In this Part we will explore the meaning of the 35th Shloka of Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam.
This Shloka contains the following 9 Namas:
Now let’s examine the meaning of the above Namas’ in detail:
320. Acyutah – He who has never slipped from his Glory
Acyutah means One who does not slip from His position – na cyuta iti acyutah. We have seen this Nama earlier (as Nama 101).
In this particular instance Sri Adi Sankara emphasises on the third meaning ‘Shadbhaava vihaara rahitatvaat Achyutah – He is free from the six stages of change that ordinary beings are subject to which are birth, existence, growth, change, decay and death. Hence he is called Acyutah’.
Sri Parasara Bhattar points out that He does not ever fall from His position of Lordship unlike Brahma or Indra who are subject to loss of their position. Hence He is called Acyutah.
In the MahaBharata we have”yasmAt na cyuta pUrvo’ham acyutastena karmaNA” – Shanti Parva 12.330.16. Sri Sankara and Sri Bhattar have interpreted the above Shruti slightly differently. Sri Sankara’s words are – svarUpasAmarthyAt na cyuto na cyavate na cyavishyata iti acyutah – He has not lapsed, is not lapsing, and will not lapse from His own glory; hence the name acyuta. Sri Bhattar’s interpretation for the above Shruti leads to the second meaning, which follows:”I have never abandoned (my bhaktas). Because of this act of mine, I am known as acyuta”. His words are “tebyah prapannebhyah na apagatah acyutah – He is never away from those who have sought refuge in Him”.
Arjuna uses this name to call Krishna who has taken it upon Himself to be his charioteer and who will not let him slip – “na cyAvayati iti acyutah – One who does not let His devotees slip.”
Sri Radhakrishna Shastri points out that Bhagavan is Acyutah because he does not slip from stage to stage in the sequence of events such as birth, living, growth, change in appearance, decay, and finally disappearance from the body.
The Dharma Chakram writer points to the passage in Mundaka Upanishad in which there is a description of two birds sitting in different branches of a tree, one tasting the fruit and the other just watching the bird that is tasting the fruit (of Karma). This has been described as Bhagavan watching the JivAtma tasting the fruits of Karma from His superior position of ParamAtma (Acyutah).
We covered this earlier in Nama 194 – Suparnah (Shloka 21) and Nama 264 – Viviktah (Shloka 28) – dvA suparNA sayujA sakhAyA etc. – rig veda 1.164.20. Sri V.V. Ramanujan adds the following reference from Ramayana -“mitra-bhAvena samprAptam na tyajeyam kathancana dosho yadyapi tasyasyAt – No matter what flaws a person has, if he has come to Me seeking My friendship, there is no way that I will abandon him under any circumstance”.
Bhagavan gives the assurance in the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 9 Verse 31) – ‘Kaunteya Pratijaneehi Na me bhaktah pranashyati – Arjuna! Know it for certain that my devotee will never perish’.
321. Prathitah – One who is of great fame
This Nama is derived from the root word ‘prath’ – to become famous (prath – prakhyAn – prasiddhi). This fame can be associated with the previous Nama – His Guna of being Acyutah, or on account of His Creation and Sustenance of the Universe.
As Sri Adi Sankara says ‘Jagad Utpattyaadi Karmabhih Prakhyaatah Prathitah – He is famous for acts like the creation of the Universe hence he is called Prathitah’.
There several Shrutis in support of the above interpretation:
In Svetasvatara Upanishad Chapter 4 Verse 19 it says –
“nainam urdhvam na tiryancam na madhye na parijagrabhat
na tasya pratima asti yasya nama mahad yasah”
Meaning: There is no likeness of him whose name is great glory.”
In Ramayana we have – “yaSasaSca eka bhAjanam” – One who is glorious.
Nammazhar’s Pasuram in Thiruvai Mozhi (1-6-9) brings this out wonderfully:
தரும அரும்பய னாயதிருமக ளார்தனிக் கேள்வன்,
பெருமை யுடைய பிரானார்,இருமை வினைகடி வாரே 
He breaks the two-fold karmas and grants the highest fruit i.e. Moksha or liberation.
The great celebrated Lord, the Spouse of Lakshmi, is Peerless. Thiruvai Mozhi – (6-10-10)
அகல கில்லேன் இறையும் என் றலர்மேல் மங் கை யுறைமார்பா,
நிகரில் புகழாய் உலகமூன் றுடையாய். என்னை ஆள்வானே,
நிகரில் அமரர் முனிக்கணங்கள் விரும்பும் திருவேங் கடத்தானே,
புகலொன் றில்லா அடியேனுன் அடிக்கீ ழமர்ந்து புகுந்தேனே 
Meaning: O’ Lord, with the inseparable Lakshmi on your chest, who is seated on a Lotus! O My Master of matchless fame, bearing the three worlds, O Thiru Venkatadathane you are desired by the celestials and great sages! Falling at your feet, this refugee seeks your refuge.
The Dharma Chakram writer points out that the fame that is derived from things such as wealth, position in life, etc. are transient. While the fame resulting from adherence to Dharma is permanent. This is as evidenced by examples from the life of HarishChandra, Prahlada, Hanuman, etc. Bhagavan is Prathitah for the same reason i.e., He is Satya-Parakrama, Satya, Satya-Kama, Satya-Samkalpa, Satya-Vrata, etc., and so He is Prathitah.
322. Praanah – The Life-Breath
Sri Adi Sankara says “Sootraatmanaa Prajaah Praanayati iti Praanah – He is the source of Life energy which enlivens all beings hence He is called Praanah.” Sri Adi Sankara further says “prANo vA aham asmi – He is also the life-energy for all beings” referring to the Aitareya Aranyaka 2.2.3.
According to Sri Parasara Bhattar he is the Praana or Life for those who resort to him. Aitreya Upanishad says ‘Praano vaa Ahamasmi – I am the Life for all’.
Sri V.V. Ramnujan gives reference to Nammazhwar’s Pasuram from Thiruvai Mozhi (6-9-7) – “Ulagukke Or uyirumAnAi” meaning “You are the world’s soul.”
The next 11 Namas are interpreted by Sri Parasara Bhattar as describing the Kurma (Tortoise) Avatar.
323. Praanadah – The Life-Giver
Sri Adi Sankara gives a more extended meaning as ‘Suraanaam Asuraanaam cha Praanam Balam dadaati dyati vaa iti Praanadah – He gives life and strength to Devas and Asuraas, so He is Praanadah. ‘Praanam dadaati iti Praanadah – Giver or infuser of Life’. Being the source of all life in the Universe Bhagavan is called Pranadah. He points out that in addition to the above interpretation, the same name can be interpreted to mean that Bhagavan is also the taker of the praana. “praanaan dyati iti – One who takes away the Praana or vital airs at the time of deluge or death”, or ”praanaan deepayati iti – One who purifies and brightens the vital airs.”
Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha gives the following explanation – PrANan dadAti dyati khaNDayati va sa prANa-dah – Bhagavan gives life to all beings, and also takes away the life of all beings when the time comes, and hence He is Praana-dah.
The Dharma Chakram writer points out that the different aspects of our life and body – such as our thoughts, words, deeds etc., are all different reflections of the Praana in us. Without Praana, our life will cease to exist, and our body will cease to function. But by controlling this Praana, we can control our body and all its actions. There is no limit to what can be achieved by having control over our Praana or breath. This Nama of MahaVishnu teaches us that the Praana that has been given to us by Him should be used for good purpose.
324. Vasavanujah – The younger brother of Vasava or Indra
Vaasava is Indra and Anujah means a younger brother. According to Sri Adi Sankara ‘Adityaam Kashyapaat Vaasavasya Anujah Jaatah iti Vaasavaanujah – He was born to Sage Kashyapa and his wife Aditi as the younger brother of Indra hence he is called Vaasavaanujah’. We have already seen the name ‘Upendra’ as name 151, which means the same as Vaasavaanujah.
Sri Parasara Bhattar says in his commentary that this name refers to Bhagavan being born as the younger brother of Indra in order to help him get the nectar which he wished.
Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha gives an interpretation which does not involve a reference to Indra. He interprets VasavAnujah to mean One who has entered into everything in this world – Vasati sarvatra vaste sarvam iti vA vAsuh ISvarah; VAsoh idam vAsavam sarvam jagat; VAsavam jagat anujAto anupravishTo vAsavAnujah.
325. Apaam-nidhih – The Sustainer of the waters of the Ocean
Sri Adi Sankara says ‘Aapo yatra Nidheeyante sah Apaannidhih – He is the source of all waters in the Universe, hence he is called Apaamnidhih’. In the Bhagavad Gita (10.24) Bhagavan says ‘Sarasaam asmi Saagarah – I am the ocean among reservoirs of water’.
Sri Parasara Bhattar continues with his interpretation of this Nama based on the Kurma Avatar, and points out that this Nama indicates that He sustained the great Ocean when it was being churned.
Swami ChinmayAnanda points out that the glory and might of the oceans are but a tiny reflection of Bhagavan’s glory.
Sri V.V.Ramanujan refers to NammAzhwar’s ThiruvaiMozhi (4-7-5) – Appane! Azh-kadalaik kadaindatuppane – O’Lord! The Mighty one who churned the deep Ocean!
Sri Radhakrishna Shastri takes the scope of this name a step further and points out that just as the waters of all the rivers and canals ultimately reach the ocean and lose their identity, so also those who worship Bhagavan become one with Him. In this sense He is Apaam-nidhih, or the Ocean where everybody merges in the end.
The Dharma Chakram writer points out that just as the ocean is the beginning and the end for the water (by evaporation of the waters of the ocean, the vapour rises, condenses and comes back in the form of rain, which then forms the rivulets and rivers, and these in turn go back to the Ocean), so also the beings of this world originate from Him, and ultimately merge back into Him. Just as the good water as well as the dirty water gets into the ocean but then lose their identity and get merged into the Ocean, so also the JivAtmas attain equality without distinction when they reach Him.
Unlike the bounds which man can place for the lesser bodies of water, there is no bound that he can place for the Ocean – another reflection of Bhagavan as Apaamnidhih or Ocean. Though the external surface of the ocean is full of waves, it’s deep inside is peace incarnate, and in this sense also He is Apaannidhih.
326. Adhishthaanam – One who provides Support to everything
As Sri Adi Sankara puts it ‘Adhitishthanti bhootaani upaadaana kaaranatvena bramheti Adhishthaanam – All beings are supported or based in him as He is the primary cause of Creation and hence he is called Adhishthaanam’. In the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 9 Verse 4) Bhagavan says ‘Mat Sthaani Sarvabhootaani Na chaaham teshvavasthitah – All beings are in Me, but I am not in them.’
Sri Parasara Bhattar interprets this as referring to His supporting the Mandara Mountain in His Kurma Avatar. He gives reference to the Vishnu Purana in support – “kshIroda-madhye bhagavAn kUrma-rUpI svayam harih | mandarAdreh adhishThAnam bhramato’bhUt mahA-mune || (1.9.88) Bhagavan Narayana Himself, in the form of Kurma, supported the Mandara Mountain in the middle of the Milky Ocean as it was being churned.”
327. Apramattah – One who is always Vigilant
Sri Adi Sankara elaborates this by saying ‘Adhikaaribhyah Karmaanuroopam Phalam Prayacchan na Pramaadyati iti Apramattah – He is ever so vigilant in awarding the effects of Karma to those who are entitled to them hence He is called Apramattah.’
According to Sri Parasara Bhattar, Bhagavan is extremely attentive in the protection of those who are in distress. Pramattah refers to one who is careless, casual or inattentive. Apramattah refers to His Guna of extreme vigilance in protecting those who have surrendered unto Him – Ashrita-Rakshakan.
Swami ChinmayAnanda points out that Pramattah refers to one who makes errors in judgment, and Apramattah is One who does not make errors in judgment. Sri Radhakrishna Shastri points out that the vigilance here could also refer to Bhagavan being very careful and vigilant in distributing the nectar produced from the churning of the Milky Ocean to the appropriate persons.
The Dharma Chakram writer points out that the lesson we should take from this Nama is that we should always be vigilant about the thoughts that enter our mind, and ensure that our thoughts do not stray towards the sense objects but instead meditate on Him constantly. Just as a thief would not enter a house where people are awake, negative thoughts won’t enter one’s mind when one is awake and vigilant with the thought of Bhagavan. Whenever negative thoughts enter one’s mind, one should divert those thoughts to positive energy by chanting Bhagavan’s name instead. This is the lesson one should take from this Nama.
The Story of Gajendra Moksham
Gajendra Moksham is a legend from the 8th Canto of Srimad Bhagavatam where Lord Vishnu comes down to Earth to protect Gajendra from the clutches of a Crocodile. The story goes as follows.
A Pandyan King by the name Indradyumna was a staunch devotee of Lord Vishnu. One day, Sage Agastya and his disciples came to visit the King but Indradyumna did not come instantly to receive the Sage who felt insulted. A fuming Agastya noticed that the King Indradyumna, despite the greatness of his good deeds, still has Ahamkara in him and cursed the King that he would be born as an elephant in his next birth. After Indradyumna apologised and sought his forgiveness, Sage Agastya pronounced that he would be absolved of his sins by the diving grace of MahaVishnu. Accordingly, he was born as an Elephant.
Around the same time there was a Gandharva King called HuHu. Once, Sage Devala came to visit him. When the Sage was taking bath in the lake and getting ready to offer prayers to the Sun (Sandhya Vandanam), Huhu pulled the Sage’s leg for fun. The enraged sage cursed the King to become a crocodile in his next life. The repentant HuHu asked for pardon. The Sage proclaimed that though he cannot reverse the curse, the crocodile would be liberated from the cycle of birth and death and attain Moksha by Lord Vishnu’s Sudarshan Chakra.
King Indradyumna was born as Gajendra in the foothills of Mount Trikoota, and he later emerged as indomitable Leader of the herd. Gajendra was enormous and powerful and enjoyed his strength so much that he was oblivious to the terror he struck in the hearts of the others.
One hot sunny day as he was proudly stomping through the woods, almost causing tremors in the mountain by their weight, he was oppressed by the heat, the whole herd of elephants felt incredibly thirsty. To his great relief Gajendra spied a lake at a distance and the smell of lotus pollen-filled breeze was emanating from the lake. Enchanted they speedily approached the vicinity of the lake. Plunging into it, he drank to his heart’s content the immaculate, sweet ambrosial water, flavoured by the pollen of the golden lotuses and lilies, sucking it with his trunk and freely showering on himself, unaware in his self-importance of impending peril.
As illluck would have it, Makara a powerful crocodile from that lake fiercely caught hold of his leg, and Gajendra was caught unaware. Gajendra was very confident of his immense strength and tugged nonchalantly but Makara’s grip did not slacken. Bellowing with rage Gajendra fought with all his might until finally overcome with exhaustion he realised that he had lost the battle with this vicious creature.
As Gajendra despaired for his life, unable to free himself, he called out to Lord Vishnu in an anguished voice, cried out with all his heart – “Adimoolame! Salutations to you! You are the supreme self, all existing within us. I surrender to you, Lord you are the compassionate One from whom this whole Universe has arisen and into whom it subsides.
Protect me, O lord’ give me the infinite joy of salvation. I bow to you humbly! His heart was filled with profound Love for the Lord. Hearing Gajendra’s heartfelt cry, the Great Lord appeared. He looked radiant seated on His mighty Garuda, with the Sudarshana Chakra whirring on his fingertips brilliantly like a disc of fire. The moment Gajendra sighted the great Lord, he gently plucked a lotus from the lake and lifted his trunk and offered the flower to the Lord with great reverence.
The Lord, seeing his devotee wrenched in pain and blood, slayed Makara the crocodile with His Sudarshana Chakra and Gajendra was rescued. He immediately prostrated before the great Lord Vishnu in total surrender. The two souls were redeemed from their curses and attained Moksha.
“Gajendra Moksham” is a prayer, addressed to Lord Vishnu by Gajendra. It is one of the most magnificent hymns of Bhakti from the “Bhagavata Puranam”. The prayer offered by Gajendra on this occasion became a famous hymn in praise of Vishnu called the Gajendra Stuti and is an invocation for Lord Vishnu.
शुक्लांबरधरं विष्णुं शशि वर्णं चतुर्भुजं ।
प्रसन्न वदनं ध्यायेत सर्व विघ्नोपशान्तये ॥
Shukla-Ambara-Dharam Vissnnum Shashi-Varnnam Catur-Bhujam |
Prasanna-Vadanam Dhyaayet Sarva-Vighno[a-U]pashaantaye ||
Meaning: (We Meditate on Lord Vishnu) Who is wearing White Clothes, Who is All-Pervading, Who is bright in appearance like the Moon, Who is having four hands, Who is Having a compassionate and gracious face, let us meditate on Him to ward of all obstacles.
The tale of Gajendra forms an integral theme in the Vaishnavism religion and has huge symbolic value with Gajendra as the man, Huhu as sins and the muddy water of the lake as Saṃsara.
This incident is said to have taken place in Kapisthalam, near Kumbakonam in Tamilnadu and the temple is called the Gajendra Varadhar temple.
328. Pratishthitah – He who is self-dependent
As Adi Sankara puts it ‘Sve Mahimni Sthitah Pratishthitah – He is well established by the virtue of his own powers hence He is called Pratishthitah’.
Chandogya Upanishad says ‘sa Bhagavah kva pratishthita iti sve mahimni” (Chandogya 7.24.1). This means “Where is Bhagavan firmly established?” The reply is “In His own greatness.”
In Vishnu Dharma (72.2), we have a similar assertion – “Sve mahimni sthitamdevam – The Lord who rests on His own greatness.” One who supports the rest of the Universe obviously does not need the support of something external. Ordinary beings get their greatness from their wealth, their fame, etc., which are all impermanent; not so with Bhagavan – His greatness is not dependent on such impermanent things.
Swami ChinmayAnanda explains this name in terms of cause and effect. Everything else in this Universe has its cause and therefore is merely an effect. Unlike this, Bhagavan is the Ultimate Cause. The lesson we should take from this quality of Bhagavan is that we should learn to depend on the One who is Permanent in this Universe, and not be dependent on all the impermanent things such as wealth, fame, etc.
The Dharma Chakram writer gives the example of Pandavas and Kauravas. We are constantly reminded of the transient things in life by the occurrence of aging, death, loss of fame, friend becoming enemy, etc., and all these should teach us that the proper and meaningful life can only be led by meditating on the One who is Permanent, viz. Bhagavan.
Acyutah Prathitah Praanah Praanado Vaasavaanujah |
Apaamnidhir Adhishthaanam Apramattah Pratishthitah ||35||
He is called Acyutah as He does not ever fall from His position of Lordship unlike Brahma or Indra who are subject to loss of their position. He is famous for acts like the creation of the Universe hence he is called Prathitah. ‘Yasya nama mahad yasah’ – There is no likeness of him whose name is great glory.
He is the source of Life energy which enlivens all beings and hence He is called Praanah. He gives life and strength to Devas and Asuraas, so He is Praanadah.
He is Vaasavaanujah as He born as a younger brother to Indra in order to help him get the nectar and He sustained the great Ocean when it was being churned.
All beings are supported or based in him as He is the primary cause of Creation and hence He is called Adhishthaanam.
He is ever so vigilant in awarding the effects of Karma to those who are entitled to them hence He is called Apramattah.
He is well established by the virtue of his own powers hence He is called Pratishthitah’.
HARI OM TAT SAT
OM NAMO NARAYANAAYA
This Vishnu Sahasranamam series is authored with the help of my friend Shri Balaji.