali’ and ‘Vedanta Guru’.

The following Thanian (prefatory verse honouring the Guru or Acharya) was composed by Swami Desikan’s disciple, Brahma-tantra-swatantrar Jeeyar (who established the Parakala Mutt), on the day of star of Hastham, the star of Varadharaja Perumal of Kancheepuram in the Tamil month of Avani.

This Thanian on Swami Desikan is recited before reciting Divya Prabandham:
Ramanuja-Daya-patram jnana-vairagya-bhushanam |
ShrImad-Venkata-natharyam vande Vedanta Desikam ||

Swami Venkatanathan is also revered through the following ‘Thanians’ that is recited at the beginning of all his works and again at the end:
Sriman Venkatanatharya Kavi-tarkika Kesari |
Vedantacharya varyome sannidhathaam sadahrudi ||
Meaning:  Sriman Venkatanathan, who is a Lion among poets and philosophers, May He ever reside in our hearts. Our obeisance to the Vedanta Acharya.

Kavi-tarkika Simhaya Kalyana Gunashaline |
Srimathe Venkatesheya Vedanta Gurave Namaha ||
Meaning: A Lion among poets and philosophers who is endowed with sublime, divine and auspicious qualities.  Our obeisance Lord Venkatesha and to the Vedanta Guru.

Let us now explore how Swami Desikan perfectly fits the four great attributes ascribed to him viz. Kavi Kesari, Tarkika Simham, Kalyana Guna Shali and Vedanta Guru.

  1.     Kavi Kesari

Swami Desikan’s poetry was enchanting that exhibited his genius. An interesting event happened one evening in Sri Rangam, where Swami Desikan lived and worked for many years. A rival poet disdainfully challenged him to compose poetry on a pair of common footwear, as a heap of insult. Next morning Swami Desikan astounded the rival, and the rest of the poets, with a poetic work of 1008 stanzas entitled ‘Paduka-Sahasram’.  Over one thousand stanzas in chaste Sanskrit, in praise of the sacred Sandals of Sri Ranganatha, composed within the course of one night!  Such was his genius!

In these verses, Swami Desikan brings the words to visual effect by the use of pure sound of the words to create vivid images.  In the ‘Paduka-Sahasram’, Swami Desikan demonstrates this with telling effect where seemingly meaningless words are woven to create enchanting sound. In his Verse 933, the Acharyan uses only two syllables:
paa paa dha paa paa dha paa paa paa dha paa dha dha paa dha paa |
dha paa dha paa paa dha paa dha paa dha paa dha dha paa dha paa ||933||

A mere reading of the above, if penned by someone of a lesser stature than Swami Desikan, would have invited derision for passing it off as poetry. But Swami Desikan’s genius shines through these seemingly senseless assemblages of the two syllables (Pa and Dha) when read as follows:
paapaadhapaa paadhapaapaaa paadhapaa dhadhapaadhapaa I
dhapaadhapaa paadhpaadha paadhapaa dhadhapaadhapaa II 

The above verse reveals the following sublime meaning:
The Paadhuka cleanses our sins; it bestows lustre to the Lord’s feet (It confers effulgence to individual souls, which are aspects of the Lord). Its water used to cleanse His Padhuka protects those who perform this service of respectfully and adorn it to the Lord’s feet. Those Paadhukas saved me from sins!

It is a profound construction of two syllables to say the least. One cannot but marvel at the genius of this great Acharyan who effortlessly intertwined sound and meaning that are tightly coupled to celebrate the glory of Sri Ranganatha Paadhukas. It is no wonder why Swami Desikan is hailed by all as ‘Kavi-Kesari’.

He was known as ‘Kavi-kesari’ also for his mastery over phonetics and linguistics. He could create beautiful sound out of words and words out of pure sound.  As an example of the first case, the two verses from the Kamasika Ashtakam are presented below. In these Stotrams, Swami Desikan evokes the fearsome, awe-inspiring image of ‘Jwala-Nrsimha’ Avataar of Sriman Narayana.

The Shlokas from the Kamasika Ashtagam have been composed with hard syllables to create guttural-sound, intended to deliver the effect of an angry roaring lion:
Vikaswara nakha swaru kshatha Hiranya vaksha sthalee,
Niragala vinirgalath rudhira Sindhu sandhyayithaa,
Avanthu madha nasika manuja Pancha vakthrasya maam,
Aham prathamikaa mitha prakatithaa havaa bhagava ||6||
Meaning: With his open claws, He tore open the chest of Hiranyakashipu, and the blood flowed non-stop like a river, which made his claws like that of a red thunderbolt. I worship the Man-Lion form of Kamasika, Whose hands compete with each other to protect His devotees and Who declares war on those who try to harm His devotees.

Sataa patala bheeshane, sarbha saa attahaso adbhate,
Sphurath kruthi parisphutath bruguti kepi vakthre kruthe,
Krupaa kapata kesarin dhaunuja dimba datha sthanaa,
Saroja dhrusaa adrusaa vyathi bhishajya they vyajyathe ||7||
Meaning: With fearsome thick mane and loud reverberating majestic laughter, brows brandishing immense anger but His lotus eyes dripping with mercy towards the child (Prahlada) of that Asura (Hirayakashipu), He appeared in form of a roaring Lion but with the true karunya guna of a mother.

His compositions in Sanksrit were peerless, perhaps only matched by Kalidasa. Even till this day, scholars find it arduous to sufficiently describe the power of his poetry that has so much depth and diversity. Hence, Swami Desikan is aptly known as ‘Kavi Kesari’, a Lion amongst Poets.

  1.     Tarkika Simham

Swami Desikan was not only a ‘Kavi Kesari’ but also a ‘Tarkika Simham’, a lion that struck dread in the hearts of ideological adversaries.  The word ‘tarka’ in Sanskrit refers to a highly technical method of reasoning based on complex and formal rules of ratiocination.  Tarka usually involves long debates (‘Vaadha’) and discourse between exponents of rival schools of philosophy.

During the 13th century CE some some extreme elements in the school of Advaitins, through aggresive polemics and propaganda, began to undermine the vast influence of VisishtAdvaita Vedanta wielded amongst its followers in its own bastion, the temple-town of Srirangam. These Advaitins began to seriously question the Vedic basis for the authority and validity of Sri Ramanuja’s ‘Siddhantha’.

Periya Vaachaan Pillai, Pillai Loka-Acharya and others sought the advise of the veteran Acharya Sudarsana Bhattar. Sudarsana Bhattar said that it was only Swami Desikan who could save the situation and sent a letter to Kanchi inviting Thuppul Pillai, Swami Desikan, to face the challenge from his opponents.

Swami Desikan left for Srirangam and on the way he visited Sri Perumpudhur, the birth place of Sri Ramanuja-Acharya, and composed a Stotra on Sri Ramanuja to seek his blessings for the debate. This Shloka is called Yatirja Saptati which glorifies all our Acharyas and Sri Ramanuja in particular.

In Srirangam the debate with schloars of other sampradayas went for 7 days and finally Swami Desikan demolished every argument of their philosophies. The scholars who had debated with Swami Desikan accepted defeat and become his disciples. This debate has been compiled as Satha dhudhani.

Lord Ranganatha was pleased with Swami Desikan’s intelligence and conferred him the title of ‘Vedantachariar’ through the temple priest.  Sri Ranganayaki thaayar conferred the title of ‘Sarva Tantra Swatantrar’ which means that he is master of all arts, crafts.

During the 50-odd years of his life in Sri Rangam, he authored some of the most profound and formidable works ever to be written in the annals of VisishtAdvaita Vedanta.

The philosophy of Sri Ramanuja, as authored in ‘Sri-Bashyam’ about two centuries earlier, found its fullest and most sophisticated expression in Desikan’s philosophical works, some of which were pure treatise and some counter-polemics. Swami Desikan’s most famous works, the ‘tattva-mukta-kalapa’, ‘Sarvartha-Siddhi’ and the ‘Sata-dushani’, were all authored around this time. Together, they constituted by far the most solid and irrefutable defense of the school of Sri Ramanuja’s VisishtAdvaita Vedanta against every known rival Vedantic system that challenged his philosophy.

In recognition of Swami Desikan’s services to the firm establishment of one of the greatest schools of Vedantic philosophy, Sri RamanujAcharya’s VisishtAdvaita Siddhantam, the other acharyas declared that Swami Desikan as ‘Tarkika Simham’.

There was another reason for Venkatanathan’s reputation to grow as a ‘Tarkika-simham’. Some sections of Vedic orthodoxy in Sri Rangam objected to the rendition of Azhwar’s Tamil ‘Divya-Prabhandham’ which Sri RamanujAcharya had introduced into temple rituals and festivities. They resented the status given to the Tamil ‘marai’ by Sri Ramanuja equal to that of the timeless Vedas that were in Sanskrit.

Swami Desikan, though a deep Vedic adherent himself, stoutly defended the mysticism of the Azhwar’s Tamil ‘marai’. In two magnificent works titled ‘Dravida Upanishad-tatparya-ratnavali’ and ‘Dravida Upanishad Saaram’, Swami Desikan demonstrated Sri NammAzhwAr’s Thiruvai Mozhi as the perfect and peerless Tamil equivalent of the Vedantic Upanishads.  He explained how the Vedas and the Divya Prabhandam together constituted the bed-rock of a unique tradition of Vedanta called ‘Ubhaya-Vedanta’ — the twin-fold way to Vedanta.

The recitation of Azhwar’s Divya-prabhandham prevails and flourishes in all Sri Vaishnava temples is due to the relentless efforts of Swami Desikan, the ‘Tarkika Simham’.

  1.     Kalyana Guna Shali

Swami Desikan was bestowed with many rare and sublime qualities and was aptly called ‘Kalyana Guna-Shali’. Two of his outstanding qualities were his courage and his compassion. He was utterly fearless (‘nirbhaya’) and full of compassion (‘Karunyan’). And because he was utterly fearless, he was also utterly compassionate towards a world around him that was mired in fear of every conceivable kind. The fears and anxieties that beset ordinary men in life held no dread for Desikan. Poverty, disease, old age, social approval etc. never mattered to him.

Throughout his life he held steadfast to the age-old value of ‘simple living and high thinking’. He shunned wealth that was offered to him and never sought any position or financial gain for himself or his family.  Once his friend Vidyaranya of the Vijayanagara Court sent him an invitation to serve as a full-time royal poet-laureate. He wrote to his friend in Vijayanagara, that the only wealth and heirloom that he coveted was already with him. He mentioned that the everpresent resident of the Hastigiri Hill in Kanchi was his ultimate wealth, referring to Lord Varadaraja of Kanchi. He responded to Vidyaranya with ‘Vairagya-panchakam’ Stotram.

Once a magician confronted Swami Desikan and drank water from a pond. With his magical powers, the magician made Swami’s stomach bulge as he drank water from the pond. Swami Desikan, while with his disciples, felt uneasy and immediately understood the trickery. Swami Desikan just scratched a pillar nearby with his fingernails and the water flowed out of the pillar. The magician was shocked with the super magic of Swami Desikan and begged his pardon.

Once a snake charmer challenged Swami Desikan to control his poisonous snakes. Swami Desikan drew a chalk line on the ground and recited some mantra. None of the snakes could cross over the line drawn by the Swami but one ferocious snake crossed over to harm Swami. Swami Desikan immediately recited the Garuda mantram and instantly Garuda came and took away all the snakes. The Snake Charmer begged Swami Desikan’s forgiveness and requeted him to give back his snakes as it was his only livelihood. Swami Desikan again prayed to Garuda to return the snakes.

Once, Swami Desikan was on a pilgrimage trip and he rested in the thinnai of a house for the night. Since he could not get anything to offer as Naivedyam to the Lord, he just offered some water to the Lord with a heavy heart and went to bed on an empty stomach. Suddenly, he was awakened by the landlord who reported that a white horse was eating the grain in his stores. Swami understood that it was the Leela of Sri Hayagreeva and comforted the house owner. He asked the landlord to bring some milk and offered it to his upasana murthy. Thereupon, the horse disappeared and the next morning, when the landlord went to his shop he saw all the sacks were fully laden with gold. He offered the gold to Swami Desikan, but as usual Swami refused.

Swami was requested to preside over as the moderator in a debate between the Advaitha Vidhvan, Vidhyaranyar and Dvaita Vidhvan, Akshobhya. Although Vidhyaranyar was his childhood friend, after hearing the arguments of both the vidhvans, Swami gave an impartial ruling that Akshobhya’s views were in accordance with Pramanas and settled the dispute.

Once Swami Desikan was performing the annual rites for his late parents. Unfortunately nobody came for eating on the occasion of the observance, but Swami did not lose heart. He put the banana leaf and served all the items and prayed to the Lord. Lord answered his prayers and instantly Lord Devaraja, Lord Hayagreeva and Lord Srinivasa came in person and partook the offering on the occasion.

Once a young boy wanted some money for marriage and approached the wealthy people in Kanchipuram. They were jealous of Sri Desikan’s simplicity and not seeking any financial help from them. Just to embarrass Swami Desikan, they told that only Desikan can give lots of money because he is rich. The boy did not know the evil intention of the jealous people and went to Swami Desikan for financial help.

Swami Desikan took the young boy to Thayar Sannidhi and started reciting Sri Sthuthi and lo and behold it started raining gold coins. Swami Desikan thanked the Thayar for her mercy and told the boy to take as much he wanted and did not take any coin for himself. The jealous people were shocked at this incident and came rushing to seek forgivenss of Swami Desikan.

Swami’s visit to Melkote, Karnataka.

In the year 1327, Srirangam city was invaded by Mughals. The General of the Sultan of Delhi ransacked the temple and savagely attacked the people.  The temple was closed and many bhagavathas were killed by the brutal invaders forcing people to flee Srirangam. Sri Sudharshana Bhattar, the author of the famous commentary on Ramanuja’s Sri Bashyam known as Shrutha Prakaashika, was one of those who could not escape. He however passed on the book and asked Swami Desikan to take his two young children in his safe custody. While some acharyas left for Tirupati with the idol of Ranganatha, Swami Desikan had to hide among the corpses (with the two young boys) for one night before travelling to Satyagalam.

Swami was crying for the death of many acharyas and bhagavathas by the ruthless invaders. We can even see the place where he stayed in Karnataka and the vigraham of Swami Desikan is unique as he is in standing posture, as if he was on his toes, ready to travel back to Srirangam.

During his stay in Satyagalam, Swami Desikan wrote the ‘Abhiti-stavam’ Stotra, that dealt with the story of human struggle to conquer the primal fear of death became one of the marvellous themes, praying to Sri Ranganatha to restore the glory of Srirangam.

Swami Desikan was a man of great compassion and was acutely aware of the social ills and problems of the world around him and deeply empathised with the community and wished for their welfare. An example of Desikan’s compassion for the commoner is the ‘Sudharsana Ashtakam’ Stotram.  He composed this Stotram upon seeing the plight of the people struck by a devastating epidemic in a village near Kanchi. It became at once both a prayer of hope and a therapy for relief at a time of great calamity for the people of Kanchi.

Once a mason challenged Swami Desikan to construct a well with the bricks supplied by him. Swami Desikan accepted the challenge. The mason gave broken and irregular shaped bricks to Swami Desikan.

Despite this Swami arranged them nicely and finished the construction of the well successfully. This well exists even today in Thiruvaheendrapuram.

Again at another time a sculptor challenged swami whether he can make an idol of himself and fitted in the pedastal that was made by the sculptor. Swami made an idol and the sculptor tried to fix it in the pedastal and could not do so. He thought that the idol was wrong and tried to chisel some part of the idol to fix it. Blood flowed out of desika’s corresponding part of the body where he chiseled out. The sculptor accepted that the pedastal is of wrong size and then Swami Desikan corrected the pedastal and installed the idol on it. This image is even today available in Thiruvaheendrapuram.

Once a shoe maker challenged that whether Swami Desikan can mend his sandal and Swami accepted this challenge and to every one’s surprise he made the sandal quickly as if he was a skilled shoe maker. People were astonished at Swami Desikan’s knowledge in various crafts.

Swami Desikan as Sarva Tantra Swatantrar (Master of all arts, crafts):
There are many incidents in Swami Desikan’s life which prove that he is not just an acharya or poet. He was well versed with many other crafts and the following three incidents prove this point.

Swami Desikan was without doubt a ‘Kalyana-Guna-Shali extra-ordinaire.

  1.     Vedanta Guru

When Swami Desikan returned to Srirangam after 12 years in Satyagalam, it was time for yearly utsavams when the entire Divya Prabandham are recited in 20 days. The first ten days the utsavam is during the day and for the next 10 days it is in the night. Since this utsavam was stopped for many years due to Muslim invasion, the orthodox people objected to recitation of Divya Prabandham since it is in Tamil and only Sanskrit vedas should be recited. They also objected to install vigrahas of Azhvars because they were just human beings and many of them were not even Brahmins. Swami Desikan argued with them at length proving that the divya prabandham is nothing but the essence of Vedas and Upanishads and the Azhvars are great devotees of Sriman Narayana and they are fit to be worshipped in side the temple. Finally the orthodox devotees agreed with Sri Desikan and the utsavam has been celebrated in a grand manner. Swami was pained to see the objections and to make sure no such problems in the future he has got the details of the utsavam written in a stone and installed in the temple. Sri Ranganatha was pleased with this and commended that the Thaniyan glorifying Swami Desikan “Ramanuja daya patram….” should be recited every day in the temple before starting the Divya Prabandham recitation.

While at Srirangam Swami composed the famous Bhagavad Dhyana Sopanam glorifying the beauty of the Sri Ranganatha from the feet to the head. This Stotram is like the Amalanaadhi piran of Sri Thirupaan Azhwar.

Swami Desikan was the first Acharya in the Vedantic tradition who boldly went as far as to define God’s quality of Universal compassion as being not merely a theological necessity but a philosophical axiom and said that a God without compassion would be a contradiction. Since we see that compassion exists in this world, therefore we should conclude that God too must exist. He added a fourth dimension ‘Daya’ to the Upanishad definition of Brahman viz. Satyam, Jnanam, and Anantham. It became the central theme of his famous ‘Daya Satakam’, a Stotram only a man possessing great ‘Daya’ could have ever composed.

Swami Venkatanathan was above all a Vedanta Guru as recited in the verse ‘Srimathe Venkateshaya Vedanta-Gurave Namah’. Sri Desikan showed his followers the true way of living, both in practice and precept, by setting out how one should lead their life and what purpose is to be achieved by human existence. He expounded on Vedanta with his illumining insights thereby providing a wonderful ‘Vedanta-marga’ in a way never accomplished by any of the great Scholars before his time.

One of the greatest pathways of Vedanta shown by Swami Desikan is contained in ‘Paramapada-Sobanam’. It is a magnificent work wherein he set out in a cogent and easily comprehensible manner the ‘Art of Living’.

The word ‘Parama-padam’ means ‘highest state of existence’. The word ‘sobanam’ is commonly understood to mean a hymn that describes anything in graphic detail from ‘start’ to ‘finish’. Sobanam can also mean a multi-tiered stairway, a sort of tiered structure increasing in height. These stepping-stones are called ‘pariankam’ in Sanskrit. Swami Desikan’s ‘Paramapada Sobanam’ refers to a step-by-step approach that leads, slowly but surely, from the bottom-most rung of existence to the ‘highest state of human existence’.

Swami’s last days:

In the last stages of his life, Swami Venkatanathan lived happily for many years in Sri Rangam amidst peers and disciples. He became a highly renowned and venerated ‘VedantaAcharya’. His fame spread far and wide in the country. He presided over a period in history when the school of ‘Sri-Ramanuja-Darsanam’ flourished and the SriVaishnava tradition grew and the institutions strengthened.

Swami Desikan lived for 101 years and in the year 1369 CE, he felt that the time had come for him to leave for the spritual abode of Sriman Narayana. He went to Sri Ranganatha and took his permission. His disciples and his son were sobbing inconsolably. Swami Desikan consoled them and instructed them to continue their divine works and follow the Ramanuja Darshanam. He kept his head on the lap of his son Kumara Varadhachariar and left his mortal coil while listening to the chanting of Thiruvai Mozhi and Upanishads.

Later Sri Ranganayaki Thaayar ordered that a Sannidhi should be made for Swami Desikan close to her Sannidhi inside the temple. One can see the Swami Desikan’s Sannidhi in front of the Thaayaar Sannidhi in Srirangam.

In 1369 CE, Swami Desikan passed away in Sri Rangam. His son, Varadachariar composed the immortal ‘Thanian’ by which we know Swami Desikan’s life and work today (meanings given earlier):

Sriman Venkatanatharya Kavi-Tarkika Kesari |
VedantAcharya varyome Sannidhatam sadahrudi ||

Kavi-Tarkika Simhaya Kalyana Guna shaline |
Srimathe Venkatesheya Vedanta Gurave Namaha ||

Sri Pillai Lokacharya composed this Thaniyan on Swami Desikan which is recited before the Desika Prabandham:
Seeronru Thuppul Thiruvenkata mudaiyan
Par onra chonna pazhamozhiyul- Orondru
Thane amaiyadho Dharaniyil Vazhvorkku
Vanerap Poma Lavum Vazhvu ||
Meaning:  For a person who desires to ascend to the Satya Loka, even a single statement of the great Acharya, Thuppul Thiuvenkadamudaiyan (Sri Vedanta Desikan) uttered by him for the benefit of humanity would be sufficient to lift him up to his desired goal.

When we reflect upon the moving tributes above, we can visualise the unparalleled nature of Swmai Desikan as Kavi-Kesari, Tarkika Simham, Kalyana Guna Shali and the Vedanta Guru.  The Lion that he was amongst poets and philosophers, as a ‘Kalyana Guna Shali’, a person of rare and sublime human qualities and  as a VedantAcharya’ or ‘Vedanta-Guru’, a preceptor  who showed the way.









Swami Desikan was a great poet, philosopher, logician and took upon the task of upholding the concepts preached by Sri Ramanuja. It is because of him the

Ramanuja Darshanam is being recogonised and is widely practiced.

No other Acharya among the followers of Sri Ramanuja have fought for the rightful place for Divya Prabandham as did Swami Desikan. It was he who re established the recitation of Divya Prabanhdam in Srirangam and other temples.

Swami Desikan has composed more than 100 works and it will take more than a lifetime to read and comprehend them.  His Tamil prabandhams are equally delightful and they bring the essence of Vedas in Tamil prabandhams.  He also translated the Sri NammAzhwar’s Thiruvai Mozhi to Sanskrit. His Sanskrit was considered to be as sweet as that Mahakavi Kalidasa.

Let us pray to this great VedantAcharya and seek his blessings.

Swami Desikan Thiruvadigale Saranam _/\_


In this FINAL PART of the Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam series, we will explore the meaning of the PhalaShruti (benefits) of chanting of Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam.

PhalaShruti 1

Bhishma Uvaca:
Iteedam Kirtaniyasya Keshavasya Mahatmanah |
NaamNaam Sahasram Divyaanaam Aseshena prakirtitam || (1)
Meaning: Bhishma says, ‘Thus, the thousand divine Namas of Bhagavan Keshava, the Supreme Being, Who is worthy of being praised, have been sung in their entirety’.

Sri Adi Sankara says ‘Iteedam iti anena Namasahasram Anyuna Anatiriktam iti Darshayati Divyanam Apraakritanaam naamnaam Sahasram Prakirtitam iti vadataa Prakarantarenapi Sankhyopapattir darshitaa – The term ‘iteedam’ clearly indicates that the thousand Namas are divine in nature and complete, neither short nor excess of thousand. Also the term ’Prakirtitam’ implies the the fulfilment of the thousand Namas at the end of the shloka.

Sri Sankara further says ‘Prakrame Kim Japan muchyate Jantuh’ iti Japa Shabda upaadaanaat Kirtayet iti anena api trividha Japo lakshyate; Uccha Upaamshu Maanasa Lakshanas trividhah Japah – Both Japa and Kirtana as a form of recitation is mentioned. The significance of this is that Sri Vishnu- Sahasranama can be performed in any of the three forms viz. chanting loudly, whisper to self or by mental contemplation’.

Sri Parasara Bhattar comments that the word ‘kirtaniyasya’ has been chosen to indicate that Bhagavan richly deserves the praise, and by using this word, Bhishma is impressing upon Yudhishtra to begin the recitation of the Namas right awaynstant. The choice of Keshava in this verse is intentional and signifies the all encompassing trinity (Supreme Being).  ‘Ka’ means Brahma, ‘A’ means Vishnu and ‘Isa’ means Rudra; hence ‘Kesa’ denotes Trimurthi’s (the three embodiments) who are under His control.

The word ‘Divyanaam’ means ‘divine’ and applied to the Namas signifies that the Namas are worthy of being sung in this world as well as in Sri Vaikuntham. The word ‘Asheshena’ is used to denote that nothing that is significant or important has been left out by Bhishma in his communication to Yudhistra, and everything that needs to be known has been taught.

PhalaShruti 2

Ya Idam Shrunuyannityam Yashchapi Parikirtayet
Naashubham Praapnuyaat Kinchit Somutreha cha Maanavah ||2||

Sri Adi Sankara explains that nothing inauspicious or unwelcome will accrue to those in this world or the next, when one hears this daily or recites it. The word ‘Amutra’ meaning in the next world has a special significance pointed out by Sri Sankara ‘Paraloka Praaptasyaapi Yayaati Nahushaadivat Ashubhapraapti abhaavam Suchayitum Amutra ityuktam’ – Yayaati and Nahusha ended up suffering after reaching the higher world, because they committed sins even after reaching there. Such inauspicious instances will not happen to those who chant or listen to this divine Sahasranamam’.

Sri Parasara Bhattar comments that he, who according to his qualification and ability, hears it or meditates on it in his mind, will encounter nothing inauspicious in this world, or hereafter. Note that the benefit is attained by chanting, as well as by listening.

PhalaShruti 3

Vedantago Bramhanas Syaat Kshatriyo Vijayee Bhavet                     |
Vaishyo Dhanasamruddhas Syaat Shudrah Sukham Avapnuyat ||3||

The basic meaning is ‘The Brahmins will get knowledge. The Kshatriyas will get victory. The Vaishyas will get abundant wealth. The Shudras will get peace and happiness chanting these Namas’.

Sri Adi Sankara gives a very elaborate commentary on the meaning of this Shloka. He explains ‘Vedantanam Upanishadam artham Bramha gacchati Avagacchati iti Vedantagah – The one who understands or grasps the meaning of Vedanta or Upanishads is Vedantagah’.

He explains further with reference to the question ‘Kim Japan Muchyate Jantuh Janmasamsaara bandhanaat?’ from the prelude to Vishnu Sahasranamam ‘What sort of meditation helps us to get liberated from the bondage of earthly existence?’ It clearly shows that liberation is not achieved by any sort of action but only by knowledge, wisdom and enlightenment. This is emphasised by the phrase ‘Vedantago Bramhanas Syaat’. Sri Sankara further states ‘Karmanaam tu Antah karana Shuddhidvaarena Mokshahetutvam – Action is an effective tool for liberation by purifying the mind but is not sufficient by itself’.

He quotes a number of Shlokas to further this concept:

  • Kashaayapaktih Karmaani Jnaanam tu Pramaa gatih
    Kashaaye karmabhih Pakve Tato jnaanam Pravartate
    Meaning: Action is able to bring the mind to a state of maturity but liberation is achieved only through Knowledge, after the ground is prepared by action.
  • Nityam jnanam Samasadya Naro bandhaat pramuchyate – People get liberated after achieving the eternal knowledge.
  • Dharmaat Sukham cha jnanam cha Jnanat Moksho Adhigamyate – Out of righteous conduct, wealth and knowledge emerge and out of knowledge one gets final liberation’.
  • In the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 5 Verse 11) Krishna says ‘Yoginah Karma kurvanti Sangam tyakvaa Atmashuddhaye’ – Yogis resort to action without attachment for purifying their minds.
  • Bramha Puranam (129.7) says ‘Karmanaa badhyate Jantuh Vidyaya eva Vimuchyate Tasmaat karma na kurvanti Yatayah Paaradarshinah’ – Action leads to bondage, only knowledge to liberation, hence those who seek liberation refrain from desirous action.
  • Garuda Puranam (1.237.6) says ‘Tapasaa Kalmasham Hanti Vidyayaa Amritam Ashnute; Jnaanam Utpadyate Pumsaam Kshayaat Paapasya Karmanah; Yathaadarshatalaprakhye Pashyati Aatmaanam Aatmani’ – One burns away the sins by penance but gains immortality through Knowledge; As the sin goes away Knowledge is generated and starts seeing the Self through the mirror of the self.

Sri Sankara gives further references from the Vedas and Upanishads. Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (4.4.22) says:
Tametam Vedaanuvachanena Bramhanaa vividishanti |
Yajnena daanena tapasa anashakena ||
Meaning: The Bramhins seek to know it through the study of the Vedas, sacrifices, charity and austerity consisting of dispassionate enjoyment of sense-objects.

Veda says the following:

  • By performing any homam including the Darvihomam, only the mind is cleansed ‘Yena Kena Yajetaapi vaa Darvihomena anupahatamana eva bhavati’.
  • Liberation is achieved only by Knowledge – ‘Jnaanat eva moksho bhavati’.
  • Only from Knowledge Liberation and freedom from ties are possible – ‘Jnaadeva tu kaivalyam Praapyate tena muchyate’.
  • One who knows the Bramhan attains the highest – ‘Bramhavidyapnoti Param’.
  • One who knows the Self is free from misery – ‘Tarati Shokam Aatmavit’.
  • If you know the Bramhan you become the Bramhan – ‘Bramha veda Bramhaiva Bhavati’.
  • To know the Bramhan you have to become the Bramhan – ‘Bramhaiva San Bramhaapyeti’.
  • Knowing him you conquer death and there is no other way for salvation – ‘Tameva Viditvaa atimrityum eti Naanyah Panthaa Vidyate Ayanaaya’.
  • One who knows the joy of the Bramhan fears nothing – ‘Anandam Bramhano vidvaan na bibheti kutashchana’.
  • If within the human birth, if one attains that knowledge it is great, otherwise it is a great loss – ‘Iha chet Avedeet atha satyam asti na chet ihaavedeen mahatee Vinashtih’.
  • Just as it is never possible to roll up the akasa (sky) as a piece of leather (like a Saree) so it is utterly impossible to put an end to miseries of the world without the knowledge of the Lord – ‘Yadaa charmavat Aakaasham Veshtayishyanti Maanavaah; Tadaa Devam Avijnaaya Duhkhasayaanto Bhavishyati’.
  • You cannot attain immortality by actions, by progeny or by wealth; You can only do it by renunciation of everything – ‘Na Karmanaa na prajayaa dhanena Tyaagaa Naike Amrutatvam Aanashuh’.
  • This state of perfection, which is attained by the real sanyasis, is situated far beyond this world, and is difficult to reach for the ordinary man – ‘Vedaanta Vijnaana Sunishchitaarthaah Sanyaasayogaat Yatayash Shuddhasatvaah; Te Bramhaloke Tu Paraantakaale Paraamrutaah Parimuchyanti Sarve’.

Those Sanyasis, who after realising the actual import of the Vedas, having given up their personal sense enjoyment to be in the service of the Lord, and being completely free from the influence of the material world, will attain liberation from the material world at the end of their lives’.

Sri Parasara Bhattar declares the benefits attained by people of the four varnas, when they chant the Sahasranamam even without necessarily seeking any specific benefit, or following any special discipline etc.

PhalaShruti 4

Dharmaarthi Praapnuyaat Dharmam Arthaarthi Chartham Aapnuyaat |
Kaamaan Avaapnuyaat Kaami Prajaarthi Chaapnuyaat Prajaah ||4||
Meaning: The one who desires righteousness (Dharma), will be blessed with that; the one who desires worldly riches will be blessed with wealth; the one who wishes for the pleasures of life, will be bestowed with all pleasures; the one who desires progeny will be blessed with children.

PhalaShruti 5

Bhaktimaan Yah sadotthaaya Shucih tad-gata-manasah    |
Sahasram Vasudevasya Naamnaam Etat prakeertayet     ||5||
Meaning: He (the reciter of the 1000 Namas of the Lord) who is suffering from any disease will be rid of it. He who is in bondage will be liberated. He who is affected by fear will overcome it, and he who is in difficulties will be free of it.

The devotee, pure of mind and persevering with fully focussed attentive meditation should recite these one thousand Namas of Lord Vasudeva’

Sri Parasara Bhattar’s words are – ‘Atha niyama visheshavat japa rupa sankirtane bhaktasya sarva samriddhim Aha’ – One who recites these as Japa or kirtana will attain all kinds of benefits.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri explains that the stated benefis accrue to those who have single-minded devotion to Vasudeva, meditates on Him constantly, is pure in thought, word and deed, and chants the thousand Namas of Vasudeva as laid down in this Shloka.

  • Bhaktimaan – A devotee. Specifically, it refers to the devotee of Vasudeva (Vasudevasya Naamnaam) with single-minded devotion.
  • Sada utthaaya – always getting up early in the morning.
  • Shucih – The purity referred to is both external and internal. The external purity involves taking a bath etc. The other aspects of purification involved here are the strict observance of nitya karmas as laid down in the Shastras for the devotee, the Varna Ashrama dharmas. Our Acharyas emphasise that any activity undertaken without observing the nitya karmas will end up as a wasted effort.
  • tad-gata-manasah – The mind of the devotee should be concentrated on Bhagavan Vasudeva.
  • Prakirtayet – kirtana specifically refers to chanting, recitation. The specific benefits that such a devotee will attain are specified in the next three Shlokas.

PhalaShruti 6

Yashah Praapnoti Vipulam yaati Praadhaanyameva cha            |
Acalaam Shriyam Aapnoti Shreyah Prapnotyanuttamam ||6||
Meaning: He (the reciter of the 1000 Namas of the Lord) becomes endowed with great reputation and becomes the foremost among his kith and kin. He acquires undiminishing wealth in this world, and he also gets unexcelled prosperity in the next (namely, salvation).

Sri Parasara Bhattar has given his interpretation for the above Shlokas in two short sentences:

  • anuttamam Shreyah meaning Mukti
  • anye abhyudaya visheshaah meaning Salvation as all the other fruits mentioned are fruits of success in this world

Thus, for instance, being rid of fear in this world can be understood as the full confidence that Bhagavan will definitely redeem us from the ocean of Samsara at the end of this birth.

PhalaShruti 7

Na Bhayam Kvachit Aapnoti Viryam Tejashcha Vindati  |
Bhavatyarogo Dyutimaan Balarupagunanvitah           ||7||

There is no fear for him (the reciter of the 1000 Namas of the Lord) from any quarters. He acquires valour and power. He is endowed with good health and always shines. He is bestowed endowed with strength, a healthy body, and noble qualities’.

PhalaShruti 8

Rogaarto Muchyate Rogaat Baddho Muchyeta Bandhanaat |
Bhayaan Muchyeta Bheetastu Muchyetaapanna Aapadah ||8||
Meaning: He, who recites these 1000 Namas of the Lord, who is suffering from any disease will get over it. He who is in bondage will be relieved of it. He who is affected by fear will become free from it, and he who is in difficulties will become rid of them.

  • Rogarto mucyate rogaat – the devotee will be rid of the greatest of diseases, namely attachment to the worldly and materialistic objects of this life, and, above all, the attachment to this body and to all the things associated with the body;
  • Bhayaan mucyeta bhItah – the devotee will be rid of the greatest of all fears – the fear of repeated births, the fear of Samsara;
  • Yashah praapnoti – the devotee will be known for his single-minded devotion to Vasudeva, as his greatest accomplishment;
  • Dyutimaan, tejashca vindati – the tejas of such a devotee will be self-revealing, as we can feel in the presence of our Acharyas.

PhalaShruti 9

Durgaanyatitaratyaashu Purushah Purushottamam     |
Stuvan Naamasahasrena Nityam Bhaktisamanvitah ||9||
Meaning: The one who, with devotion, praises the Supreme Being (Purushottaman) reciting His thousand Namas daily, surmounts all difficulties very easily.

PhalaShruti 10

Vasudevaashrayo Martyo Vasudeva parayanah                 |
Sarva papa vishuddha atma Yaati Bramha Sanaatanam ||10||
Meaning: Any one, who has taken refuge of Vasudeva with the thought that Vasudeva is the highest goal to be reached, becomes cleansed of all sins and his mind becomes pure. He finally attains the eternal abode of Brahma.

PhalaShruti 11

Na Vasudeva Bhaktaanaam Ashubham Vidyate Kvachit   |
Janma Mrityu Jaraa Vyaadhi Bhayam Naivo pajaayate ||11||
Meaning: The devotees of Vasudeva need not worry of any inauspicious occurrence anytime. They will not have any fear from transitions like birth, death, old age and disease.

PhalaShruti 12

Imam Stavam Adheeyaanah Shraddha bhakti Samanvitah |
Yujyeta atma Sukhah Shanti Shri Dhriti Smriti Kirtibhih   ||12||
Meaning: The one who recites this with faith and devotion will attain peace of mind, forbearance, wealth, courage, strong memory and great fame.

Sri Adi Sankara says ‘Shraddha AstikyaBuddhih; Bhaktir Bhajanam Taatparyam; Aatmanah Sukham Aatmasukham; Tena cha Kshaantyaadibhishcha Yujyate – Shraddha means faith in the Lord; Bhakti means dedication and devotion to the Lord; Atmasukham means comfort within oneself; from these qualities one gets forbearance etc. automatically.

Sri Parasara Bhattar comments – niyamavato bhaktasya anushanginim abhyudaya siddhim Aha – For the devotee who recites the Namas in accordance with the scriptural injunctions, there is attainment of prosperity of all kinds that come as a matter of course.

He explains the term Shraddha as sa-gaurava tvara – Eagerness associated with respect. He also comments that bhakti is a result of highly meritorious acts – bhagavati bhaktih mahatah su-kritasya phalam. Thus a true devotee should chant the shlokas with sincere devotion and interest, and should accompany the chanting with other meritorious acts as a way of life. Sri Bhattar further adds that ‘Govinda bhaktyabhyadhikam Sreyashca anyat na vidyate’ – There is no act superior to unflinching devotion to Lord Govinda.

Sri V.V. Ramanujam has used the term anusandhanam (which means inquiry, investigation, scrutiny etc.), in the context of this Shloka. Thus, the difference between the two, is that the first discusses the benefits attained by the Bhakta who chants the Shloka, while the second is about the benefits attained by the Bhakta who delves deep into the meanings etc.

PhalaShruti 13

Na Krodho Na Cha Maatsaryam Na Lobho Naashubhaa Matih |
Bhavanti Kritapunyaanaam Bhaktaanaam Purushottame    ||13||
Meaning: In the case of the devotees of the great Lord, who have acquired lot of good deeds (in order to be devotees), their mind is completely free from anger, jealousy, greed and evil thoughts.

Sri Adi Sankara gives the comment ‘Na Krodho, Na Lobho, Naashubhaa Matih iti ChakaaraanubandhaRahitena Nakaarena Samastam Padatrayam Krodhodayo Na Bhavanti Maatsaryam cha na Bhavati iti Arthah – In this phrase there is no ‘cha’ attached to Krodhah, Lobhah and Ashubhaa Matih but ‘cha’ is only added to Maatsarya implying that not only anger, lust and evil thoughts are absent in the devotees, but also jealousy is absent’. Since other three generally coexist with jealousy, the absence of jealousy is purely incidental to the absence of the other three and hence the use of ‘cha’ or ‘also’ for jealousy.

Sri Parasara Bhattar comments that as a matter of natural course, these defects by themselves keep away from the devotees of Lord Vasudeva.

PhalaShruti 14

Dvauh sa Chandraarka Nakshatram Kham Disho BhurMahodadhih |
Vasudevasya Viryena Vidhrutaani Mahaatmanah                    ||14||
Meaning: The firmament with the Sky, the Sun, the  Moon and the stars embedded in it, all the directions, the Earth and the Ocean – all these are held together in place by the power of the great Bhagavan Sri Vasudeva.

Sri Parasara Bhattar says that there is nothing to doubt about the power and greatness of Bhagavan Sri MahaVishnu, as described in the current Shloka and the next few Shlokas.

PhalaShruti 15

SasuraasuraGandharvam Sa yakshoragaRaakshasam       |
Jagadvashe Vartatedam Krishnasya Sacharaacharam ||15||
Meaning: This entire world, with all its movable and immovable objects (including the Devas, the Asuras, the Gandharvas, the Yakshas, the Snakes and the Demons), is fully under the total control of Lord Krishna.

PhalaShruti 16

Indriyani Mano Buddhih Satvam Tejo Balam Dhritih                |
Vasudeva atmakaanyaahuh Kshetram Kshetrajna Eva Cha ||16||
Meaning: The scriptures declare that the sense-organs, mind, intellect, the quality of sattva, shine, strength, firmness, as well as the body and the Individual soul, all of them have Vasudeva as their Atma or Inner Soul.

Sri Parasara Bhattar comments that this state of all things being under the control of Vasudeva is explained as the body-soul relationship between all objects and Bhagavan. This relationship between the individual soul and the Supreme Soul as one of body-soul relationship is a key aspect of the Vishishta Advaita philosophy.

PhalaShruti 17

Sarvaagamaanaam Aachaarah Prathamam Parikalpate             |
AachaaraPrabhavo Dharmah Dharmasya Prabhurachyutah ||17||
Meaning: All the scriptures declare proper conduct as the first priority in one’s life. Dharma or righteousness springs from right conduct and Achyuta is the foremost upholder of Dharma.

Sri Adi Sankara comments ‘Sarvaagamaanaam Aaacharah-iti anena Avaantara vaakyena Sarva dharmanaam Acharavatah eva Adhikaarah iti Darshayati – By this categorical statement Vyasa makes it very clear that right conduct lies at the root of all Dharma. In other words right conduct is the crystallised outcome of Dharma. Right conduct is the foremost discipline to be observed as noted in all the scriptures.

PhalaShruti 18

Rishayah Pitaro Devaah Mahabhutani Dhaatavah              |
Jangamajangamam Chedam JaganNarayanodbhavam ||18||
Meaning: All the Sages, the departed ancestors, the Devas, the great elements, their effects, the moving and the non-moving objects that comprise the Universe, all have their origin in Narayana.

Sri Parasara Bhattar notes that anything and anyone that is under the influence and control of Dharma has Bhagavan as their origin: dharmanubandhinAmapi tad udbhavatvam Aha.

PhalaShruti 19

Yogo Jnanam Tatha Sankhyam Vidyahs Shilpaadi Karma Ca |
Vedas Shastraani Vijnaanam Etat Sarvam Janardanaat         ||19||
Meaning: The science of Yoga, Sankhya, all branches of knowledge, the arts such as sculpture, all Vedas, all scriptures and all sciences were all brought to light by the grace of Lord Janardana.

PhalaShruti 20

Eko Vishnur Mahadbhutam PrithagBhutaanyanekashah          |
Tri Lokaan Vyapya Bhutatma Bhungte Vishvabhugavyayah ||20||

Sri MahaVishnu is One and has an Immense form, yet he divides Himself and exists in all beings in many different ways. He pervades the three worlds and rules over all of them. He enjoys them and consumes them. He himself has no death or decay.

Sri Parasara Bhattar provides a word-by-word meanings and interpretation:

  • Ekah – svayam ekah san – Being the Supreme Deity above all else;
  • Vyapya – tesham niyama Seshitva Adibhih Atma bhavan – By pervading, by being the Inner Soul of, Controller of, and Master of all beings
  • Anekashah prithak bhutani – asa’nkhyeyataya rupa-prakara- parinamaprayojana bhedena prithak ca sthitani mahanti bhutani – The great Elements that are of countless forms, manners, mutations, and utility which are distinct and different from one another.
  • Trin lokaan ca – Baddha mukta nityan cetanan – And of the three worlds of souls, namely, the bound souls, Released souls, and Eternal angels.
  • Vishva-bhuk – Sarvatha paripalakah – And by being the Sole Protector of everything in all the Worlds.
  • Tathapi – Even so,
  • Avyayah – tad-doshaih aparamrshtah, punashca para vibhutya – being untouched by the faults of any of the souls of whose He is the antaryami.
  • Mahad-bhutam – ava’ng-manasa gocarashca bhavan – His greatness is beyond description, either through words or imagination of the mind, etc.
  • Bhunkte – Leela bhoga rasam anubhavati – And He enjoys the pleasure of Divine Sport and Divine Bliss.

PhalaShruti 21

Imam Stavam Bhagavato Vishnor Vyasena Kirtitam                     |
Pathedya Icchet Purushah Shreyah Praaptum Sukhaani Ca ||21||
Meaning: Any person, who wishes to obtain supreme bliss as well as the pleasures of the world, should read this hymn of Bhagavan Vishnu composed by the great Sage Vyasa.

Sri Adi Sankara comments ‘Imam stavam ityaadina Sahasra Shakhajnena Sarvajnena Bhagavata Krishnadvaipayanena Saakshat Narayanena Kritamiti Sarvaireva Arthibhih Saadaram Pathitavyam Sarvaphalasiddhaye iti Darshayati – By the verse beginning with ‘imam stavam’, Bhishma indicates that this hymn is composed by the revered Sage Krishna Dvaipayana (Vyasa), the knower of all things, the knower of the thousand branches of Veda, who is Narayana Himself, and hence this hymn is to be recited by all with faith, in order to achieve all their wants. This shows the greatness of Sahasranamam both in terms of the greatness of the composer and the greatness of the subject.

Sri Parasara Bhattar comments thus: ‘This Shloka sings the praise of Lord Vishnu, One possessed of unlimited greatness. The one who praises him is none other than Sage Veda Vyasa, who has drunk this greatness in full, and who has no dearth of words to describe that greatness. This gem of a hymn has the greatness of the One who is praised as well as the one who is praising Him. This world which is filled with destitution, is eminently deserving to benefit from the chanting of this Hymn, which is capable of redeeming this world from its penury. Thus, everything is perfect about this hymn, the person who is sung, the person who sings, and the beneficiary who is qualified to benefit by singing His praise. Therefore, any person desirous of Supreme Bliss or material pleasures, whoever he may be, can resort to it’.

Sri Parasara Bhattar in giving his summary above are: ‘Stava ratnam’ to describe Sri Vishnu Sahasranama Stotram, ‘maha daridriyam idam jagat’ to describe the deplorable state of this world which is straying from Dharma, ‘nirvishankah sevatam’ — the benefits will be attained without any doubt. The Shloka itself declares that both Shreyas (denoting Moksham), and the lesser pleasures (sukhani ca) are attained by the chanting of this Hymn.

PhalaShruti 22

Vishveshvaram Ajam Devam Jagatah Prabhum Avyayam      |
Bhajanti Ye Pushkaraaksham Na Te Yaanti Paraabhavam ||22||
Na Te Yaanti Paraabhavam Om Nama Iti ||
Meaning: Bhagavan with Lotus-eyes is the Unborn Supreme Deity, the Ruler of the Universe, as well as the Controller of the Universe. Those who sing His praise will never meet with setback or discomfiture of any kind.

Sri Adi Sankara comments ‘Vishveshvaram Ityaadinaa Vishveshvara Upaasanaat eva Stotaarah Te Dhanyaah Kritaarthaah Kritakrityaa iti Darshayati – This Shloka beginning with Vishveshvaram shows that only by worshiping the Lord of the Universe namely Lord Vishnu, one’s desires are fulfilled and he becomes one who has accomplished everything that is required in one’s life’. In support, he quotes the following two verses from the Garuda Puranam:
Pramaadaat Kurvataam Karma Prachyavetaadhvareshu yat |
Smaranaadeva Tadvishnoh Sampoornam Syaaditi Shrutih ||
Meaning: Any mistake made in rites and sacrifices by carelessness are made good just by meditating on Lord Vishnu.

Sri Sankara further says, ‘Adarena Yatha Stouti Dhanavantam Dhanecchayaa Tathaa chet vishvakartaaram Ko na muchyeta bandhanaat – Just like a man wanting money respectfully pays homage to a rich person, any one who worships Bhagavan will not fail to attain liberation or Moksha’.

Sage Vyasa concludes the Hymn with the oath repeated twice – ‘na te yanti parabhavam, na te yanti parabhavam’ – Never do they meet with any disrespect. Never do they meet with any disrespect.

Sri Parasara Bhattar concludes with the following:
Asmakam atra ca paratranca sarva duhkham
UnmIlya sampadam ashesha vidham vidhaya |
Sri Rangaraja mahishi sa ca Vaishnavanam
Sangaat sukham saha jayena sada kriyaastaam ||
Meaning: May Sri Rangaraja, along with His Consort Sri Ranganayaki, root out all the distress here and hereafter, confer wealth of all kinds on us, and always bless us with happiness, victory and the company of the devoted Sri Vaishnavas.

PhalaShruti 23

Arjuna Uvaca:
Padmapatra Vishalaksha Padmanabha Surottama   |
Bhaktanaam Anuraktanam Trata Bhava Janardana ||23||

Arjuna said ‘Lord Vishnu! Your eyes are large like the lotus leaf. You have a lotus situated in your navel. You are the greatest among the Devas. Please protect your ardent devotees who are deeply engaged in your worship’. While saying this, Arjuna is speaking not just for himself but for all the devotees of the Lord.

PhalaShruti 24

Sri Bhagavan Uvaca:
Yo mam namasahasrena Stotum Icchati Pandava |
Soham Ekena Shlokena Stuta Eva Na Samshayah ||24||
Stuta Eva Na Samshaya Om Nama Iti
Meaning: Bhagavan said ‘Arjuna, when someone has the desire to worship me by reciting my thousand Namas, I consider myself worshiped even when he recites the first Shloka, there is no doubt about this.

Sometimes it so happens that the devotee has the sincere wish to recite the Sahasranamam but he is unable to proceed beyond a few shlokas due to some practical constraints. Bhagavan assures the devotee that it is not the quantity but the intent that matters. Even with one shloka, he considers Himself fully worshipped if it is recited with faith and devotion. The phrase ‘Stuta Eva Na Samshayah’ is repeated at the end for greater emphasis.

PhalaShruti 25

Vyasa Uvaca:
Vaasanad Vasudevasya Vasitam Bhuvanatrayam |
Sarvabhuta Nivaasosi Vasudeva Namostu te ||25||
Shree Vaasudeva Namostuta Om Nama iti
Meaning: Sage Vyasa said ‘The three worlds have become habitable only because Bhagavan Vasudeva is present there. Salutations to Vasudeva, who is the abode for all beings’. The phrase ‘Sri Vasudeva Namostuta Om Nama Iti’ is repeated at the end for greater emphasis.

PhalaShruti 26

Parvati Uvaca:
Kenopayena Laghuna Vishnor Nama Sahasrakam                         |
Pathyate Panditair Nityam Shrotum Icchaamyaham Prabho ||26||
Meaning: Goddess Parvati asked Lord Shiva, ‘O’ Lord, is there any simple and quick method by which learned people are able to recite every day the thousand Namas of Lord Vishnu? If so, I want to hear about it.

It is said that Shiva is an ardent devotee of Vishnu and hence Parvati has chosen the right person to ask about the recitation of Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam.

PhalaShruti 27

Ishvara Uvaca:
Sri Rama Rama Rameti Rame Raame Manorame |
Sahasranama Tat tulyam Rama Nama Varanane ||27||
Rama Nama Varanana Om Nama iti
Meaning: Lord Shiva replied, ‘O’ beautiful lady, I derive pleasure by always chanting the Rama Nama repeatedly and uttering the Rama Nama even once is equivalent to reciting all the thousand Namas’.

So the simple way to recite the thousand Namas of the Lord is to recite the Rama Nama.

There is another Shloka which says ‘Maanasam Vaachikam Paapam Karmanaa samupaarjitam Sri Rama Smaranena Eva Vyapohati Na Samshayah – Any sin which one might have committed either in thought, or in speech or by action is annulled by simply meditating on the Rama Nama’. The phrase ‘Rama Nama Varanana Om Nama iti’ is for further emphasis.

PhalaShruti 28

Bramha Uvaca:
Namostvanantaaya Sahasramurtaye
Sahasra PadakshiShirorubahave
Sahasranamne Purushaaya Shaashvate
Sahasrakoti Yugadhaarine Namah            ||28||
Sahasrakoti Yugadhaarine Nama Om Nama iti
Meaning: This is a prayer from Bramha to Lord Vishnu. Salutations to the endless and immortal One, who has thousands of forms, thousands of feet, thousands of eyes and thousands of arms. Salutations to Him who has thousands of Namas, who is the soul in all beings and who is permanent. Salutations to Him who keeps creating billions of Yugas or time cycles.’

The phrase ‘Sahasrakoti Yugadharine Nama Om’ is recited again for emphasis.

PhalaShruti 29

Sanjaya Uvaca:
Yatra Yogeshvarah Krishno Yatra Paartho Dhanurdharah     |
Tatra Shreer Vijayo Vishnuh Dhruvaa Neetir Matir Mama ||29||

This is a Shloka from the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 18 Verse 78). This was the statement of Sanjaya to Dhridharashtra at the conclusion of the dialogue between Arjuna and Krishna. This means ‘Where there is Krishna, the Lord of Yogas, and where there is Arjuna, wielder of the bow, there is fortune, victory, prosperity and infallible morality, in my opinion’.

Sanjaya’s final statement in the Gita can be viewed from three standpoints.

  • Taken literally, we can see that Sanjaya wanted to very subtly inform Dhridharashtra that the Pandava army would be victorious, and that his sons, the Kauravas, would be vanquished. This was bound to happen because the world’s foremost warrior, Arjuna, and Shri Krishna, the Lord of all Yogas, were on the opposing side of the Kauravas.
  • From the standpoint of our duty, we can interpret this Shloka as follows. Regardless of how much time and effort we put into any action, we cannot be assured of success as it depends on a multitude of factors. But it boils down to two things – Own effort and God’s grace. If either aspect is missing, our actions will not be successful. Own effort alone cannot guarantee result, neither can waiting for God’s grace or prasada without any effort from the part of the individual.
  • From the absolute standpoint, liberation from bondage, realisation of our true self is not possible purely through self effort. We need to perform our duty selflessly, in a spirit of service to the Lord, without any other selfish object as our goal. Selfless devoted service to God, combined with Lord’s grace, will result in progress and success in the spiritual journey. Without God’s grace, it is not possible.

PhalaShruti 30 and 31

Sri Bhagavan Uvaca:
Ananyas Chintayanto Mam Ye Janaah Paryupasate                   |
Tesham Nityaabhiyuktanam Yogakshemam Vahamyaham ||30||

Paritranaya Sadhunaam Vinashaya cha Dushkritam |
Dharma Samsthaapanaarthaaya Sambhavami Yuge Yuge ||31||

Meaning: The first Shloka is from the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 9 Verse 22). This means ‘For those who are constantly engaged in my worship with single minded focus, I carry the what they lack and preserve what they have’.

The implication is that if we devote ourselves wholeheartedly in the pursuit of the Lord, we need not spend any time incessantly worrying about our needs. As long as we perform our duties efficiently and in a spirit of service to the Lord, we will be taken care of. The Lord will not just carry our burden of needs, he will also carry all of our worries as well.

Our entire life comprises two major activities: acquisition and preservation. The early part of our life goes in acquisition of knowledge, wealth, family, position and title. This is denoted by the word ‘Yoga’. The later part of our life is devoted to preservation of what we have acquired. This is ‘kshema’ and the Lord takes care of both these needs if we surrender to Him completely.

The second Shloka is from the Bhagavad Gita Chapter 4 Verse 8. This means ‘In order to protect the virtuous and the destruction of evil, as well as to re-establish Dharma, I reincarnate myself millennium after millennium’.

This implies that God descends into the world in various forms again and again to establish Dharma. Whenever the evil takes the upper hand and the virtuous people suffer Bhagavan appears and restores Dharma by destroying the evil doers and protect the virtuous.

PhalaShruti 32

Aartaah Vishannah Shithilaashcha Bhitah
Ghoreshu Cha Vyadhishu Vartamanah
Sankeertya Narayana Shabda Matram
VimuktaDuhkhah Sukhino Bhavantu ||32||
Meaning: This is another summary of the benefits of reciting the Narayana Nama. This means ‘Anyone who is downtrodden, depressed, devastated, fearful or suffering from a dreaded disease will get relief and happiness just by reciting the Nama of Sriman Narayana’.

We should appreciate that there is no instant magic cure for diseases but reciting the Namas of Sriman Narayana grants one immediate peace of mind and composure.

Sri Adi Sankara concludes his commentary on Vishnu Sahasranama with the following verse of his own:
Sahasranama Sambandhi Vyaakhyaa Sarvamukhavaha
Shruti Smriti Nyaaya mula Rachita Hari-padayoh ||
Meaning: This commentary of Vishnu Sahasranamam which brings happiness to all, and which was written consistent with the Shruti, Smriti and Logic is offered at the Lotus feet of Hari’.

Sri Parasara Bhattar’s explains:
Evam svabhavata eva samasta-dvandva- pratidvandvi – sakala Kalyana Gunakaram,
Prapanna parijatam, pundarikaksham, lakshmi-patim,
Bhagavantam bhajamananam sa eva sarvasvam iti, tad-sampado vacam agocarah |
Kutah Samsarika- paribhava-prasangah iti paryaptayati – visveshvaram iti ||
Meaning: Bhagavan Narayana, the Consort of LakshmI and the Lotus-eyed Lord, is by nature opposed to all kinds of unwelcome things, and is full of all auspicious qualities. He is like the celestial Parijata tree for those who have taken refuge in Him. They consider that He alone is their wealth. Therefore the riches and well being of these people are beyond words. This being the case, there is no occasion for them to suffer dishonour or disgrace.”

I would like to conclude this commentary with Sri Thirumangai Azhwar’s Periya Thirumozhi Pasuram (1.1.9):
குலம்தரும் செல்வம் தந்திடும் அடியார் படுதுயராயினவெல்லம்,
நிலந்தரஞ்செய்யும் நீள்விசும்பருளும் அருளொடுபெருநிலமளிக்கும்,
வலந்தரும்மற்றுந்தந்திடும் பெற்ற தாயினு மாயினசெய்யும்,
நலந்தருஞ்சொல்லை நான் கண்டுகொண்டேன் நாராயணாவென்னும்நாமம்.
Meaning: It gives a good life of land, wealth and prosperity, good family. It rages to the ground all travails facing the devotees’. It grants liberation (Moksha) and benign grace. It gives a man strength, and all that there is, with love that exceeds that of a mother’s. It gives pure goodness, I know that Good bestowing Mantra – Narayana is that Nama that bestows all Grace!

The final Shloka as a dedication to the Lord, which is common to all Pujas and prayers:
कायेन वाचा मनसेन्द्रियैर्वा बुद्ध्यात्मना वा प्रकृतेः स्वभावात् ।
करोमि यद्यद् सकलं परस्मै नारायणायेति समर्पयामि ॥
Kaayena Vachaa Mana-Sendriyair Va Budhyaatmana Va Prakruteh Swabhaavaat |
Karomi Yadyad Sakalam Parasmai Narayana Yeti Samarpayaami ||
Meaning: Whatever I do with my body, speech, mind or with other senses of my body, or with my intellect and soul or with my innate natural tendencies, I offer (dedicate) everything to Lord Narayana.

Sarvam Sri Krishnarpanam Astu – Dedicated in all humility to Lord Sri Krishna _/\_



This Vishnu Sahasranamam series is authored with the help of my friend Shri Balaji.


In this part, we will explore the meaning of the final Shlokas (including the Vanamali verse as the 108th Shloka) of Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam.  This will be followed by the Phala Shruti in the next few commentaries that will expound the benefits of reciting Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam.

Shankhabhrin Nandaki Chakri Shaarngadhanva Gadaadharah |
Rathaangapaanir Akshobhyah Sarva-praharana-ayudhah ||107||
          |Sri Sarva-praharana-ayudha Om Nama Iti |

Vanamaali Gadi Shaarngi Shankhi Chakri ca Nandaki |
Srimaan Narayano Vishnur Vasudevo Abhirakshatu || 108|| Chant this Shloka 3 times
            | Sri Vasudevo’bhirakshatu Om Nama Iti |

He adorns the five divine weapons, namely, the Conch, the Sword, the Discus, the Bow and the Mace ever ready to protect His devotees. He is wielder of Discus, Who is Unshakeable from His resolve and has Infinite weapons at His disposal and is ever ready to act to protect His devotees.

Protect us O’ Lord Narayana, Who wears the garland of forest flowers, Who has the Mace, Conch, Sword and the Discus, and Who is called Vishnu and Vasudeva.

Salutations to Sri Vasudeva, May you Protect us.

The above Shloka has the following Namas:

  1.    Shankhabhrit
  2.    Nandaki
  3.    Chakri
  4.    Shaarngadhanva
  5.    Gadaadharah
  6.    Rathaangapaanih
  7.    Akshobhyah
  8.    Sarva-praharana-ayudhah

In this last Shloka, Bhagavan’s divine weapons are described. While Bhagavan has many weapons that decorate Him (for instance, the Shodasha-Ayudha Stotram by Swami Desikan describes 16 weapons in the hands of Lord Sudarshana), the Pancha Ayhudhas are the ones that receive special mention in this Shloka. The Pancha Ayudhas or the five weapons are also sung in the Pancha Ayudha Stotram.

The Ayudhas that Lord Vishnu holds in His divine body are described in the Vishnu Purana as representing the various tattvas that ultimately are involved in the creation of the Universe and its beings.  These Tattvas are briefly described below:

  1. Shankham – Tamasa ahankaram, from which the Panca bhutas have appeared; (Prithivi, Water, Vayu, Tejas, Akaasham). e.g., Sabdam, one of the tan-matras which is the first stage before Akaasha appears, is the sound emanating from the Conch;
  2. Chakram – symbolizes the constant movement of manas – Vayu vegam mano vegam;
  3. Gadha – – Buddhi – unlike manas which is cancalam (wavering), buddhi is the stabilizing factor;
  4. Shaarnga – Sattvika – the five karma indriyas and the five jnana indriyas. Shaarnga is the controlling force for the Indriyas;
  5. Nandaki – the sword represents Brahma Vidya; the sheath for the Sword is the controlling force that cuts Avidya or ignorance.

Some of the Azhwars are believed to be the Avataars of the Divine weapons.

In the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 11 Verse 46), Arjuna says:
Kiritinam Gadinam Chakra hastam icchami tvam drashtum aham tathiva |
Tenaiva rupena catur-bhujena sahasra baho bhava visvamurte ||
Meaning: I wish to see You as before, with crown and with mace and discus in hand. Assume again that four-armed shape, O Thou thousand-armed, of Universal Form!

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj refers to Srimad Bhagavatam (8.20.30) which describes the Panca Ayudhas:
Sarvaatmanidam bhuvanam nirikshya sarve’surah kashmalam Apuranga |
Sudarshanam Chakram asahya tejo dhanushca Shaarngam stanayitnughosham ||
Parjanya ghosho jalajah pancajanyah kaumodaki Vishnu gada tarasvini |
Vidyadhadro’sih Sata-candra yuktah tunottamau akshayasaayakau ca ||
Meaning: O’ King, when all the Asuras, the followers of Maha Bali, saw the Universal form of Lord Vishnu, who held everything within His body, when they saw in the Lord’s hand His disc, known as the Sudarshana Chakra, which generates intolerable heat, and when they heard the tumultuous sound of His bow, all of these caused lamentation within their hearts.

The Lord’s conchshell, named Pancajanya, which made sounds like that of a thundering cloud; the very forceful club named Kaumodaki; the sword named Nandaka (Vidyadhara), with a shield decorated with hundreds of moonlike spots; and also Akshayasayaka, the best of quivers — all of these appeared together to offer prayers to the Lord.

Now let’s examine the meaning of the above Namas in detail:

  1.      Shankha-bhrit

 ‘Shankha’ means a Conch which can generate a high pitched musical sound and ‘bhrit’ means one who bears it. Based on this, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama as ‘Panchajanyakhyam Bhutadyahankaaratmakam Shankham Bibhrat Shankhabhrit – He holds in His hand a conch called Panchajanyam, which is symbolic of the Tamasic Ahamkara or the human ego, and hence He is called Shankhabhrit, the bearer of the Conch’.

The Conch stands for the ego because blowing it generates a loud sound and announces the person’s presence as a symbol of His ego.  Sri Krishna’s Conch is called ‘Panchajanyam’ which means the generator of the five basic elements or the Pancha Bhutas. The sound originating from Bhagavan’s Conch is the pranava mantra ‘AUM’, from which the whole creation of the Universe was initiated.

Bhagavan’s weapons are enjoyed by His devotees as divine ornaments, while at the same time they are objects of terror for His enemies.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan refers us to Thiruvai Mozhi Pasuram 8.3.3:
ஆளும் ஆளார் ஆழியும் சங்கும் சுமப்பார்தாம்,
வாளும் வில்லுங் கொண்டுபின் செல்வார் மாற்றில்லை,
தாளும் தோளும் கைகளை யாரத் தொழக்காணேன்,
நாளும் நாளும் நாடுவன் அடியேன் ஞாலத்தே
Meaning: The Pasuram is one where Azhwar is in deep bhagavad anubhavam, to the point that he is worried and concerned that there is no to one to help His Lord carry these heavy weapons, and instead they only keep calling on Him to bestow on them worldly things, instead of realising that He is the only true object to wish for.

Sri Parasara Bhattar describes the last eight Namas as indicative of Bhagavan’s Supreme Overlordship – ‘parama aishvarya cihna divya Ayudhadvaat’. Sri Bhattar explains the special privileges of Shankha as Bhagavan nourishes the Shankha with Amrutam (Nectar) from His mouth and at other times the Shankha rests on His divine hand. He also elaborates that the Shankha does not kill the enemy but instils fear thereby allowing them a chance to reform. He also cites Bhagavan gently caressing Dhruva with His Shankha that resulted in instant jnana to Dhruva Maharaj.

Sri Andal devotes 10 Pasurams in her Nachiyar Thirumozhi in praise of Bhagavan’s divine Conch, and enviously describes how His conch is blessed to be always with Him. The conch is either resting in His hand, or is nourished with Nectar every time the Lord uses it. The Shankha enjoys the droplets of His Amrutam, and then returns back to His hand for rest.

In her Nachiyar Thirumozhi Pasuram 1.7.1 she describes the Shankha and wonders:
கருப்பூரம் நாறுமோ கமலப்பூ நாறுமோ
திருப்பவளச் செவ்வாய்தான் தித்தித்தி ருக்கும்மோ
மருப்பொசித்த மாதவன்றன் வாய்ச்சுவையும் நாற்றமும்
விருப்புற்றுக் கேட்கின்றேன் சொல்லாழி வெண்சங்கே
Meaning: Tell me, O White Conch, I am eager to know. Does the mouth of our killer-of-the-rutted-tusker Lord Madavan bear the aroma of camphor, or the fragrance of lotus? Are his auspicious lips sweet to taste? 

In her Pasruam 1.7.8 in Nachiyar Thirumozhi, Sri Andal says to the Conch that the food you nourish is the nectar from the mouth of the beautiful Lord who measured the three worlds in His Vamana/Trivikrama Avataar. You rest on the hands of the Ocean-hued Lord. A bevy of beautiful dames rise in protest at your envious position and would give up everything to enjoy that nectar. What you do is not fair, O’ Conch!

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri notes that the name Pancajanyam itself signifies that the divine conch is the representation of the tattva called ahamkara that is the origin of the Pancabhutas. Of course, there is also an incident in which Bhagavan slays the asura by the name Pancajana, who was in the form of a conch, and this conch also became a decoration for Bhagavan, and is known as Panchajanyam.

Sri Shastri notes that the sound that emanates from His Pancjanyam has the effect of removing the internal enemy which is in the form of ignorance in the minds of the devotees, as well as mighty external enemies by instilling fear in them. Thus, in both senses, the conch is a weapon that He bears for the protection of the devotees and for the protection of the devotees from the enemies.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha explains the Nama as ‘Shankham bibharti iti, Shankham pushnati iti va Shankha- bhrit – He Who holds the Conch, He Who supports the Conch, He Who nourishes the Conch, etc.   Sri Vasishtha also refers to the hymns from the Rig-veda that are directed to the praise of the glory of the Shankha.

  1.       Nandaki – He Who has Nandaka, the Sword

Nandaka is the name of the Sword carried by Sri MahaVishnu. Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama as ‘Vidyaamayo Nandakaakhyah Asirasya iti Nandaki – He carries a sword called Nandaka which symbolises all knowledge hence He is called Nandaki, the carrier of the sword Nandaka’.

The Sword is a symbol of wisdom since it cuts through Avidya or ignorance. Vishnu Puranam says
Bibharti yacchaasiratnam achyuto’tyanta nirmalam |
Vidyomayantu tad jnanam Avidyaa kosha samsthitam ||
Meaning: Hari carries a precious and pure sword which is the embodiment of wisdom which is embedded in its sheath called Avidya. Like wisdom bursting through the cover of ignorance his sword emerges from its scabbard.

The word ‘Nandakah’ means ‘May he be happy’ and Nandaki then refers to the One Who is inseparably associated with the sword who makes His devotees happy.

Sri Parasara Bhattar interprets the Nama as a reference to the divine sword that the Lord possesses, to whom the Lord makes the prayer to give Him joy in His victories.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha on the other hand interprets the Nama as ‘One Who wishes happiness always for His devotees, and whom He can bless as ‘may he be happy always– Ashamsanarham priyam vastu nityam asya asti iti Nandaki. Thus, he does not even refer to the divine weapon in his interpretation.

Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan gives the same interpretation as Sri Sankara with ‘Vijnaanatmako nandako asih asya asti iti Nandaki’ – The Sword that cuts ignorance and the Lord as the carrier of the Sword cuts ignorance and gives jnana and hence He is called Nandaki.

Swami ChinmayAnanda gives the following explanation: ‘The Lord’s Sword is called Nandaka. Therefore, this term indicates One Who holds and wields the nandaka sword. The word nanda-kam means ‘that which brings bliss’. The Shastras sing that this divine Sword in the sacred hands of Lord Hari represents the spiritual Knowledge (vidya- tattva) with which a seeker can destroy his ignorance of the Self in him’.

  1.       Chakri – He Who has the Chakra, the Discus

This Nama has been described earlier in Shloka 97.  Chakra refers to the Discus or the Wheel and Bhagavan who carries this Chakra, which is a powerful weapon to execute His enemies swiftly, is called Chakri. Bhagavan, in His Krishna Avataar, uses the Sudarshan Chakra to punish Shishupala.

The Vishnu Puranam says ‘Bala svarupam atyanta javenantarivaanilam Chakra svarupashcha mano dhatte Vishnuh kare sthitam’ – The Chakra is a powerful weapon that remains in his hand, representing the mind principle, which is very strong and moves faster than the wind.

Based on this, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as Manas tatvaatmakam Sudarshanakhyam Chakram Asya asti iti; Samsaarachakram asya Aajnayaa Parivartate iti vaa Chakri’. There are two different explanations for this. The first is that ‘He possesses the Discus called Sudarshana representing the human mind, hence He is called Chakri’. The human mind moves quickly but very light and powerful. His Discus called Sudarshana has the same qualities and it is auspicious and awesome.

The second explanation is that the wheels of Samasara or the worldly existence revolves at His command hence He is called Chakri, the controller of the wheel of Samsara.  Here Chakra means a ‘Kala Chakra’.

Sri Parasara Bhattar notes that the Chakra in His hands is smeared with the blood of the Asuras who are the sworn enemies of the Devas and His devotees. The Chakra also emanates flames shooting in all directions.

The Lord’s Chakra is called Sudarshana denoting its beauty and charm, yet it is fierce invoking fear.  Something similar to Bhagavan’s Narasimha Avataar who was full of kindness and compassion to Prahlada but ferocious and fierce to Hiranyakashipu.

It is very interestint to note that according to Agama Shastras, In many temples, the Sudharshana Chakra has Yoga Narasimhar to His back. The Yoga Narasimhar bears Sudarshana Chakra in all His four hands.  This joint vigraha of Sudharshana and Yoga Narasimhar is a feature in many temples. This has special significance and it is believed that devotees praying to Sudarshana and Yoga Narasimhar vigraha will have their difficulties dissipate and experience His blessings.

Sri V.V.Ramanujan gives several references from the Divya Prabandham:

  • eppodum kai kazhala nemiyaan nam mel vinai kadivaan (Sri NammAzhwar in Periya Thiruvandhadhi Pasuram 87) – The Lord who permanently wields a discus will rid us of our Karmas.
  • Azhiyum Sangum Sumappaar (Thiruvai Mozhi 8.3.3) – He Who carries the Discus and the Conch in His hands.
  • Kurar Azhi ven Sangu Endik kodiyen paal vaaraay (Sri NammAzhwar in Thiruvai Mozhi 6.9.1) – Will you not come to this wicked self one day, with your conch and discus in hand?
  • Naangu Tholan kuni Sarngan on Sangu Gadhai Vaal Azhiyaan (Sri NammAzhwar’s Thiruvai Mozhi 8.8.1) – He has four arms, with the beautiful weapons (Sarnga – the Bow, Sankha – the Conch, Gadha – the mace, Khadga – the Sword, and Chakra – the Discus).
  • Padmanabhan kaiyil Azhi pol minni valam puri pol nindru adirndu – (Sri Andal’s Tiruppavai 4) – Lord Padmanabha, strike lightning like the resplendent discus on the mighty shoulder, roar with thunder with the great conch, come pouring down on us like arrows cast from the Saarnga bow, that we too may live and enjoy.
  • Tadavarait Thol Chakrapani – (PeriAzhwar Thirumozhi 5.4.4) – The Lord with mountain like shoulders bearing the Chakra in His hand.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha takes a more generic meaning for the term Chakra as something going round and round or happening again and again in circles, and gives the interpretation that Bhagavan has the Nama ChakrI because He has established this world with events that happen again and again in circles – such as the appearance of the Sun, the Moon, the Planets, etc.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj gives several additional references:

  • Sudarshanam Chakram asahya tejah (Srimad Bhagavatam 8.20.30) – The Sudarshana Chakra with its intense brilliance.
  • Sankha Chakra dharo Harih (Srimad Ramayanam 1.45.22) – Lord Vishnu who bears the Conch and the Chakra.
  • Namaste Chakra hasthaaya (VishNu Puranam 5.30.22) – Obeisance to Lord with the Chakra in His hand.

Swami ChinmayAnanda explains the Nama as ‘One Who carries the Sudarshana Chakra’. Sudarshana means ‘that which gives the auspicious vision and the Shastras characterise the Divine Discus as a representation of the human mind”.

Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan explains the Nama as ‘tejas-tattvam Sudarshana Chakram asya asti iti Chakri – He Who bears the Sudarshana Chakra that represents the tattva of Tejas’.

  1.       Shaarnga-dhanva – He Who has the Bow named Shaarnga

The word Shaarnga can be derived from the root ‘Srr – himsayam’ meaning ‘to tear to pieces, to hurt, to kill’ and the word dhanush is derived from the root ‘dhan – Sabde’ meaning ‘to sound’.The root word is ‘Dhanus’ meaning ‘a bow’ and Bhagavan carries a bow called ‘Shaarnga’.

Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama as ‘Indriyaadi Ahamkaratmakam Shaarngam nama dhanuh asya asti iti Sharngadhanva – He carries a bow in His hands named Shaarnga representing the sense organs and the ego or Ahamkaara and hence He is called Shaarngadhanva’. The bow itself represents the ego and the arrows are the sense organs. So the weapon as a whole represents the ego and the supporting sense organs. Just like the bow is powerless without the arrows so also the ego is powerless without the sense organs supporting it.

Sri Parasara Bhattar describes the greatness of the Shaanga bow as one that is capable of destroying not only the evil forces, but even the names and status of the enemies, by a mere twang (the sound caused by the vibration of the chord of the bow) echoing in a powerful and fiery manner. Added to this is the power of the sharp arrows shooting out of the bow.

Sri Bhattar further explains that the Shaarnga dhanus destroys its enemies in two ways: First by the sound that emanates when its chord is plucked, and then from the shower of arrows issuing from it – ‘jyagosha Sara-varsha naashita’. The sound emanating from the string of the bow rejuvenates the Ashritas and shatters the will of the enemies.

Bhagavan’s bow is called Kodhandam in His Rama Avataar.  The Bow is Sri Rama’s primary weapon and in Srimad Bhagavad Gita Lord Krishna (B.G. 10.31) says ‘Of the wielders of weapons, I am Rama’. Bhagavan gives His darshan as Shaarngapani in Kumbakonam’s ‘Sarangapani Temple’ (Shaarngapani has over time become ‘Sarangapani’). Sri Rama has charming and beautiful vigrahas, wielding the Bow, in Vaduvur, and in Madhurantakam (where he is called as ‘Eri kaatha Ramar’ – one who protected the banks of the Lake from breaking despite incessant rains).

Sri Andal glorifies the Shaarnga dhanus, in her Thiruppavai Pasuram (4) – Azhi pol minni, valam puri pol nindru adirndu taazhade Shaarngam udaitta Sara mazhai pol vaazh ulaginil peididaai… – an appeal to the Rain-god to shower rain like the shower of arrows that are released from Shaarnga, the divine bow in the Lord’s hands. Note that instead of comparing the shower of arrows to the rain, Andal compares the rain to the shower of arrows, meaning that the rain can only try to match the shower of arrows shooting out from the Shaarnga bow.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj refers to the great sound of the bow as described in Srimad Bhagavatam – ‘dhanushca Shaarngam stanayitnughosham’ (8.20.30) – The Shaarnga bow that makes the sound that is like thunder.

Swami ChinmayAnanda explains the Nama as ‘One Who aims His unerring Bow called Shaarnga’. He continues: ‘This bow of Narayana is glorified in our texts as representing the Ego, as the apex of all the sense organs, Ahankara-tattva’.

Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan explains the Nama as – Kriya tattvam Shaarngam dhanuh asya iti Shaarnga-dhanva – He Who bears the bow by name Shaarnga that represents the kriya tattvam.

  1.       Gadaa-dharah – He Who bears the Mace

‘Gadaa’ means ‘a mace’ and ‘Dharah’ means ‘a bearer or carrier’. Based on this, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this name as ‘Buddhi tatvaatmikaam Kaumodakim nama Gadaam vahan Gadaadharah – He carries a mace called Kaumodaki which is symbolic of human intellect and hence He is called Gadaadharah or the mace-carrier’.

Vishnu Puranam says ‘Pradhaanam Buddhirapyaaste gadaa rupena Madhave – Intellect abides in Madhava in the form of His mace’.

Sri Parasara Bhattar describes the ‘Kaumodaki’ as the ‘queen of maces, that gives Him pleasure and that emits flames all around like the fire at the final dissolution of the Universe’. Bhagavan in His Varaha Avataar used Kaumodaki to overpower Hiranyakshan and retrieved the Earth from the depths of the Ocean.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha compares the sound that emanates from the Kaumodaki to the sound that one hears from thunders.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri explains the Nama as ‘Kumudah is One Who rejoices in the company of Bhumi Devi. Kumodakah is One Who makes the Earth happy. KaumodakI is that which belongs to Him – Kumodakasya idam.

Sri Krishna datta Bharadvaj gives reference to Srimad Bhagavatam – KaumodakI Vishnu gada tarasvinI (8.20.31) – Kaumodaki, Vishnu’s Gada, has enormous strength.

  1.        Rathaanga-panih – He Who is armed with the wheel in His hand

Ratha is a chariot, Anga is a part and Pani is palm. Taken together Rathaangapani gives the meaning of someone who holds the part of chariot or the wheel in his hand. Based on this, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama as ‘Rathaangam chakram asya paanau Sthitam iti Rathaangapanih – The part of a chariot, the wheel, is held by him in his palms hence He is called Rathaangapani, the holder of the wheel in His palms’.

The emphasis in this Nama is on Paani or the palm showing His readiness to protect His devotees. So He is not only a Chakri but a Chakrapanih.

Sri Parasara Bhattar points out that in Nama 995, Bhagavan being the Possessor of the Ayudham or weapon was described, whereas in the current Nama His readiness for action (having the Chakra ready in His hand for release) is described, and thus there is no repetition

In periya Thiruvandhaadhi (87), Sri NammAzhwar desribes this readiness as ‘Eppozhudum kai kazhala nemiyaan’ – He Who has the discus that is always in His hand.

Another interpretation given for the Nama is a reference to the incident where Bhagavan jumped from the chariot and rushed towards Bhishma during the MahaBharata war with the wheel of the chariot in His hand, just to make the promise made to His devotee Bhishma come true, even when it involved His breaking His own promise not to take to weapons during the war.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri refers us to Bhishma’s own description of this incident:
Sva-nigamam apahaaya mat-pratijnaam
Rtam adhikartum avapluto rathasthah |
Dhrita ratha caranah abhyayaat calatguh
Haririva hantum ibham gatottariyah || (Srimad Bhagavatam 1.9.37)
Meaning:  Giving up His promise not to take arms in the battle, and just to fulfill my promise that I will make Him take arms, He who had ascended the chariot jumped down and rushed towards me with the haste that made the earth shake, like a lion that was rushing to kill an elephant. He even dropped His outer garment on the way.

Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan also gives the interpretation in terms of Bhagavan bearing the wheel of the chariot in order to fulfill the vow of His devotee (He had assured Bhishma that He will break His vow just like Bhishma was forced to break his vow to Duryodhana by blessing Draupadi) – Bhakta pratijna pratipalakataam atisiaghyatvaat punaraha rathaangapanir iti Bhishmam prati pradarshitam etat.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha gives the following derivation – The word ‘Ratha’ is derived from the root ‘Ramu – kreedaayaam’ meaning ‘to play or to sport’ and by adding ‘Ratha’ and ‘anga’ he explains it as ‘Rathah angati yena tad Rathaangam – That which makes the chariot go is Rathaangam or wheel’. Hence, He is known as the holder of the wheel which is again a reference to the Bhishma incident.

  1.        Akshobhyah – He Who is Unshakable

We covered this Nama earlier in Shloka 86.  This Nama is derived from the root ‘kshubh kshobh’ which means ‘to be agitated or disturbed’. So Akshobhyah means someone who cannot be shaken or disturbed. On this basis, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Ata eva Ashakya kshobhanah iti Akshobhyah – Because of the reason that He is not shaken or agitate, He is called Akshobhyah, the Unshakeable One’.

In other words, He is unassailable being endowed with all these formidable weapons like the Discus, the Conch, the Mace the Sword and the Bow.

Sri Parasara Bhattar’s interprets this Nama as ‘Prapanna abhaya dana daaradhyaat Svamahimnapi Akshobhyah – He Who cannot be shaken from the firm vow that He has taken to protect those who have surrendered to Him; this vow of His cannot be shaken even by His own Great Self”.

One is reminded of the words of Bhagavan found in Saranagati Gadyam of Bhagavad Ramanuja:
Anrtam nokta purvam me na ca vakshye kadacana –
Ramo dvir-nabhibhashate ||
Meaning: I have never uttered an untruth before, and will never utter one ever. Rama never talks with two tongues.

In Srimad Ramayana (Aranya Kanda 4.10.17b, 4.10.18 and 4.10.19a), Sri Rama says to Sita:
संश्रुत्य न च शक्ष्यामि जीवमानः प्रतिश्रवम् |
मुनीनाम् अन्यथा कर्तुम् सत्यम् इष्टम् हि मे सदा |
अपि अहम् जीवितम् जह्याम् त्वाम् वा सीते स लक्ष्मणाम् ||
न तु प्रतिज्ञाम् संश्रुत्य ब्राह्मणेभ्यो विशेषतः |
Meaning: Having promised to the Sages it is incapable of me to do otherwise while I am alive, truth is dearer to me, isn’t it.  I may forfeit my life, forgo Lakshmana, or even forsake you but not a promise that too made especially to Brahmins and having promised thus, I can never go back.

In Srimad Ramayana (Yuddha Kanda 18.33), Sri Rama says:
Sakrdeva prapannaya tavasmi ca yacate |
Abhayam sarva bhutebhyo dadamy etad vratam mama ||
Meaning: He who seeks refuge in me just once, telling me that ‘I am yours’, I shall give him the assurance of safety against all types of beings. This is my solemn pledge.

In Srimad Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 18 Verse 66), Bhagavan Sri Krishna says:
Sarva dharman parityajya mAm ekam Saranam vraja |
Aham tvam Sarva papebhyo moksha isyami ma sucah ||
Meaning: Abandon all forms of righteous actions and just surrender unto Me exclusively. I will release you from all sinful reactions. Do not despair.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha gives the word kshobhyah, giving the sense of ‘Sakyarthe arharte va – One who is capable of or one who is fit to be’. Thus, Khshobhyah means ‘one who can be agitated, perturbed or shaken’, and Akshobhyah means ‘One who cannot be shaken’ – na kshobhayitum = sancalayitum Sakyah Akshobhyah.

Lord Rama reinforces His commitment to protect anyone who approaches Him with sincerity, during Vibhishana Saranagati:
Mitra bhavena sampraptam na tyajeyam kathancana |
Dosho yadyapi tasya syat sataam etat agarhitam ||(Yuddha Kanda 18.3)
Meaning: By any means, I will not forsake anyone who arrives with a friendly disposition, even if that person has any faults. His acceptance is irreproachable in the eyes of good men.

Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan gives essentially the same interpretation – tyakta Shastro’pi kshobhayitum gharshitum ashakyatvaat Akshobhyah.

Swami ChinmayAnanda through the following words, One Who cannot be exasperated by anyone, by any act or acts, however blasphemous they may be; One Whose peace and calm cannot be stormed out by any happening in his outer world; Ever-peaceful. The term suggests Infinite patience, love and kindness towards man and his frailties”.

  1.       Sarva-Praharana-Ayudhah – He Who has Infinite weapons at His disposal

Sarva-Praharana-Ayudhah refers to someone who is endowed with weapons of every description, both conventional and unconventional. The five conventional weapons that were described earlier are by no means confined to those five weapons. He commands an infinite range of weapons. Based on this, Sri Adi Sankara explains this Nama as ‘Kevalam Etaavanti Aayudhani asya iti na niyamyate, api tu Sarvaani eva Praharanani  aayudhani asya iti SarvaPraharanaAyudhaah – He is not restricted to using only the above mentioned weapons; He uses weapons of every description, hence He is called Sarvapraharanaayudhah, the user of every possible weapon’.

Sri Adi Sankara further expounds this Nama as ‘Ayudhatvena Aprasiddhaanyapi Karajaadeeni Asya Aayudhaani bhavanti iti – For instance, when He took the incarnation as Narasimha, He used His claws as effective weapon in overpowering the demon Hiranyakashipu’. He further says ‘Ante SarvaPraharanaAyudha iti vachanam Satyasankalpatvena Sarveshvaratvam darshayitum – This Nama is chosen as the last Nama to emphasise Bhagavan’s determination to establish Dharma and His overlordship’.  Mandukya Upanishad says ‘Esha Sarveshvarah – He is the Overlord’.

Sri Parasara Bhattar explains that the Nama signifies that Bhagavan possesses countless Ayudhas that are very powerful in removing all the obstacles encountered by the prapannas (those who have unconditionally surrendered to Him), are befitting His greatness, possess the great power to destroy the enemies of His devotees, serve as both ornaments and armaments to Him, and which have taken a vow as it were, to protect His devotees always, in all places, and through all means. Just as He has infinite Shakti, He has infinite Ayudhas.

Sri Bhattar explains that ‘Deergha satra yaaga’ can be enjoyed as referring to Bhagavan’s long and never-ending yaaga of His undertaking to protect all His Creation. All of Bhagavan’s actions, including His carrying of weapons, are solely for the protection of His devotees.

Praharanam means ‘striking, attacking, hurting’ etc. Sarvani praharanaani Ayudhani yasya iti Sarva-Praharana-Ayudah – He Who has all kinds of destructive weapons to punish the evil.

The distinct contrast between Sri Sankara and Sri Bhattar is that Sri Sankara concludes the final Nama by emphasising Lord’s Sarveshvaratvam i.e. OverLordship over all, whereas Sri Parasara Bhattar concludes that the Nama by emphasising Bhagavan’s Saulabhyam and Sausheelyam (affability and affection) and signifies Bhagavan’s ever-readiness to go for the protection of His devotees with all His weapons.

While Sri Sankara mentions Bhagavan’s use of His claws (Narasimha Avataar) as Ayudham, Sri Radhakrishna Shastri goes one step further and refers to Sri Rama using dharba grass as a weapon to attack Kakasura, the sucking of the milk from Putana etc. The point to enjoy is that He uses anything as a weapon to destroy the wicked and He will use anything to protect His devotee as well – He is Satyasankalpan; by His mere Will, He can accomplish anything He wishes.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan refers to Sri Andal’s Thiruppavai (25): ‘kanjan vayitril nerppenna nindra nedumale – He struck fear deep down the guts of Kamsan by His very thought’.   Sri Ramanujan further explains that Bhagavan can destroy all His enemies through His mere Will.

A question arises then, if Bhagavan is all powerful, why is it that He carries all these weapons? One possible explanation is that He carries them so that they will induce terror in the hearts of the enemies of His devotees, and at least in some cases, they will desist from harming His devotees, without His having to punish them.

For instance, Lord Rama Himself tells Sugreeva (Yuddha Kanda 18.23):
Pisacan daanavaan yakshaan prithivyam caiva Raakshasan |
Angulyagrena taan hanyaam icchan Hariganeshvara ||
Meaning: O’ King of the army of monkeys! It is quite possible for Me to destroy all the ghosts, the Asuras, the Yakshas, and all these Rakshasas with the tip of My finger, if I so desire.

Another aspect of His many divya Ayudhas is that they are nityasUri- s who worry about His protection out of their love and attachment to Him, even though He does not need any protection Himself. But it is their love of Him that makes them be always on the lookout for His protection, and so they all reside in His tirumEni, always watching out for any unforeseen enemies. Recall periyAzhwar singing pallANDu for Him, for His divine weapons, etc., all because of his concern for the welfare of emperumAn, driven by His deep love to Him.

With this Nama, we conclude the write-up on the 1000 Namas of Lord Vishnu. There are some versions that include the Nama ‘Sarva-Praharana-Ayudha Om Nama iti‘ followed by the Vanamali Shloka.


Sarvapraharanaayudha Om Nama iti: 

As per Sri Adi Sankara, ‘Dvir vachanam Samaaptim dyotayati – the second use of the same name shows the conclusion of the 1000 names’. ‘Omkaarashcha Mangalaarthah’. Also the use of ‘OM’ denotes the auspiciousness of the 1000 names. In support, he quotes from BrihanNaradeeya Puraanam (1.51.10) which says ‘Omkarashchatha shabdashcha Dvavetau Bramhanah Pura; Kantham bhitvaa Viniryaatau Tasmaan Mangalika Ubhau – The words ‘OM’ as well as ‘ATHA’ which came out of the throat of Bramha are auspicious for that very reason’.

The use of ‘Namah’ at the end is a reiteration of the importance of bowing to Bhagavan at all times. Sri Adi Sankara puts it as ‘Ante Namah ityuktvaa Paricharanam Kritavaan- At the end it offers obeisance by using the word Namah’. Isavasya Upanishad (18) says ‘Bhuyishthaam te Nama uktim Vidhema – We offer Thee many words of salutation with the word Namah’.

Sri Sankara emphasises the importance of salutation at the end of any act. He says ‘Praag iti upalakshanam Antepi Namaskaarasya Shishtaih Aacharanaat – All devotees offer their salutation to Bhagavan at the end of an act’. The fruit of the act of salutation is exemplified in the following verses from Mahabharatam:
‘Ekopi Krishnasya Kritah Praanaamo Dashaashvamedhaavabhritena Tulyah |
Dashaashvamedhee Punareti Janma KrishnaPranaamee na Punarbhavaaya ||
Meaning: Even one salutation, offered with sincerity to Sri Krishna, is equivalent to ten Ashvamedha Yagnas. He who has performed the Ashvamedha Yagna can still take another birth, but he who salutes Krishna is never born again.

Atasee Pushpa sankaasham Peetavaasasam Achyutam |
Ye Namasyanti Govindam Na teshaam Vidyate Bhayam ||
Meaning: There is no fear for those who bow before Govinda, whose colour resembles that of the atasI flower, who is clad in yellow pitaambaram, and who never lets His devotees fall.

Lokatrayaadhipatim Apratima Prabhaavam
Eeshat Pranamya Shirasaa PrabhaVishnum Eesham

Aashu Prashaantim Upayaati narasya Paapam’
Meaning: The evil acts committed by a man in his innumerable previous births, over a thousand kalpas and pralayas, are immediately destroyed by bowing down the head before the Supreme Lord Vishnu of unparalleled excellence, and the Master of the three worlds.

Sri Parasara Bhattar has beautifully connected the sequence of the 1000 Namas. He has identified a structure in the composition that refers to the Gunas of the Lord in the five manifestations in which He has revealed Himself to us, as described in the Pancaratra Agamas. These manifestations are: para, vyuha, vibhava, arca, and antaryami.

The Final Shloka:
Vanamaali Gadee Shaarngee Shankhee Chakri cha Nandaki |
Srimaan Narayano Vishnuh Vasudevo Abhirakshatu ||108|| (To be chanted 3 times)
                | Sri Vasudevo’bhirakshatu Om Nama Iti |

While Sri Sankara, Sri Bhattar and others have not commented on this Shloka, traditionally this is an essential part of the Sahasranamam recitation.  Let’s look at the meaning of these Namas:

  • Vanamaali means the One who adorns the garland of forest flowers. This garland is also called Vaijayanti. We have seen this Nama earlier in Shloka 60 ‘Bhagavan Bhagahaanandi VaNamaali Halaayudhah’.
  • Gadee means the bearer of the mace and the mace is called Kaumodaki representing intellect.
  • Shaarngi means the one who is carrying a bow called Shaarngam (quite often referred to as Saranga in South India and there is a temple in Kumbakonam called Sarangapani which actually represents Sri Vishnu holding His Shaarnga bow and hence called Sarangapani). The bow stands for the Rajasic qualities.
  • Shankhi means the bearer of the Conch. Sri Krishna carries a Conch called Panchajanyam. The blowing of the Conch can instil fear. The Conch represents Tamasic qualities.
  • Chakri means the bearer of the Discus or the wheel as a weapon. Bhagavan’s Chakra is called Sudrashana and it stands for the qualities of the mind because the mind is constantly revolving around various thoughts just like a wheel.
  • Nandaki means the bearer of the sword named Nandaka which is one of His five weapons. Nandaka stands for knowledge or Vidya. The sword of learning cuts through one’s ignorance just like the sword in a battle cuts the enemy.
  • Srimaan means One who possesses ‘Sri’. The term ‘Sri’ has many meanings such as beauty, wealth and also denotes Goddess Lakshmi. Bhagavan has all of these and hence, very rightly called Srimaan.
  • Narayanah – ‘Nara’ means Atman and ‘Ayanam’ means journey or abode. Narayana is therefore someone residing in all beings. This Nama is the basis the powerful Ashtaakshari Mantra ‘Om Namo Narayanaaya’. 
  • Vishnuh means someone who pervades the entire Cosmos.
  • Vasudevah means the Divinity who covers the whole Universe by Maya. It also means son of Vasudeva and the one who is both Vasu and Deva.
  • Abhirakshatu seeks to invoke His blessings to protect the devotees. This is a fitting finale to the SahasraNamam and this concludes with a request to the Lord for the welfare and protection of those who recite it.

Protect us O’ Lord Narayana, Who wears the garland of forest flowers, Who has the Mace, Conch, the Discus and the Sword, and Who is called Vishnu and Vasudeva.


Shankhabhrin Nandaki Chakri Shaarngadhanva Gadaadharah |
Rathaangapaanir Akshobhyah Sarva-praharana-ayudhah ||107||
       ||Sri Sarva-praharana-ayudha Om Nama Iti ||

Vanamaali Gadi Saarngi Shankhi Chakri ca Nandaki |
Srimaan Narayano Vishnur Vasudevo Abhirakshatu ||108|| [Chant this Shloka 3 times]
                | Sri Vasudevo’bhirakshatu Om Nama Iti |

He adorns the divine Conch Pancajanya and hence called as Shankhabhrit. He has the divine Sword called Nandaka and so He is called Nandaki. He holds the Sudharsana Chakra and hence called Chakri.  He bears the divine Shaarnga Bow and hence called Shaarngadhanva.  He holds the divine Kaumodaki Mace and hence knows as Gadaadharah.

Bhagavan holds the five divine weapons, namely, the Conch, the Sword, the Discus, the Bow and the Mace ever ready to protect His devotees.

He is wielder of Wheel and hence called Rathaangapanih.  He is Unshakeable from His resolve, so He is Akshobhyah. He has Infinite weapons at His disposal and is ever ready to act to protect His devotees, so He is called Sarva-prahana-ayudhah.

Protect us O’ Lord Narayana Who wears the garland of forest flowers, Who has the Mace, the Conch, the Discus and the Sword, and also called Vishnu and Vasudeva.

Salutations to Sri Vasudeva, May you Protect us.




This Vishnu Sahasranamam series is authored with the help of my friend Shri Balaji.


In this part, we will explore the meaning of the 106th Shloka of Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam.

Atmayonih Svayamjaato Vaikhaanah Samagayanah |
Devaki-Nandanah Srashta Kshitishah Papanashanah ||106||

He is His own source. He is not only the Material Cause for His birth but also an instrumental Cause for his birth. As Varaha He dug up the Earth from the depths. He uproot the sorrows of the world, and in particular the sorrow of repeated birth and death in this Samsara. He sings the hymns of Sama Veda. 
He is the son of Devaki and created the whole Cosmos. He is known as the King of the Earth as the son of Dasharatha. He destroys the Sins of those who adore Him, meditate on Him, and remember and sing hymns of praise on Him.

The above Shloka has the following Namas:

  1.     Atmayonih
  2.     Svayamjaatah
  3.     Vaikhaanah
  4.     Samagayanah
  5.     Devaki-Nandanah
  6.     Srashta
  7.     Kshitishah
  8.     Papanashanah

Now let’s examine the meaning of the above Namas in detail:

  1.     Atma-yonih – He is Svayambu or His own source

The term ‘Yonih’ means the ‘source or womb’ where something is born. Based on this, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this name as ‘Atma eva yonih upadana karanam na anyat iti Atmayonih – He is His own source; there is no other material cause or source which created Him, hence He is called Atmayonih, one whose source is Himself or the self-generating one’.

Svetasvatara Upanishad (6.16) says ‘Sa Vishvakrit Vishvavit Atmayonih’ – He is the Creator of the Universe. He is the Knower of the Universe and He is the generating source of Himself.

Sri Parasara Bhattar generally highlights the two Gunas of Bhagavan that are of utmost significance and importance to the devotees – namely Bhagavan’s Sausheelyam (affability) and Saulabhyam (ease of access).  Sri Bhattar uses the root ‘yu’ meaning ‘to unite, to mix’, and interprets as – ‘Dughdeneva Sitavalayam Atmana bhoktaram mishrayati iti Atma-yonih’ – One Who mixes with others easily like milk with sugar, thus emphasising Bhagavan’s Sausheelyam (affability) in this Nama.

Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan echoes the same thoughts as Sri Bhattar in his interpretation – Atmanam svam yauti bhaktah sahavAsa bhoge iti Atma-yonih – He Who mixes with the devotees indistinguishably for the purpose of their enjoyment. He quotes the Ananda maya vidya from Ananda Valli of Taittiriya Upanishad (2.1.1):
Yo Veda nihitam guhayam parame vyoman | So’Snute sarvan kanman saha| Brahmana vipashciteti |
Meaning: He who knows Brahman hidden in the cavity of the heart, enjoys in the supreme abode all the auspicious qualities of Brahman along with the all-knowing Brahman.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan refers to Sri NammAzhwar’s Thiruvai Mozhi Pasuram (2.3.1):
ஊனில்வாழுயிரே நல்லைபோஉன்னைப்பெற்று,
வானுளார்பெருமான் மதுசூதனென்னம்மான்,
தானும்யானுமெல்லாம் தன்னுள்ளேகலந்தொழிந்தோம்,
தேனும்பாலும்நெய்யும் கன்னலுமமுதுமொத்தே
Meaning: O’ my mind! Even though you are present in this physical body of flesh and the like – all filthy, you have served me right in the direction of deliverance. I have enjoyed Sri Vaikuntham just like the ever free angels (Nitya Suris). Through your grace my Lord Madhusadana and I have mingled into one inseparably, as Milk with Milk, Honey with Honey, Ghee with Ghee, and Sugarcane juice with itself. 

It is worth noting that this is a level more intimate than the explanation of Sri Bhattar’s analogy of mixing of Milk and Sugar.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj also gives the interpretation that since Bhagavan has no cause other than Himself, He is called Atma-yonih – Svambhutvat Atma-yonih. He gives support from the Svetasvatara Upanishad – ‘Sa Vishva-krid Vishva-vid Atma-yonih’ – He is the Creator of the Universe. He is the Knower of the Universe and He is the generating source of Himself.

  1.     Svayam-jaatah – He is the Cause of His Own Birth

For any creation there are two types of causes – one is the material cause and the other is the instrumental cause. For example, when a pot is created, the material cause is the earth and the instrumental cause is the potter. Similarly when a gold ornament is made, the material cause is gold and the instrumental cause is the goldsmith. Similarly, taking Bhagavan as an entity, the material cause for that is Bhagavan Himself. The current Nama points out that Bhagavan is His own instrumental cause as well.

Sri Adi Sankara’s interpretation is ‘Nimitta karanam api sa eva iti darshayitum Svayamjaatah iti – To demonstrate that Bhagavan is His own instrumental Cause, He is called Svayamjaatah, One Who is the Cause of His own birth’.

Bramha Sutram (1.4.23) says ‘Prakritishcha Pratijnaa Drishtaanta Anuparodhaat – Bhagavan is not just the Instrumental cause but also the Material Cause’.  Sri Adi Sankara says ‘iti atra Sthaapitam ubhaya kaaranatvam Hareh – This declares the dual role played by Bhagavan in materialising Himself.

Svayam jayate ajanishta iti va Svayam-jaatah – He Who is Self-born, and not Created by anyone else is Svayam-jaatah.

Sri Parasara Bhattar’s explains that Bhagavan takes Avataars as and when necessary without waiting for those in difficulty to come and pray to Him – Prarthana nirapekshataya jaatah Svayam-jaatah. He takes the incarnation out of His concern for the protection of the good, the destruction of the evil, and the preservation of Dharma.  He emphasises that Bhagavan comes to aide of His devotees of His own accord.

In the Bhagavad Gita Chapter 4 Verse 7 and 8, Bhagavan says:
Yada yada hi dharmasya glanir bhavati bharata |
Abhyutthanam adharmasya tadatmanam srjamy aham ||4.7||
Paritranaya sadhunam vinasaya ca duskrtam
Dharma-samsthapanarthaya sambhavami yuge yuge ||4.8||
Meaning:  Whenever and wherever there is a decline in righteousness, O’ descendant of Bharata, and a predominant rise of evil —at that time I descend Myself.  In order to deliver the pious and to annihilate the miscreants, as well as to reestablish the principles of righteousness, I advent Myself millennium after millennium.

He Himself takes birth out of His own will as His main concern is the protection of the Jivas who are His children.

It is His Nature to be concerned and to protect – ‘Kaakkum iyalvinan Kanna Perumaan’ says Sri NammAzhwar in Thiruvai Mozhi (2.2.9), and so He takes incarnations for this purpose as and when necessary, out of His own will.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan quotes the Thiruviruttam Pasuram (1) in support – ‘uyir alippaan ennindra yoniyumaaip pirandaai! imaiyor thalaiva – You Who took birth voluntarily in order to liberate us from the burden of Samsara.

This is nicely captured by Sri NammAzhwar in his Thiruvai Mozhi Pasuram (1.5.4):
தானோ ருருவே தனிவித்தாய்த் தன்னில் மூவர் முதலாய
வானோர் பலரும் முனிவரும் மற்றும் மற்றும் முற்றுமாய்
தானோர் பெருநீர் தன்னுள்ளே தோற்றி அதனுள் கண்வளரும்
வானோர் பெருமான் மாமாயன் வைகுந் தன்எம் பெருமானே.
Meaning: The Lord of the Celestials, Lord of Vaikuntha, and my own Lord, He Himself became the Cause of the three (Triumvarate). He caused the Celestials, and Sages and the living, and all else to be, then appeared in the deep ocean sleeping on a Serpent Couch.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri explains the Nama as ‘One Who appeared by Himself’, and gives the reference from Ananda Valli in Taittiriya Upanishad – ‘tad-Atmanam svayam akuruta’ – That Brahman created Itself by Itself.

Sri Suka explains that Bhagavan just appeared from Devaki’s womb just as the Moon appears in the Sky – ‘Devakyam Deva rupinyaam Vishnuh sarva guhashayah AviraasIt yatha praacyaam dishi induriva pushkalah (Srimad Bhagavatam 10.3.8). Lord Krishna chose to enter Devaki’s womb for some time, and then chose to come out at His will; the connection between Devaki and Krishna is just the same connection as between the east direction and the moon from which it appears.

  1.     Vaikhaanah – He Who uproots the sorrows

The root word is ‘khana’ meaning ‘to dig’. Based on this, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Visheshena Khananaat Vaikhaanah – Because of His extra-ordinary digging feat He is called Vaikhaanah, the great digger’. He goes on to say ‘Dharaneem visheshena khanitvaa paataalavaasinam Hiranyaaksham Varaham Rupam Aasthaaya Jaghaana iti Puraane prasiddham – It is well known in the Puranas that Bhagavan took the form of a great boar or Varaha and dug the Earth to reach the nether world in order to execute the powerful demon Hiranyaaksha’, henve He is known as Vaikhaanah, the expert digger.

Sri Parasara Bhattar uses the root word ‘khana’ with the meaning ‘to uproot’, and explains the Nama as One Who uproots the miseries of His devotees – janitva, bhava dukkha vikhananaat Vaikhaanah – Bhagavan incarnates at His will and proceeds to uproot the sorrows of the world, and in particular the sorrow of repeated birth and death in this Samsara.

Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan gives a similar interpretation – janitvaca sva-bhakta dukkha vikhananaat Vaikhaanah – Taking birth voluntarily, He destroys the sorrows of His devotees.

Srimad Srimushnam Andavan refers us to the first Pasuram of Sri NammAzhwar’s Thiruviruttam, where Azhwar points out that Bhagavan takes His births for the purpose of removal of our bondage to this Samsara:
பொய்ண்ணின்ற ஞானமும் பொல்லா வொழுக்கும் அழுக்குடம்பும்,
இந்நின்ற நீர்மை இனியா முறாமை, உயிரளிப்பான்
எந்நின்ற யோனியு மாய்ப்பிறந் தாயிமை யோர்தலைவா
மெய்நின்று கேட்டரு ளாய்,அடி யேன்செய்யும் விண்ணப்பமே.
Meaning: O’ Lord of the Devas! For the sake of protecting us, You took birth in several wombs. Please grant us that we may never again attain the lowly state of faulty knowledge, wicked actions and filth-ridden body and mind. Please bless us and heed my humble plea and save us.

Swami ChinmayAnanda gives an interesting interpretation for the above puranic incident – Hiranya means Gold, and aksha means eye, and the term ‘Hiranyaksha’ symbolises our eye towards materialistic pleasures. Bhagavan had to dig and reach inside our ego to rid us of this desire for materialistic pleasures, and in this sense He is Vaikhaanah.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha uses the meaning ‘disturbance’ for the term ‘khana’. He interprets the term vikhaana as a reference to the muktas who are completely liberated, and then explains the term Vaikhaana as the Lord of Vikhaanas or the muktas – vikhaanah khanana rahitah muktah, tatsambandhi Vaikhaanah.

Sri Raghunatha Thirtha takes the word ‘khana’ as meaning ‘to dig, to completely undo’, and interprets the Nama as – Visheshena Satrum avadarayati iti Vikhaanah, Vikhaana eva Vaikhaanah – He who cuts into pieces and destroys the enemy.

Using the meaning ‘dig’ for the root khana, Sri Vasishtha gives another interpretation, and attributes the existence of Oceans etc. as the work of the Lord. He has specially provided these as examples of His digging out these resources out of water, which no one else can do – ‘Tasya ca Vishishthah khano samudrasya nahidrik khananam kenacit tad-anyena kartum Sakyam’.

  1.     Sama-gayanah – He sings the hymns of Sama Veda

Sama refers to the hymns of the Sama Veda, which are normally sung rather than recited. Gayanah means one who sings. On this basis, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Samaani Gayati iti Samagayanah – He sings the hymns of Sama Veda, hence He is called Samagaayanah, one who sings Sama Veda’.

Sama Veda is the most musical of the four Vedas and the recitation is generally performed like a musical melody. Bhagavan is an expert exponent of this art thus giving Him the name of Samagayanah.

The word ‘Sama’ also means ‘that which is appeasing’. Hence, Sama-gayanah means ‘One Who sings pleasant hyms to appease Him’.

Sri Parasara Bhattar uses the above interpretation and explains the Nama as ‘One Who has the muktas or the Released Souls singing the Sama hymns in praise of Him once they have attained Him’ – sva-prapti madhu pAnena ‘haavu haavu haavu’ iti Samani gayamano muktah asya asti iti Sama-gayanah. He gives the quote from Taittiriya Upanishad – ‘etat Sama gayanaste’.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj refers us to a passage in Srimad Bhagavatam (12.13.1) where the description is given about Bhagavan being worshipped through the Sama gana chanting:
Yam Brahma Varunendra-Rudra-Marutah stunvanti divyaih stavair
Vedaih sanga-pada-kramopanishadair gayanti yam Sama-gah
Dhyanavasthita-tad-gatena manasa pashyanti yam yogino
Yasyantam na viduḥ surasura-gaṇa devaya tasmai namah ||
Meaning:  Suta Gosvami said: Unto that personality whom Brahma, Varuṇa, Indra, Rudra and the Maruts praise by chanting transcendental hymns and reciting the Vedas with all their angas, pada-kramas and Upanishads, to whom the chanters of the Sama Veda always sing, whom the perfected yogis see within their minds after fixing themselves in trance and absorbing themselves within Him, and whose infinite nature is beyond realisation by the Devas and Asuras — unto that Supreme Being, Who is ever resplendent, I offer my humble obeisances.

Bhagavan Sri Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 10 Verse 22) – ‘Vedanaam Sama Vedo’smi – Of the Vedas I am Sama Veda’.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri comments that the Brahma jnani sings the Sama ganam in the excitement of his realisation, and Bhagavan Sriv Krishna played the flute (His Venuganam) to the peaceful and all-quieting Sama ganam, and hence He is Sama-gayanah.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha derives the interpretation for the Nama and explains that those who sing the Sama Veda are called Sama-gah. Samaganaam ayanam = Ashrayah paramo lakshayah Samagayanah – He Who is the Object and the final goal of those who sing the Sama is Samagayanah.

Sri Raghunatha Thirtha explains the Nama as:
Yajna vinashakaan raakshasaan syati hinasti
iti Sama giyante asmin iti gayanah
Samani stotra visheshah giyante asmin iti Sama-gayanah |
Meaning: Extolled by the special hymns of praises for His acts of killing the demons who ruin the performance of the sacrifice.

  1.     Devaki-nandanah – He chose to be born as the Son of Devaki

Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama as ‘Devakyaah Sutah Devakinandanah – He is the son of Devaki and hence He is called Devakinandanah’. He quotes from the Mahabharata Anushaasan Parva (158-31), which says:
Jyotimshi Shukraani cha yaani loke Trayo Loka Lokapalas trayee cha |
Trayognayash chaahutayashcha Pancha Sarve deva Devakiputra Eva ||
Meaning: All the luminaries of the world, the three worlds themselves, the protectors of the worlds by guarding the quarters, the three Vedas, the three sacred fires, the five oblations are all but the Son of Devaki (Sri Krishna). 

Sri Parasara Bhattar’s interpretation for the Nama is that through this Nama, Bhishma is clarifying to Yudhishtra that the Namas that have been revealed all along are not about some unknown Deity who is beyond reach, but it is none other than Devaki-Nandana who is seated just beside him, and who has taken the Avataar as the kinsman of Yudhishtra. Sri Bhattar refers us to a Shloka from the MahaBharata:
Sa esha prithudhirga Akshah sambandhI te Janardanah |
Esha bhutam bhavishyacca bhavacca bharatarshabha ||
Meaning: O’ Best of Bharatas! Janardanah, the broad and long-eyed Lord is your kinsman. He is all things in the past, the present and the future.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj gives the reference from Srimad Bhagavatam, describing the incarnation of ParamAtma as the Son of Devaki:
Nishithe tama-udbhute jayamane Janardane
Devakyam deva-rupiṇyam Vishnuh sarva-guha-sayaḥ
Avirasid yatha pracyam dishindur iva pushkalaḥ
Meaning: Then the Supreme Being, Vishnu, who is situated in the core of everyone’s heart, appeared from the womb of Devaki, who was of the same Deva Rupam, in the dense darkness of night like the full moon rising on the eastern horizon complete in every respect.

  1.     Srashtaa – The Creator

The root word is ‘Srik’ meaning ‘to Create’. On this basis, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Srashtaa Sarvalokasya – He created the whole Cosmos, hence He is called Srashtaa, the Creator’. Even though Bramha is the Creator, Bhagavan Created Brahma and assigned him this role by bestowing the powers of Creation, therefore Bhagavan is the effective Creator.

Srajati iti Srashta Vishnuh – He Who Creates. As has been explained in several places before, Brahma creates the things inside the Brahmanda, after Bhagavan creates the things outside Brahmanda, and the Brahmanda itself with Brahma inside the Brahmanda, and gives the power, the knowledge and the responsibility to Brahma for the rest of the Creation. It is because Bhagavan is the antaryami in Brahma that Brahma is able to proceed with this function at this point. Thus Bhagavan is the True Creator, as He is the Destroyer and the Protector of all beings.

Sri Parasara Bhattar emphasises through the interpretation for this Nama that Sri Bhishma tells Yudhishtra that DevakI-nandana, Sri Krishna, is none other than Para-Vasudeva who is responsible for Creation. One can see Bhagavan’s saulabhyam and saushilyam reflected through these series of Namas. Even though the reference to His function of Creation can be taken to illustrate His Parattvam, the fact that the same Para-Vasudeva has made Himself accessible to all the people in the audience (where Bhishma is instructing Yudhistra on the greatness of Bhagavan’s Namas reflecting His Kalyana Gunas) shows simultaneously His saulabhyam.

Swami ChinmayAnanda comments: ‘Even the Creator (Brahma) can perform his job only by drawing his abilities and capacities from the Infinite Self, Sriman Narayana’. Brahma is able to create only because Bhagavan is the antaryami of Brahma.

  1.     Kshtishah – The Lord of the Earth

The word ‘kshiti’ means ‘the Earth’ and ‘Ishah’ means ‘the Lord or King’. On this basis, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Kshiteh Bhumeh Ishah Dasharatha Atmajah – He is the King of the Earth as the son of Dasharatha, hence He is called Kshitishah, the King of the Earth’.

Sri Parasara Bhattar notes that Bhagavan is the Lord of all the worlds, not just the Earth, as revealed in the following reference:
Yo anantarupo akhila Vishvarupo garbhepi lokan vapusha bibharti ||
Meaning: He is of Infinite forms and is in the form of the entire Cosmos. He bears by His body all the worlds in His womb.

However, in this Nama, Bhagavan is particularly singled out as the Lord of the Earth. Sri Parasara Bhattar points out that there is generally more suffering in the Earth than in the other worlds such as the Deva Lokas etc., and so Bhagavan takes incarnations more often here, to help relieve the sufferings of the beings on Earth. So He is particularly addressed as the Lord of the Earth – KshitIshah – sarva Ishatve’pi Arti-bhuyishthatvaat bhuyishtham bhumeh Ishah iti Kshitishah.

Sri NammAzhwar in his Thiruvai Mozhi Pasuram (3.3.4) says:
ஈசன் வானவர்க் கென்பனென் றால்,அது
தேச மோதிரு வேங்கடத் தானுக்கு?,
நீச னென் நிறை வொன்றுமி லேன்,என்கண்
பாசம் வைத்த பரஞ்சுடர்ச் சோதிக்கே.
Meaning: We can declare that Thiru Venkadattaan is the Lord of Nitya Suris etc. But this in no way adds to His glory. His true glory is in His mingling with the lowliest of the lowly people like me, being accessible to all the downtrodden etc. Thus, it is His saulabhyam that adds to His glory, and not the Lordship over the Nitya Suris. He has shown a doting love to me, endearing me that way.

It is this love of Bhagavan towards the suffering and downtrodden beings of the Earth that makes them dear to Him, and so He is called the Lord of the Earth in this Nama. Bhagavan is “Isan” for all the other worlds, but His “paasam” or love is for the Earth.

Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan also interprets the Nama as “Lord of the Earth”, the Lordship being reflected in His being concerned with the removal of the suffering of the beings of the world and their protection – kshiter-bhAram apanIyataam paalayana Kshitishah.

Swami ChinmayAnanda interprets the Nama as ‘Bhagavan as the Consort of Mother Earth’ – Kshitih referring to Mother Earth or bhumi Piratti.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha’s interpretation is: Kshiyanti = nivasanti, gacchanti va nasham bhutani yasyam sa Kshitih = bhuh, tasya Ishah Kshitishah – That in which all beings ultimately mingle after their life here, is Kshitih or Earth. The Lord of kshitih is Kshitishah.

  1.     Papa-naashanah – The Destroyer of Sins

This Nama means the destroyer of one’s sins. Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Keertitah Poojitah Dhyaatah Smritah Paparashim Naashayan Papanaashanah – He Who destroys the Sins of those who adore Him, meditate on Him, and remember and sing hymns of praise on Him’. He quotes from VriddhaShaatatapa which says-
Pakshopavaasat Yat Papam Purushasya Pranashyati
Pranayama shatenaiva Tat papam nashyate Nrinaam
Pranayama sahasrena Yat papam nashyate Nrinaam
Kshanamatrena tatpapam Harer Dhyanat Pranashyati ||
Meaning: Whatever Sins are removed by fasting for a fortnight, they are destroyed by performing a hundred Pranayamams. Whatever Sins are destroyed by a thousand Pranayamams, they are removed in a fraction of a second by meditating on Hari.

This shows that devotion to Bhagavan is much more powerful in purifying oneself than drastic act of fasting or doing breath control exercises like Pranayamams, hence He is rightly called Papanaashanah, the destroyer of one’s Sins.

Sri Parasara Bhattar explains the Nama by reminding us of the great value of meditating on Bhagavan’s leelas. By meditating on the nectar-like stories of His childhood pranks, by reminding ourselves of His Rasa Leelas, the quelling of the Asuras, etc., the Sins in our minds are removed. In fact, this is one of the ways that Bhagavan annihilates the internal flaws in the minds of Sri Vaishnavas – those who meditate on Him with single-minded devotion. Sri Parasara Bhattar’s words are:
Atha dadhi-navanitastainya Rasa kridadi kathAmrutena paresham Papanaashanah |
Avataare’pi Vaishnavanam bahyabhyantara Satru-naashanah |
Meaning: Even during His Avataars, He annihilates the enemies, both internal and external, of Srivaishnavas (the devotees of Vishnu who is inseparably associated with Sri or MahaLakshmi). He annihilates the internal enemies when they meditate on His Kalyana Gunas, and He annihilates the external enemies through the divine weapons that He carries for their protection (which is the substance of the next and last Shloka).

Papam naashayati iti Papa-naashanah – It is very interesting to look at the derivation of the word Papa – it is derived from the root ‘Pa – rakshane’ meaning ‘to protect’. The addition of the affix ‘pah’ leads to the word ‘Papah’ – that from which one should protect oneself is Papa, or Sin. Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha gives the derivation for the word Papa as ‘Pati asmaat Atmanam iti Papah – That from which one should protect oneself is Papah or Sin.

Srimad Srimushnam Andavan explains that ordinary thieves only steal material objects, but Bhagavan steals the feelings of stealth itself from the minds of the devotees (also known as “Chit Chor”) – the Stealer of the thought of stealth itself – ‘cauryasya cauryam jagati prasiddham’.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan refers us to Sri NammAzhwar’s Thiruvai Mozhi Pasuram (3.6.2):
மூவ ராகிய மூர்த்தி யைமுதல் மூவர்க் குமுதல் வன்றன்னை,
சாவ முள்ளன நீக்கு வ ¡னைத் தடங்க டல்கிடந் தான்தன்னைத்,
தேவ தேவனைத் தென்னி லங்கை எரியெ ழச்செற்ற வில்லியை,
பாவ நாசனைப் பங்க யத்தடங் கண்ண னைப்பர வுமினோ.
Meaning: I beseech all of you people to devote yourselves to the Lotus-eyed Lord who is the Chief among the tri-murtis, the antaryami of Rudra and Brahma, as their Creator. He is the One Who removes the curses of Rudra, Brahma and other Devas whenever they get into trouble. He is the One Who is reclining in the Milky Ocean, and the same One wielding His Mighty Bow Who tortured the evil-minded Ravana and burnt Lanka to rescue SIta Piratti. He is the Lotus-eyed Lord Who removes all our Sins by the mere contemplation on Him.

Similar thoughts are expressed by Sri PeriyAzhwar in His Thirumozhi Pasuram (5.4.3):
எம்மனாஎன் குலதெய்வமே என்னுடைய நாயகனே
நின்னுளேனாய்ப் பெற்றநன்மை இவ்வுலகினில் ஆர்பெறுவார்
நம்மன்போலே வீழ்த்தமுக்கும் நாட்டிலுள்ள பாவமெல்லாம்
சும்மெனாதே கைவிட்டோடித் தூறுகள் பாய்ந்தனவே.
Meaning: My Lord! How can I ever describe the great benefit that I have received because of Your Grace? All the sins that normally push me down mercilessly to the ground like demons and ghosts, have left me quietly like prisoners that escape without making any noise and hide in the bushes.

In the Bhagavad Gita Chapter 4 Verse 9, Bhagavan Sri Krishna says:
Janma karma ca me divyam evam yo vetti tattvatah
Tyaktva deham punar janma naiti mam eti so ‘rjuna
Meaning: One who knows the transcendental nature of My appearance and activities does not, upon leaving the body, take his birth again in this material world, but attains My eternal abode, O Arjuna.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri gives an explanation for how the thought of Bhagavan’s leelas is able to wash away one’s sins. These thoughts of Bhagavan’s leelas have the effect of keeping Him always on our thoughts, and this is what causes one’s mind to be purified. This is what Bhishma tells Yudhishtra at the beginning of the Stotra:
Tasya loka pradhanasya Jagannathasya bhupate |
Vishnor-Nama sahasram me Shrunu Papa bhayapaham ||
Meaning: O’ King, hear from me the thousand names of Vishnu, the Lord of the Universe, the highest in the worlds; these Namas remove all sins and fear.

The next Shloka clarifies that the Namas are but representations of Bhagavana’s Gunas – yani nami gaunani vikhyatani mahatmanah, and thus meditation on the names of Vishnu, or the Gunas of Vishnu, leads to the removal of sins in the mind of one who meditates on Vishnu.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj gives support from the last verse of Srimad Bhagavatam (12.13.23):
Nama sankeertanam yasya sarva papa pranaashanam |
Pranamo dukkhha Samanah tam Namami Harim Param ||
Meaning: I offer my respectful obeisances unto the Supreme Lord Sri Hari, Whose Nama Sankeertanam (Group chanting) leads to the eradication of all sins, and by worshipping Whom relieves all suffering.

Swami ChinmayAnanda summarizes the purport of the Nama in the following words:
‘Meditating upon Whom all Vaasanas (sins) are liquidated. When an individual, surrendering in love to Him, acts and fulfills his duties, all his existing vaasanas are destroyed, and no new ones are created. This is the very root in the theory of Karma Yoga in the Vedas. Through meditation upon the Self, all sins are dissolved and totally removed’.

In one of his alternate interpretations, Sri Satya sandha Thirtha looks at the Nama as Papanah + ashnati – Papam nayati iti Papanah daityah, taan ashnati iti Papanaashanah. The Asuras are called Papanah because they lead in committing Sins, and Bhagavan ‘eats away’ or destroys these asuras, and so He is called Papanaashanah.

Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan also includes the above thought in one of his alternative interpretations – Pavitraih caritaih Srotranam nikhila karmya rupam papam vivartayan, asuranamapi nihataan Atma vidyaam nivartya muktim tebhyo yacchat Papanaashanah – He is called Papanaashanah because He removes the sins of those who hear the stories of His leelas; He is calo called Papanaashanah because He destroys the Asuras, and in the process, even for them He removes their sins by redeeming the knowledge about the Self and gives them Moksha.

The Story of Ahalya

Ahalya (meaning one with impeccable beauty) was created by Brahma as the most beautiful woman. Indra becomes enamoured by Ahalya, the most beautiful of all women, married to a much older Sage Gautama.  Once, when Gautama was away, Indra comes to the ashram disguised as Gautama and seduces Ahalya. She sees through his disguise, but consents to his advances. She rationalises the encounter as when King of Gods expresses such a desire, it cannot be refused and she let him have it. She tells Indra, after making love to him, that she was gratified in complying with his wish and asks him to leave before Sage Gautama’s return.

As Indra leaves the Ashram Sage Gautama returns, much earlier than his regular schedule. Ahalya acted surprised to see the twin Gautama but the Sage with his spiritual powers knew what had occurred and cursed both Indra and Ahalya. Indra lost his manhood and Ahalya was turned to into a stone, destined to stay that way for a thousand years until she was released from her curse by the touch of Rama’s foot.

As Rama and Lakshmana together with their Guru Sage Vishvamitra were passing by Sage Gautama’s desolate ashram on their way to King Janaka’s court in Mithila, Sage Vishvamitra recounts the tale of Ahalya’s curse and instructs Rama to save Ahalya.

On hearing Vishvamitra’s words Rama entered the hermitage along with Lakshmana and keeping Vishvamitra afore.  Although Ahalya was cursed, Vishvamitra nevertheless describes her as goddess-like and illustrious, repeatedly calling her mahabhaga, a Sanskrit compound (maha and bhaga) translated as ‘most illustrious and highly distinguished’.

Following Sage Vishvamitra’s advise, Rama enters the ashram to see Ahalya, who, up till then, was a stone.  As Rama’s foot touches her Ahalya turned into her former self. Rama considers Ahalya pure and unblemished and pays obeisance to her.

Lord Rama redeemed Ahalya of her sins and hence He is Papanaashanah!

Jai Shri Ram!

In Summary

Atmayonih Svayamjaato Vaikhaanah Samagayanah |
Devaki-Nandanah Srashta Kshitishah Papanaashanah ||106||

He is His own source and hence He is called Atmayonih. Bhagavan is not only His Material Cause for His birth but is also His own instrumental Cause and hence, He is called Svayamjaatah. Bhagavan incarnates at His will and proceeds to uproot the sorrows of the world, and in particular the sorrow of repeated birth and death in this Samsara, hence He is known as Vaikhaanah. He sings the hymns of Sama Veda, hence He is called Samagaayanah.

He is the son of Devaki and hence He is called Devakinandanah. He created the whole Cosmos, hence He is called Srashta, the Creator. He is the King of the Earth as the son of Dasharatha, hence He is called Kshitishah. He destroys the Sins of those who adore Him, meditate on Him, and remember and sing hymns of praise on Him, hence He is called Papanaashanah.



This Vishnu Sahasranamam series is authored with the help of my friend Shri Balaji.


In this part, we will explore the meaning of the 105th Shloka of Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam.

Yajnabhrit Yajnakrit Yajni Yajnabhuk Yajnasadhanah      |
Yajnaantakrit Yajnaguhyam Annam Annaada Eve Ca ||105|| 

He bears the full brunt of the responsibility of taking the Yajna to its successful completion. As the creator, He also created Yajna as a means for devotees to reach Him. He is the Master of all the Yajnas and it is for Him all the sacrifices are performed. It is He who consumes and enjoys the offerings made in the Yajnas. He is the One Who is sought through the Yajnas. He provides not only the inspiration to perform Yajnas but also the resources to perform the Yajnas. He is the One Who concludes the Yajnas fruitfully and He is the hidden underlying spirit of the noblest of Yajnas. He is eaten by all beings in His form as food and He is the Enjoyer of those who enjoy Him.

The above Shloka has the following Namas:

  1.     Yajnabhrit
  2.     Yajnakrit
  3.     Yajni
  4.     Yajnabhuk
  5.     Yajnasadhanah
  6.     Yajnaantakrit
  7.     Yajnaguhyam
  8.     Annam
  9.     Annaada Eve Ca

Now let’s examine the meaning of the above Namas in detail:

  1.     Yajna-bhrit – He Who brings about the completion of the sacrifice

The root word is ‘bhri’ meaning ‘to hold or support’. Based on this Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama as ‘Yajnam bibharti pati iti va Yajnabhrit – He bears the full brunt of the responsibility for taking the Yajna to its successful completion, hence He is called Yajnabhrit’. When the success of a Yajna is threatened, Bhagavan lends a supporting hand and ensures its completion.

Sri Parasara Bhattar notes that even if there are deficiencies in the actual performance of a Yajna, the final offering of Purna Ahuti results in the rectification of all these deficiencies and the successful completion of the Yajna- ‘Vikalpam api Yajnam svasmarana Purnahutibhyaam pushnati iti Yajna-bhrit’.

Sri Parasara Bhattar gives the following support from the Shruti:
Pramaadaat kurvataam karma pracyavatyadhvareshu yat |
Smaranadeva tad-Vishnoh sampurnam syad-iti Srutih ||
Meaning: If there is a mistake in the performance of sacrifices due to negligence or oversight, the sacrifice will become imperfect. If the person thinks of Vishnu for the removal of these deficiencies, they are removed and the sacrifice becomes perfect. This is what the Shruti declares.

He Who supports the sacrifice and brings it to successful completion is called Yajna-bhrit – ‘Yajnam bibharti pushnati, dhaarayati iti Yajna-bhrit’.

The Yajamana must seek forgiveness for any deficiencies in the Yajna and offer the Purnahuti to Bhagavan who takes on the burden to perfect it. The final Ahuti that is offered, with divine thoughts at the Lotus feet of Lord Krishna, asking for His forgiveness for all the known and unknown, intended and unintended deficiencies in the performance of the Yajna to ensure that the Yajna becomes complete (Purnam). The faults inherent in the performer of the Yajna, the faults in the procedures, the faults used in the materials used in the offering, (deficiencies in mantra, tantra, vidhi, viparyasa etc.), are all forgiven by Bhagavan when the final Ahuti is made medidating on His Divine Feet.

Among the mantras that are meditated upon at the time of Purnahuti are:
PraayashcittAnyaseshani tapah karmany Atmakani vai |
yani tesham asheshaanaam Sri Krishnanu smaranam param ||
Upacarapadeshena kritan aharar maya|
Apacaran iman sarvan kshamasva Purushottama ||
Purnahutim uttamaam juhoti; karmam vai Purnahutih |
Avirgirbhih yatatona Unam tena uktim vidhema||

Swami Chinmayananda points out, Yajna here is not just confined to the sacrificial offerings made to the Gods, it also covers all acts performed as selfless service to the public at large. Bhagavan supports all such acts and ensures their successful conclusion. He continues his earlier interpretation of the term Yajna, and gives his interpretation for the current Nama as: One Who helps us conclude successfully all our good, dedicated, selfless acts of service to others.

  1.      Yajna-krit – He Who created the Sacrifice

The word ‘Krit’ means ‘to do or to create’. It can also take the form ‘Krintati’ when it means ‘to destroy’. On this basis, Sri Adi Sankara gives two interpretations. The first of his interpretation is ‘Jagat Aadou Yajnam Karoti Yajnakrit – At the time of creating the world, He also created the process of Yajna, hence He is called Yajnakrit, the Creator of Yajna’. Yajnakrit can also be interpreted as the performer of Yajna. In fact, the very creation of the world is an act of Yajna by Bhagavan.

Sri Sankara gives an alternate interpretation for the term krit to mean ‘One Who destroys’ – krintati: jagadadau Yajnam karoti, tadante Yajnam krintati iti va Yajna-krit – He Who created the sacrifices at the beginning, or He Who destroyed them at the end of the Universe.

Sri Parasara Bhattar give the interpretation that Lord Vishnu has this Nama because He created Yajna as a means for the well-being of the Universe.  Sri Bhattar’s interpretation is ‘Jagad- hitaaya Yajnamadi srijati iti Yajnakrit – He first created the sacrifice for the well-being of the Universe.

The following Slokas in the Bhagavad Gita explain in detail, in the words of Lord Krishna:

Saha-Yajnah praja srishtva purovaca prajapatih |

Anena prasavishyadhvam esha vostvishta kama-dhuk ||(BG 3.10)

Meaning: In the beginning, the Lord of all beings, creating man along with the sacrifices and said: By this shall you prosper; this shall bestow upon you all desirable things.
Devan bhavayat Anena te deva bhavayantu vah |
Parasparam bhavayantah Sreyah param avapsyatha ||(BG 3.11)
Meaning: By this (Yajna), please the gods, and the gods will support you. Thus nourishing one another, may you obtain the highest good.

Ishtaan bhogan hi vo deve daasyante Yajna bhavitah |(BG 3.12) – The gods, pleased by the sacrifice, will bestow on you the enjoyments you desire.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri elaborates on the connection and inter-dependence between the devas and the manushyas as follows: The Devas depend on the manushyas for their havir-bhagam through the Yajnas, and the people depend on the Devas for their sustenance through rain etc. Thus, Bhagavan has set up the Yajna as the bridge between the Devas and the people, therefore, He is called Yajna-krit.

The term Yajna-krit has also been interpreted as One Who is the performer of Yajnas. Swami ChinmayAnanda interprets this Nama as: One Who performs Yajna. He notes that the Lord issued forth Creation as an act of Yajna, a pure and selfless act of service to the Jivas.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj interprets as ‘Yajnan makhan svayamapi karoti avataara vigrahe iti Yajna-krit – He Who performs Yajnas Himself during His incarnations.

  1.     Yajni – He is the Master of Yajnas

He is Yajna personified and He is also its most important component. Based on this, Sri Adi Sankara gives the interpretation as Yajnanam Tatsamaradhanatmanam Sheshee iti Yajni – He makes the Yajnas, which are performed as worship to Him, complete and meaningful, hence He is called Yajni, the core of Yajna’. As the scriptures proclaim ‘Yajno vai Vishnuh – Vishnu is the essence of Yajna and Yajni is the essence of Yajna. The two are one and the same. Yajna is just a manifestation of Bhagavan and therefore He is named Yajni, the Lord and recipient of every Yajna.

Sri Parasara Bhattar’s intereprtation is like that of Sankara, where he says ‘Sarva Yajnanam Sheshi Yajni – He Who is the Lord or Master of all the Yajnas. All Yajnas are performed to propitiate Him as He is the ultimate Bhokta.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan refers us to the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 9 Verse 24) in support:
Aham hi Sarva Yajnanam bhokta ca prabhureva ca |
Na tu mam abhijananti tattvenatash-cyavanti te ||
Meaning: For, I am the only Enjoyer and the only Lord of all sacrifices. They do not recognise Me in My true nature, and hence they fall”.

Sri Ramanujan also refers us to Sri NammAzhwar’s Thiruvai Mozhi – ‘Seigaip payan unbenum yaane ennum…. (Thiruvai Mozhi 5.6.4) – Fruits of acts anyone does are but Mine’.

Sri Thondaradipodi Azhwar in his Thirumozhi Parsuram 25 laments thus:
குரங்குகள் மலையை தூக்கக் குளித்துத்தாம் புரண்டிட் டோடி
தரங்கநீ ரடைக்க லுற்ற சலமிலா அணிலம் போலேன்
மரங்கள்போல் வலிய நெஞ்சம் வஞ்சனேன் நெஞ்சு தன்னால்
அரங்கனார்க் காட்செய் யாதே அளியத்தே னயர்க்கின் றேனே.
Meaning: Azhwar tells the Lord that he has not performed the Karmas ordained for his Varna, he has not followed the Jnana Yoga or the Bhakti Yoga, he has not spent any time singing the name of the Lord, he has not done anything even remotely similar to the offering of a flower like Gajendra, he has not even offered the relatively small service like the squirrels or the monkeys to Lord Rama, but the only thing he knows is to cry for the help from the Lord. The Lord accepts this as sufficient Yajna, and takes Azhwar to His Feet.

This example is an excellent illustration of why Bhagavan is called the Lord of all Yajnas. Bhagavan takes the offering of a flower by Gajendra, the offering of a few specks of sand by the squirrels, the service offered by the monkeys, or the sheer cry for help from Him, as a sufficient offering to Him, to bless His devotee.

Of course, one should remember that it is just sheer modesty of Azhwar to declare that he has no devotion of any kind, as he had devoted his life in the service of Lord Narayana.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha notes that the word Yajni is derived from the word Yajna by the addition of the ‘ini’ as suffix – Yajnah asya asti iti Yajni – He for Whom the sacrifices are performed.

  1.     Yajna-bhuk – The Enjoyer or the Protector of the sacrifice.

The root word for this Nama is ’bhuj’ which means ‘to enjoy’. The root word used is ‘bhuj – palanam abhyavaharayoh’ means ‘to protect, to eat, to consume, to enjoy’. Thus, both the meanings (He as the Enjoyer, and He as the Protector) are given.

Sri Adi Sankara gives two interpretations. The first is Yajnam bhungte iti Yajnabhuk – He consumes and enjoys the offerings made in the Yajna, hence He is called Yajnabhuk, the enjoyer of the Yajna’.  The second interpretation is ‘Yajnam bhunkte bhunakti iti va Yajnabhuk – He protects the Yajnas, hence He is called Yajnabhuk, the protector of the Yajnas’.

Sri Parasara Bhattar interprets this Nama as He is One who protects the Yajna and ensures its completion.  He cites the example of Bhagavan once protecting the Yajna being performed by Brahma.

The Story of Lord Narayana protecting Brahma’s Yajna

Once Lord Brahma was preparing for Aswamedha Yajna to be performed in Kancheepuram. As one has to perform Yajna together with one’s consort, Brahma asked for Sage Vasistha to bring Goddess Saraswati.  Brahma commenced chanting the mantras and prepared for the Agnihotra and started offering havis (homam materials).

Meanwhile Goddess Saraswati refused to join as she was still angry with Brahma from a previous episode. Brahma decides to carry on with the Yajna by asking Savitri to join and continues with his Yajna.  As Saraswati learns of this, she is filled with further rage and she takes the form of the Vegavati river near Kancheepuram and surges towards the Yaagashaala to disrupt the Yajna.

Just then, Lord Narayana lies down on the Adhiseshan blocking the flow of the river towards the Yaagashala.  The Yajna was completed without further disruption.

This place in Kancheepuram is called Thiruvekka and one can obtain the divine blessings of Lord Narayana on Adiseshan in this divine temple.

Om Namo Narayanaaya _/\_

In the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 9 Verse 24), Bhagavan says ‘Aham hi Sarva Yajnanam bhoktaa ca prabhureva ca – I am the enjoyer and the Lord of all Yajnas’. In His Avataars, He plays an active role in the protection of Yajnas. For example, as Rama, He gave protection to the sacrifice performed by Vishwamitra.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj gives the following interpretation:
Ijyante diyante samarpyante svajanaih iti Yajnah, arthat nana-vidha rucirah padarthah |
tan bhunkte ashnati iti Yajna-bhuk ||
Meaning: He Who accepts and enjoys the different kinds of offerings that are offered with devotion by the devotees is Yajna-bhuk. He gives support from the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 9 Verse 26), where Bhagavan says:
Patram pushpam phalam toyam yome Bhaktya prayacchati |
Tadaham bhaktyupahrtam asnami prayatatmanah ||
Meaning: Whosoever, offers Me a leaf, a flower, a fuit or water with devotion, I accept and eat the offering of devotions by the pure-hearted.

For all the Yajnas performed, Bhagavan is the means, the end, the One Who is worshipped, the One Who is the Object of worship, and is also the One Who ensures the successful completion of the Yajna by protecting it from all obstacles. This is the significance of the interpretation that ‘He is the Protector of Yajnas’.

Swami ChinmayAnanda makes another important point – ‘All that is offered into the sacred Fire during a Yajna, though with an invocation to any of the deities, in tender devotion and with joy, goes to Him alone, The One receiver of all that is offered’.

  1.     Yajnasadhanah – He Who is attained through Yajnas as Sadhana

The term ‘Sadhanam’ means ‘an instrument or a tool to make something’. Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as Sadhanam tat Praptau iti Yajnasadhanah – He is a major instrument in the performance of a Yajna, hence He is called Yajnasadhanah, the instrument of Yajna’. He provides not only the inspiration to perform Yajnas but also the resources to perform the Yajnas. Without his goodwill and support it is impossible to perform Yajnas.

This Nama can also be interpreted as an instrument or a means to attain Him. Sri Parasara Bhattar gives the interpretation – te asya jnana-dvara asiddhyupaya iti Yajnasadhanah – The sacrifices are a means for the attainment of fruits only because of our knowledge about Him.

The emphasis is made that it is the knowledge about Bhagavan, about the relationship between us and Bhagavan – the Seshaseshi bhavam or the servant-Master relationship, and above all, the love with which the offerings are made to Him are essential for the attainment of the fruits. It is not so much the substance of what is offered that is important, but the dedication and devotion behind it that is important, as has been emphasized it repeatedly in the scriptures.

Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan’s interpretation is along similar lines – jnana danena Yajna upakaritvat Yajnasadhanah – Because He gives the knowhow for the performance of the Yajna, and thus assisting in the conduct of the Yajna, Bhagavan is called Yajnasadhanah.

Yajna can be described as any means adopted to attain Him – ‘Praapti upaayah Yajnam’ and does not necessarily need to be a Yajna with Agnihotram.  It includes all efforts employed to reach him like Smaranam, Sravanam, Kirtanam, Archanam etc. Bhagavan accepts these as ways to attain Him, so He is called Yajnasadhanah.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha explains the Nama as – ‘Yajnah sadhyate anena, Yajnam sadhayati va Yajnasadhanah’ – He through whom the Yajna gets accomplished, or He Who fulfils the Yajna, is Yajnasadhanah.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj notes that He is called Yajnasadhanah because He enables the devotees to perform the Yajna, and He is also Yajnasadhanah because He is attained through the Yajnas – ‘Yajnah puja Aradhanam va, tam bhaktanam sadhayati iti Yajna-sadhanah, tatha Yajnah puja sadhanam praptaye yasya iti Yajna-sadhanah’.

Swami ChinmayAnanda explains the Nama as: ‘One Who fulfils all yajnas. It is by His Grace alone that all noble endeavours undertaken in an honest and sincere manner gain spectacular success’. The term Yajna is used in a broad context to mean any effort undertaken for public good in a selfless way.

Sri Satya Sandha Thirtha explains the Nama as ‘Yajnasya sadhanam sruk sruvadikam mantradikam va yasmat iti Yajnasadhanah’ – He is called Yajnasadhanah since it is He who is the cause for the means such as the ladle, the mantras, agni, ghee etc. used during the Yajna. The terms sruk and sruva refer to two different types of ladles used in the Yajna (sruva refers to the smaller ladle, and sruk refers to the larger ladle). Lord Krishna declares in the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 4 Verse 24) that He is the means for all the aspects associated with a Yajna:
Brahmarpanam brahma havih brahmagnau brahmana hutam |
Brahmaiva tena gantavyam brahma karma samadhina || (Bhagavad Gita 4.24)
Meaning: Brahman is the instrument to offer with; Brahman is the oblation. By Brahman is the oblation offered into the fire of Brahman; Brahman alone is to be reached by him who meditates on Him in His works.

Bhagavad Ramanuja explains the term ‘Brahmarpanam’ as a reference to the means for offering in a Yajna, such as a ladle – ‘arpyate anena iti arpanam srugadi, tad brahma karyatvat brahma, brahma yasya havishah arpanam tad-brahmarpanam’ – That by which an offering is given, such as a ladle, is an arpana. It is called Brahman because it is an effect of Brahman, Brahman being the material cause of the Universe. Brahmarpanam is the oblation, of which the instrument is Brahman.

Sri Raghunatha Thirtha gives another interpretation – ‘Yajna Sabdah Subha-vaci, tam sadhayati iti Yajnasadhanah’ – The term Yajna refers to auspiciousness, and since Bhagavan gives auspicious results, He is called Yajnasadhanah.

  1.     Yajnaanta-krit – He Who produces the fruit of the sacrifices

The word ‘Anta’ means the finish or the successful conclusion.  Based on this, Sri Adi Sankara offers two interpretations, the first of which is ‘Yajnasya Antam Phalapraaptim Kurvan Yajnaantakrit – He brings about the conclusion of the Yajna by bestowing the desired fruit or the object of the Yajna, hence He is called Yajnaantakrit, the one concludes the Yajna fruitfully.’

The second interpretation is ‘Vaishnava Rik Shamsanena Purnahutya Purnam Kritva Yajna samaaptim karoti iti va Yajnaantakrit – He brings about the successful conclusion of the Yajna with the chanting of the vaishnavee Rik or the Purnahuti mantra as the final oblation, hence He is called Yajnaantakrit, one who formally brings the Yajna to a close’.

Yajnasya antam samaaptim phalam va karoti iti Yajnanta-krit – He Who brings about the successful conclusion of the Yajna, or He Who gives the fruits of the Yajna.

It should be remembered that Yajna is a Karma, and its goal is to attain the true knowledge of Bhagavan, when it is performed without material goals in mind. Sri Parasara Bhattar’s interpretation is that Bhagavan is called Yajnanta-krit since He makes the attainment of true knowledge about Him as the end and the goal of all sacrifices – Yajna paryavasanam sva-tattva jnanam karoti iti Yajnanta-krit.  Sri Bhattar quotes from the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 4, Verse 33) in support of this concept:
Shreyaan dravya mayat Yajnat jnana Yajnah parantapa |
Sarvam karma akhilam partha jnane parisamapyate ||
Meaning: Of the two sacrifices, the sacrifice of knowledge is superior to the component of material sacrifices. O’ Arjuna, all actions in their entirety culminate in knowledge.

He Who realises that great Brahman attains the Moksha Anandam; there is no other path to attain moksha – ‘tamevam vidvan amrita iha bhavati, naanyah pantha ayanaya vidyate’ –In other words, it is the knowledge about Him that ultimately leads to Moksha and as Bhagavan gives this knowledge, He is called Yajnanta-krit.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri quotes the following Shloka in support:
Yasya smritya ca namoktya tapo ya Su-kriyadishu |
Nyunam sampurnataam yati satyo vande tam acyutam ||
Meaning: Our prostrations to Achyuta Who brings to fruition any good act, by the very thought of Him or the mention of His Nama.

Swami ChinmayAnanda’s explanation for the Nama is: ‘One Who performs the last, concluding act in all Yajnas’. He notes that when total surrender of all vehicles and their actions is accomplished (in the form of Purnahuti offering), the transcendental experience of the Self, Narayana alone, comes to manifest in all His divine Splendour.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj notes that the Nama signifies that Bhagavan blesses the conclusion of the Yajna by His very auspicious appearance, out of His Sheer Mercy –
Yajnanam anto Ramaniyo bhagavad- Avirbhavavela |
Tamapi kripaya karoti it Yajnanta-krit |

He gives support from Srimad Bhagavatam (4.19.3):
Yatra Yajna-patih saakshaat Bhagavan harir Ishvarah |
Anvabhuyata sarvatma sarva-loka-guruh prabhuh ||
Meaning: The Supreme Deity, Lord Vishnu, has everything and everyone as His body, and He is the Lord and Master of all, Who was offered worship. The subsequent Slokas, e.g. 4.19.6 describe Bhagavan’s actual appearance at the Yajna, accompanied by the Siddhas, Kapila, Narada, Dattatreya, etc.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha notes that the Nama signifies that Bhagavan brings about the successful conclusion of the Yajna by removing all the obstacles, and also gives the fruits of the Yajna to the karta – vighnAn vihritya yo Yajnam samapayati, sampaditasya tasya Yajnasya yo antam = phalam ca dadati sa Yajnanta-krit abhidIyate.

Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan chooses the meaning that Bhagavan decides the final fruit of the Yajna – Yajnasya antam phala nishcayam karoti iti Yajnanta-krit.

In an alternative interpretation, Sri Satya Sandha Thirtha uses the root ‘kr – himsayam’ meaning ‘to hurt or to kill’, and explains the Nama as ‘One Who destroys or kills the likes of Subahu and Marici, who tried to put a premature end to the yajna performed by Sage Vishwamitra – Yajnasya anto naasho yebhyah te Yajnantaah Subahu Maricadayah, taan krinoti iti va Yajnanta-krit.

  1.     Yajna-guhyam – He Who is the secret of the sacrifice

The wordGuhyam’ means something ‘hidden or a secret’. Sri Adi Sankara interprets this to mean ‘Yajnanam Guhyam Jnana Yajnah, Phala abhisandhirahito va Yajnah; Tadabhedopacharat Bramha Yajnaguhyam – A Yajna performed for spreading Knowledge is the rarest or secret Yajna and so is the Yajna performed without any expectation of reward; Bramhan or Bhagavan is identified with these Yajnas and so He is called Yajnaguhyam, the hidden underlying spirit of the noblest of Yajnas’.

Only enlightened people can perform such Yajnas whose inner significance is Bhagavan himself. Sri Parasara Bhattar comments that Bhagavan is the ‘secret’ behind the sacrifice, because not everyone understands that He is the ultimate object of the sacrifice, even though Bhagavan is not in need of any offering, He still feels satisfied as if He has been long expecting the offerings, and enjoys them.

Only those who are wise and knowledgeable about the decrees, the means and the fruits of the sacrifices, realise this secret about Him. Sri Parasara Bhattar quotes the following from the MahaBharata in support:
Sarve vedah sarva vedyah sa sastrah Sarve Yajnah sarva ijyashca Krishnah |
Viduh Krishnam Brahmanas-tattvato ye tesham rajan Sarva-Yajnah samaaptah ||
Meaning: All the Vedas and the Shastras, all the sacrifices, and all worship – all are Sri Krishna. Those who know Krishna correctly this way, may be considered to have completed all the sacrifices successfully.

Jyotigmshi Sukrani ca yani loke Trayo lokah loka-paalas-trayi ca |
Trayognayashca Ahutayashca panca Sarve deva devakiputra eva ||
Meaning: All the shining luminaries in the Universe, the three worlds, the three guardians of the world, the three fires, and the five offerings in those holy fires, and all the gods, are all Sri Krishna, the Son of devaki.

Srimad Srimushnam Andavan explains that even though the offering in each Yajna may be for any of the other deities, the real Deity Who ultimately receives all the offerings is Bhagavan and no one else. Bhagavan is the antaryami of all these other deities, and while He feels satisfied with the offering, He also ensures that these other deities are satisfied, and thus it is no one other than Bhagavan Who is the ultimate object of all Yajnas. Not everyone who performs Yajnas understand this, and thus Bhagavan is the secret behind the Yajnas in this sense as well, so He is Yajna-guhyam.

Bhagavan can give to the performer of the Yajna, the benefit even up to moksham while accepting the relatively meager offering with great delight; in other words, there is no limit to the grace He can bestow on the performer of the Yajna in return for the relatively trivial offering. This is a great secret that is not easily understood as He keeps the means of Yajna as a great secret that is understood only by a few who know the Yajna Shastra, and so He is Yajna-guhyam.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri notes that there are two aspects to any sacrifice – the material aspects, and the thoughts behind the performance of the karma.  Lord Krishna declares that the thought behind the actions is more important than the act itself. When the thought itself is dedicated to Bhagavan without the aim of receiving some benefit for the performer of the Yajna; that is the best form of Yajna. This is the Yajnaguhyam, the secret behind the performance of Yajnas in their ultimate true sense.

Swami ChinmayAnanda explains the Nama as ‘The most profound truth to be realised in all Yajnas’. He elaborates thus – ‘The Self is the noblest truth to be sought through ‘offering’ all the dravya (objects) into the ‘consciousness’ (fire) in the ‘body’ (kunda). This kind of subjective Yajna is called in the Bhagavad Gita as Knowledge sacrifice (Jnana-Yajna). This is also called in the Vedas as Brahma Yajna.

Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan reinforces the true spirit behind the performance of sacrifices – It is for Bhagavan’s pleasure alone, and not for any material benefits for the performer, that the Yajna is to be undertaken, and so He is the secret behind the Yajnas – tena yajnena tasyaiva mukhya uddeshyatvat Yajna-guhyam.

  1.     Annam – He is the Object of Enjoyment

Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama in two ways, the first is ‘Adyate Bhootaih Annam – He is eaten by all beings in His form as food, hence He is called Annam, the one who manifests Himself as food to sustain life’. Sri Sankara’s second interpretation is ‘Atti cha Bhutaan iti Annam- He eats all beings when the time comes (Pralaya), hence He is called Annam, the consumer of all beings at the appropriate time’. Bhagavan is thus the prime mover in the Universal food cycle that rules our lives.

Sri Parasara Bhattar explains the Nama as ‘Bhoktrasaktibhih bhujyate iti annam’– He Who is enjoyed, or is the Object of enjoyment by those who have been blessed by Him with the power to enjoy Him. In fact, for the true devotee, everything except Bhagavan is not of interest, and He is everything for them.

The root from which the Nama is derived is ‘ad – bhakshane’ meaning ‘to eat’. atti bhakshati iti annam – He who consumes or enjoys is ‘Annam’. Alternatively, adyah iti Annam – That which is consumed or eaten, is Annam.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha gives another derivation using the root ‘ana – pranane’ meaning ‘to breathe or to live’.  He Who makes the beings live, or He because of Whom the beings exist – ‘aniti iti annam, yadva anyate = pranyate yena tad annam’. This can refer to the vital air that is necessary for the beings to survive and live. Sri Vasishtha also points out that the word ‘Annam’ is used in the Shruti to refer to any offering in a Yajna – that which can be offered as havis, including ghritam (ghee) etc.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan refer us to Sri NammAzhwar’s Thiruvai Mozhi Pasuram (6.7.1):
உண்ணுஞ் சோறு பருகுநீர் தின்னும்வெற் றிலையுமெல்லாம்
கண்ணன், எம்பெருமான் னென்றென் றேகண்கள் நீர்மல்கி,
மண்ணினுள் அவன்சீர் வளம்மிக் கவனூர் வினவி,
திண்ண மென்னிள மான்புகு மூர்திருக் கோளூரே.
Meaning: To His devotee, everything is Krishna. Food – eaten to satisfy the appetite, water – drunk to quench the thirst, and betel leaves – consumed after the food, are all Krishna in their case. Saying His nama, speaking of His qualities, and thinking of Him, His devotee will feel the hunger and the thirst and all other needs satisfied. They will not eat any other food since Krishna-consciousness is enough food for them. Reciting His nama and enquiring everyone on the way ‘Am I on the right path to Thirukkolur? How far is it? The devotee will proceed without any other need for sustenance. The very thought of His place serves as nourishment for the devotee.

Sri Ramanujan also refers us the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 7 Verse 19) in support where Krishna says:
Bahunaam janmanaam ante jnanavan mam prapadyate |
Vasudevas sarvam iti sa mahatma sudurlabhah ||
Meaning: After many births and deaths, he who is actually in knowledge surrenders unto Me, knowing Me to be the cause of all causes and all that is. Such a great soul is very rare.

The well-known Shruti mantra from Taittriya Upanishad says:
Aham annam aham annam aham annam |
Aham annaado’ham annaado’ham annaadah |
Meaning: Bhagavan is Annam because He allows Himself to be enjoyed by those who are qualified and endowed with the knowledge to enjoy Him. He in turn enjoys those who thus enjoy Him, and so He is also called Annaadah – Enjoyer (next Nama).

Sri NammAzhwar refers to both the aspects of Bhagavan being Annam and Annaadah. In the ten Pasurams of Thiruvai Mozhi 5-10, Azhwar repeatedly refers to both these aspects. The entire Divya Prabandham is a treatise where the Azhwars relish Bhagavan as Annam. In Periya Thiruvandadi Pasuram 34, the Azhwar says:
பாலாழி நீகிடக்கும் பண்பை,யாம் கேட்டேயும்
காலாழும் நெஞ்சழியும் கண்சுழலும்,-நீலாழிச்
சோதியாய்! ஆதியாய்! தொல்வினையெம் பால்கடியும்,
நீதியாய்! நிற்சார்ந்து நின்று.
Meaning: Oh Lord! You have the brilliance of the dark Ocean, and You are the First Cause of all the Worlds. It is Your nature to remove the blemishes in the likes of me. When I think of You and the beauty of Your reclining posture in the Milky Ocean, the experience is so profound that my legs are not able to support me any more, my mind is not able to comprehend Your beauty, and my eyes experience the same profoundness.

Sri Kulasekhara Azhwar in his Perumal Thirumozhi (2.3) says:
ஏறடர்த்ததும் ஏனமாய்நிலம் கீண்டதும்முன்னி ராமனாய்
மாறடர்த்ததும் மண்ணளந்ததும் சொல்லிப்பாடிவண் பொன்னிப்பே
ராறுபோல்வரும் கண்ணநீர்கொண்ட ரங்கன்கோயில் திருமுற்றம்
சேறுசெய்தொண்டர் சேவடிச்செழுஞ் சேறெஞ்சென்னிக் கணிவனே
Meaning: When I sing Your glory – Your great feat of destroying the seven mighty bulls, Your lifting of the whole Earth in Your Varaha Avataar, Your measuring of the Earth in Trivikrama Avataar, Your causing destruction of the evil Ravana in your Rama Avataar, tears of joy well into my eyes and overflow like a river……and the slush created by the devotees coming makes the perfect Tilak for me.

Sri Thondaradipodi Azhwar, in this famour Pasuram from his Thirumaalai 2 says:
பச்சைமா மலைபோல்மேனி பவளவாய் கமலச் செங்கண்
அச்சுதா அமர ரேறே ஆயர்தம் கொழுந்தே என்னும்
இச்சுவை தவிர யான்போய் இந்திர லோக மாளும்
அச்சுவை பெறினும் வேண்டேன் அரங்கமா நகரு ளானே.
Meaning: O’ Lord of Arangama-nagar (Ranganatha), with the hue of a huge green mountain! Lord of coral lips, lotus-red eyes, Achyuta! Lord of Eternals, O Cowherd-Lord”, — denying the joy of praising you thus, if I were given to rule Indra’s kingdom, – even if you gave it, – I shall not want it. The Azhwar shuns even the Indra Loka for the pleasure of enjoying the Lord who is like a nectar.

Sri Thiruppaan Azhwar in his Amalanaadipiraan Pasuram 10 says:
கொண்டல் வண்ணனைக் கோவல னாய்வெண்ணெய்
உண்ட வாயன்என் னுள்ளம் கவர்ந்தானை
அண்டர் கோனணி யரங்கன்என் னமுதினைக்
கண்ட கண்கள்மற் றொன்றினைக் காணாவே.
Meaning: The dark-hued Lord is, the Lord who came as a cowherd-lad and stole butter, He is the Lord of the Devas, and the Lord of Arangam also. He has stolen my heart. After seeing my Lord of ambrosial delight, my eyes will seeks to see nothing else.

Swami ChinmayAnanda gives the alternate interpretation that He is called Annam – One Who eats – ‘Atti bhutaani iti Annam’ – He Who consumes everything at the time of pralaya. He includes all the sense-objects that satisfy the needs of the sense-organs under scope of Annam represented by Him, and explains this as ‘One Who has Himself become the sense- objects which are the ‘food’ consumed by the sense-organs’.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj uses the root ‘Aana – pranane’ meaning ‘to breathe or to live’, and gives the explanation – ‘anyante upjivyante Bhaktah yena svadarshana-dana dvara iti Annah’ – Bhagavan sustains the Bhaktas by giving them His darshan, and so He is the Sustainer – Annam.

Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan extends the topic of Yajna that has been the subject of the previous Namas to the current one as well, and explains the Nama as indicating that at the successful conclusion of the Yajna by the devotee, when the devotee reaches the ultimate objectives of Sri Vaikuntham. Bhagavan presents Himself to the devotee in the forms of the most enjoyable objects in Sri Vaikuntham through His sankalpa Shakti, and so He becomes the ultimate Annam for the devotee – ‘Yajna labhye parama vyomni yad-divya-rasa- gandhAdikamadanIyam bhogyam’.

  1.     Annaadah Eve Ca – The Enjoyer of those who enjoy Him

Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Annam atti iti Annaadah – He devours food, hence He is called Annaadah, the consumer of food’. At the time of dissolution of the Universe all objects are taken out of existence or consumed by Bhagavan and in that sense, He is the great consumer of food or Annaadah.

The participle Eva is used in the sense of ‘after all’ per Sri Sankara. He says ‘Sarvam Jagat Annadirupena Bhoktru Bhogyaatmakam eva iti Darshayitum Evakaarah – The whole world plays the dual role of being both food and consumer of food (victim and predator!) and Bhagavan after all demonstrates the same role of being Annam and Annaadah’.

Per Sri Sankara the use of Ca implies that every name here applies to a single underlying Super entity. He says ‘Ca shadbah Sarvanam naam Ekasmin Parasmin Pumsi Samucchitya Vrittim Darshayitum – Ca is used to emphasise that all Namas given in the Sahasranamam point to a single root Bramhan or Supersoul’.

The word ‘Annam’ can be derived from the roots ‘ad – bhakshane, or ‘ana – pranane’, as indicated in the previous Nama, and one of the meanings is food. In the current context, the meaning is that Bhagavan is the Enjoyer of those who enjoy Him. The previous Nama indicated that He is the One who is enjoyed by His devotees as Annam, and in the current Nama He in turn enjoys the devotees who enjoy Him – Annam atti iti Annaadah.

Sri Parasara Bhattar interprets this Nama as – ‘Taanshca tatha bhunkte iti Annaadah – He is Annaadah since He also enjoys them in the same way as they enjoy Him’. He proceeds to explain the significance of the next two words – eva and ca, which are not Namas of Bhagavan per se. He explains that the significance of the word eva is that there is no one else like Him – ko anya Idrishah? iti eva-kaarah. The significance of the word ca is that all that has been described thus far are present perfectly in this one Deity, namely Lord Vishnu – ‘ca’ Sabdah sarvamuktam ekatra asmin samuccinoti |

Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan echoes the same interpretation for the words eva and ca – ‘na hyetadrik anyosti iti bodhayitum eva-kaarah |

nikhila bhhogya samuccaya ca-kaarah ||

This mutual love of the devotees to Bhagavan (He being Annam), and for Bhagavan to His devotees (He being Annaadah), is beautifully described by Sri NammAzhwar in his Thiruvai Mozhi Pasuram (9.6.10), almost like a mutual competition of who enjoys whom most:
வாரிக் கொண்டு உன்னைவிழுங்குவன் காணிலென்று
ஆர்வற்றவென்னையொழிய என்னில்முன்னம்
பாரித்து தானென்னை முற்றப்பருகினான்
காரொக்கும் காட்கரையப்பன்கடியனே.
Meaning:  The Azhwar says that he had been just waiting to see Bhagavan, and as soon as He would see Him, his plan was to just swallow Him completely with nothing left for anybody else. But even before that could happen, Bhagavan planned more skillfully, and displayed His extreme sausheelyam to Azhwar. This made Azhwar melt down completely, and Bhagavan just drank him totally in this ‘dravya’ form. Azhwar exclaims that this Thirukkaatkarai Appan is an extremely hard nut to crack, and One with whom no one can compete in this kind of game, or in anything else for that matter. Azhwar wanted to make Him Annam, but Bhagavan instead became the Annaadah in this case.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri comments that everything in this world can be classified in two categories: food, and the eater of food. Sri Bhishma indicates to Dharmaputra that Vasudeva who is seated in front of them is the One that has been described all along through all the Namas starting with Vishvam, all the way up to the current Nama. In the next Shloka, he states explicitly that Lord Vishnu who has been praised in all the previous Shlokas, is none other devaki-nandana Krishna Who is seated in front of them.

The concluding section of Bhrigu Valli in the Taittriya Upanishad summarises that Bhagavan pervades food as well as the eater of food, and so He is both, the form of Annam and Annaadah – aham annam annamadantamadmi.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj explains the Nama as – Annam – svajanopahrtam modakani atti iti Annaadah – Bhagavan is called Annaadah because He gladly accepts the offerings from His devotees.

In Summary

Yajnabhrit Yajnakrit Yajni Yajnabhuk Yajnasadhanah     |
Yajnaantakrit Yajnaguhyam Annam Annaada Eve Ca ||105||

He bears the full brunt of the responsibility of taking the Yajna to its successful completion, hence He is called Yajnabhrit. At the time of creating the world He also created the process of Yajna, hence He is called Yajnakrit, the Creator of Yajna. He is the Lord or Master of all the Yajnas, hence He is called Yajni. All the sacrifices are performed for Him and He consumes the offerings with enjoyment, hence He is called Yajnabhuk, the enjoyer of the Yajna.  He provides not only the inspiration to perform Yajnas but also the resources to perform the Yajnas, so He is called Yajnasadhanah.

He concludes the Yajna fruitfully, hence He is Yajnaantakrit. Bhagavan is identified with these Yajnas and so He is called Yajnaguhyam, the hidden underlying spirit of the noblest of Yajnas. He is eaten by all beings in His form as food, hence He is called Annam, the one who manifests Himself as food to sustain life. He enjoys those who enjoy Him and He is the Supersoul, hence He is Annaadah Eve Ca.



This Vishnu Sahasranamam series is authored with the help of my friend Shri Balaji.