In this Part we will explore the meaning of the 39th Shloka of Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam.
Atulah Sharabho Bheemah Samayajno Havirharih |
Sarvalakshanalakshanyo Lakshmivaan Samitinjayah ||39||
The above Shloka contains the following 8 Namas:
362. Sarva-Lakshana Lakshanyah
Now let’s examine the meaning of the above Namas in detail:
357. Atulah – He is Unequalled
‘Tula’ means a balance or a scale used for comparison. Atulah means One who has no equal or who is Immeasurable. As Adi Sankara puts it ‘Tulopamanam asya na vidyate iti – He has no comparison or equal hence He is called Atulah’.
Svetasvara Upanishad 4.19 says “Na tasya pratimaa asti yasya naama mahadyashah” – For Him whose name is Great Glory and there is no likeness.
In the Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 11 Verse 43, Arjuna upon seeing the cosmic form of Krishna says ‘Na tvatsamo Asti Abhyatikah Kutonyah – There is no one equal to You, where is the question of someone exceeding You?’
Thiruvalluvar (Thirukkural 1.7) says ‘Tankkuvamai Illaadaan Taal Serndaarkkallaal Manakkavalai Maatral aridu – The only way to get rid of the worries in life is to surrender to the feet of the incomparable Lord’.
Sri V V Ramanujam refers to Thiruvaai Mozhi (6-3-9) – ‘Tan oppaar il appan’ meaning ‘Peerless Lord’.
358. Sharabhah – The Destroyer (of those who transgress the bounds of ethics)
The interpretation is based on the verb ‘Sru’ which means ‘to injure, to destroy’. Sri Parasara Bhattar says ‘Srunaati iti Sarabhah’ meaning He destroys those who transgress the bounds of ethics, hence He is called Sharabhah.
Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Sharaah Shareeraani Sheeryamaanatvaat Teshu Pratyagaatmatayaa Bhaati iti Sharabhah – The body is called Shara because of its perishability; BhA means to shine. He is called Sharabhah because He shines in the body’.
Sri Radhakrishna Shastri refers us to Sharabhopanishat (30):
‘Saraa jeevaas-tadanngeshu bhaati nityam harih svayam |
Brahmaiva Sharabha Saakshaat ||
Meaning: None else other than Bhagavan shines in our bodies like the omnipresent Brahman. Sri Shastri also gives an alternate interpretation – Shara refers to an arrow, but if this body is aimed at Bhagavan, then even the perishable body shines, because He shines in that body.
According to the legend, Sharabha is an eight-legged beast, mightier than the lion or an elephant. It is said to be an avatar of Lord Shiva and the name generally refers to Lord Shiva. We have already covered such Namas like Shambhuh, Shivah, Sthaanuh and Purandarah showing the Universal nature of Vishnu Sahasranamam, which embraces the whole of Sanatana Dharma.
The Story of Jayadratha
Krishna is called Leela Purshottam as He accepts all contradictions and ambiguities of life, hence He is called a PurnAvatar. During the MahaBharata war, in a battle of that ensued between Arjuna and Jayadratha, Krishna once again asserts his Superiority with astute execution.
Jayadratha was the son of King Vridhakshtra who ruled Sindhu. Jayadratha was married to Dushala, the only sister of the hundred Kaurava brothers. Once Jayadratha attempted to abduct Draupadi and wanted to marry her by force. Bhima captured him alive and he proclaimed him as his slave. He was pardoned by Yudhisthira, meanwhile Bhima had shaved off Jayadratha’s head, thus inflicting insult on him.
Infuriated by this, Jayadratha sought to avenge this humiliation he suffered at the hands of Pandavas. So, Jayadratha performs rigorous penance in order to please Lord Shiva. When Lord Shiva appears before him, Jayadratha seeks the boon to defeat the Pandavas. Shiva replies that such a boon is impossible, as the Pandavas were too mighty. Nevertheless, he grants Jayadratha with the ability to check the advances of the Pandavas and their forces for one whole day. However, Shiva warns Jayadratha that Arjuna was an exception to that boon.
Years before abdicating his throne, Jayadratha’s father, Vridhakshtra, hears a prophecy that his son is going to be killed. Scared for his lineage, Vridhakshtra leaves for the forest and becomes a Sage. Through penance, he attempts to gain enough spiritual power to grant his son immortality, the equivalent of Bhishma’s boon. However, he only manages enough power to a curse that whoever causes Jayadratha’s head to fall to the ground, his head would be shattered a thousand folds.
On the 13th day of the MahaBharata war, when the Chakravyuha is launched by Dronacharya, Jayadratha makes use of Lord Shiva’s boon. Arjuna’s son Abhimanyu manages to enter the formation; he intends for the Pandava forces to follow after him and smash the formation from the inside. Jayadrataha moves in closing the gap, and is able to hold all the Pandava brothers and their forces at bay. As part of Drona’s strategy, Arjuna and Krishna are busy battling Susharma and the Trigata Army elsewhere. Abhimanyu, who does not know to exit the Chakravyuha, is trapped and brutally killed by the Kaurava Warriors in a combined attack.
The Pandavas are startled that Jayadratha was able to hold the most powerful warriors at bay. In particular, Draupadi, Yudhishthira, and Bhima felt very guilty for not killing Jayadratha when they had the opportunity. Arjuna vows to kill Jayadratha the very next day before sunset, failing which he swore to kill himself by jumping into a pyre. This sets the stage for 14th day for an epic battle.
Dronacharya arranges a combination of three vyuhas in order to protect Jayadratha from Arjuna. Bhima, Satyaki and Arjuna cleave through the Kaurava army. At a climactic moment, nearing Sunset time, thousands of warriors were in row between Arjuna and Jayadratha.
Lord Krishna sent his Sudharsana Chakra in order to mask the Sun and created an illusion of Sunset. The Kaurava warriors rejoiced at Arjuna’s inability to fulfil his vow and envisioned him jumping into a sea of flames.
Jayadratha appeared before Arjuna to taunt him. Lord Krishna orders Arjuna to slay Jayadratha. If Arjuna beheaded Jayadratha, he faced imminent death due to the boon obtained by his father.
With unflinching faith and belief in his friend and the great Lord Krishna, Arjuna beheads Jayadratha with the Pashupati Astra as instructed by Krishna. The Astra carries the head of Jayadratha to Vridhakshtra’s Ashram and Jayadratha’s head falls on Vridhakshtra’s lap.
His father got up in a shock and his son’s head rolled on to the ground and in an instant Vridhakshtra’s head bursts into a thousand fragments. Consequently, Vridhakshtra became a victim of his own boon. Lord Krishna removes the illusion of Sunset by withdrawing His Sudharsana Chakra. Thus, Krishna saved Arjuna and ensured that both Jayadratha and Vridhakshtra were killed in one stroke.
359. Bheemah – The Formidable
Bheemah means someone who strikes fear in the hearts of others. Sri Adi Sankara says ‘Bibheti asmaat sarvam iti Bheemah – Every one fears Him, hence He is called Bheemah’. Bibhyati iti bheemah – This Nama is derived from the verb ‘bhee’ meaning ‘to fear’. Sri Bhattar says The whole world operates in an orderly way due to fear of the consequences from violating His ‘Will’.
Taitreya Aranyaka says ‘Bhishaa smaat Vatah Pavate – Even the wind blows and performs its duty out of fear for Him’.
In Shri Rudram’s 8th Anuvakam we have reference to the Supreme Being as ‘Namo Ugraaya cha Bheemaaya cha – Salutations to the ferocious and frightful one’.
Katha Upanishad says:
Bhayaadeva agnis tapati Bhayaat tapati sooryah |
Bhayaat indrashcha vaayushcha Mrityur-dhaavati panchamah || (2.6.3)
Meaning: Only out of fear for Him the fire burns, the Sun blazes, Vayu, Indra and Yama, the god of death discharge their duties’. The same idea is expressed in the Brahma Sutra 1.3.40.
In the Bhagavad Gita Chapter 11 Verse 21 we have references to the formidable nature of Bhagavan:
ami hi tvam sura-sangha visanti kecid bhitah pranjalayo grnanti
svastity uktva maharsi-siddha-sanghah stuvanti tvam stutibhih puskalabhih
Meaning: All the hosts of demigods are surrendering to You and entering into You. Some of them, very much afraid, are offering prayers with folded hands singing your glory. The great Sages and enlightened beings are offering worship by singing hymns from Vedic scriptures ’.
Sri V.V. Ramanujan gives reference to the terror He created in the heart of Hiranyakashipu. NammAzhwar In Thiruvai Mozhi (7-6-8) has sung:
ஆளியைக் காண்பரி யாயரி காண்நரி யாய்,
அரக்கர்ஊளையிட் டன்றிலங்கைகடந் துபிலம் புக்கொளிப்ப,
மீளியம் புள்ளைக் கடாய்விறல் மாலியைக் கொன்று,பின்னும்
ஆளுயர் குன்றங்கள் செய்தடர்த் தானையும் காண்டுங்கொலோ? 
Meaning: Like horses before a Yali, foxes before a Lion, the Rakshasas howled and left Lanka and went into hiding, when Lord riding on Garuda killed the fierce Mali and his forces, stacked the bodies like a mountain, Oh, can I not see him too?
The Dharma Chakram writer points out that as long as there are beings that do not have God realization, the only thing that keeps them under control is fear, and once they have realized Him, they do not have anything to fear.
Sankara gives an alternative form of this Nama as ‘Abheemah’ – One who causes no fear to those who follow the righteous path emphasising the point that one does not need to fear God when following Dharma.
360. Samayajnah – The Knower of the conventions
This Nama can be analysed in 2 ways, either as Samaya + Jnah or as Sama + Yajnah with different meanings. The first meaning as explained by Sri Adi Sankara is ‘Srishti Sthiti Samhaara Samayavit, Shat Samayaan Janaati iti vaa Samayajnah – He knows the appropriate time for creation, protection or dissolution of the Universe or he knows the right time for the six seasons hence he is called Samayajnah’.
The alternative meaning is ‘Sarvabhooteshu Samatvam yajanam saadhvasya iti Samayajnah – He is treats everyone fairly and equally without showing any preference’. Vishnu Puranam (1.17.90) says ‘Samatvam aaraadhanam Achyutasya – He follows the principle of equality among all beings’.
Sri Parasara Bhattar offers an alternate interpretation – Bhagavan knows the proper time to bestow his grace on his devotees, or the proper time to fulfil the vow of protection He has taken.
He is Samayajna since He establishes the rules e.g., that when the fire burns, the flame goes upwards, and also at the time of Creation after the deluge or pralaya, He establishes the rules and proper order in the Universe. He establishes the path of the Sun, the Moon and the planets – Surya-candramaso dhaata yathaapurvam akalpayat’.
Shri V.V.R. Ramanujan refers to the incidence of Narasimha avatara, where Bhagavan knew exactly when to appear in the pillar – ‘Iraniyan thoon pudaippa angu appozhude avan veeyat tonriya en Singap-piraan’ – Thiruvai Mozhi – 2.8.9.
Sri Radhakrishna Shastri describes six kinds of strategies that a king is supposed to adopt in warfare, including when to fight, when to compromise, when to seek another’s help, when to let two adversaries clash with each other and thus weaken themselves, when to attack, and when to wait for the attack. He points out that Lord Krishna amply demonstrated these different techniques when He guided the Pandavas in their war with the Kauravas. This is an explanation for this Nama.
Sri Satyadevo Vashishtha gives the interpretation that Bhagavan is the only one who knows the past, present and future, the changes in climate, the path of the planets, when the beings will be born, in what body and when this body will die etc.
The Dharma Chakram writer adds more dimension to the significance of this Nama by pointing out that Bhagavan knows when He needs to appear amongst us in His incarnations (Dharma Samsthaapanaarthaaya Sambahavaami yuge yuge). He also knew when to send Kunti to Karna to obtain his promise that he won’t attempt to kill any Pandava other than Arjuna.
361. Havir-harih – Hari is the recipient of the offerings in the Yajna
This can be treated as a single Nama or as two Namas Havih and Harih. In the first approach Sri Adi Sankara explains this as ‘Yajneshu Havirbhaagam Harati iti Havirharih – He is the Ultimate acceptor of offerings in Yajnas or sacrificial ceremonies, hence He is called Havirharih’.
In the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 9 Verse 24) Bhagavan says ‘Aham hi sarvayajnaanaam bhoktaa cha prabhureva cha – I am the Enjoyer and the Lord of all Yajnas’. The full extent of Bhagavan’s identification with Yajna will be described in Shlokas 104-105 in the Sahasranamam which we will cover later.
In the second interpretation of this Nama, Havih and Harih are taken separately. Sankara says ‘Hooyate Havishaa iti Havih – One who is honoured in sacrificial rites’. Regarding Harih Sankara says ‘Smritimaatrena Pumsaam Paapam Samsaaram vaa harati iti, Haridvarnatvaat vaa Harih – He is called Harih because he demolishes one’s sins (the bondage of Samsara) or because he is dark blue in colour’.
This is elaborated in the following verse in the MahaBharata:
Haraamyagham cha smartroonaam Havirbhaagam kratushvaham |
Varnashcha Me Harishreshthah Tasmaat Hariraham Smritah || (Santi Parva 330.3)
“I destroy the sins of those who remember Me and I also receive the oblations in sacrifices; As My complexion is also blue; I am named Hari”.
The word havis is derived from the root hu, which means both “to accept” and “to offer”. He both enjoys the love of his devotees, and is also the subject of enjoyment by His devotees, and thus He is Havir-harih. The word “Harih” is derived from the root word ‘hr*’ meaning ‘to obtain’. One who is obtained by offering of havis is Havir-harih. Harih also means one who removes the obstacles – harir harati pApAni. The Namas from 362 to 379, are interpreted by Sri Parasara Bhattar in the context of the LakshmI-patitvam (Vishnu as the Consort of Lakshmi) of BhagavAan Para-Vasudeva.
- Sarvalakshanalakshanyah – He who is the abode of all the auspicious qualities
Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Sarva Lakshanaih Pramaanaih Lakshanam Jnaanam jaayate yattat vinirdishtam Sarvalakshanalakshanam tatra Sadhuh Sarvalakshanalakshanyah – All means of investigation ultimately leads to Him as the Supreme Knowledge or the Ultimate Truth’. In other words, every single line of reasoning ultimately point to him as the Final and Absolute truth. He is the cause of all causes whether our search tools employ physics, astronomy, biology, mathematics or any other branches of knowledge.
Lakshana is a symbol of beauty. Sri Parasara Bhattar takes the view that He is adorned with all the highest symbols of beauty. He gives the following Dhyana Shloka that identifies some of these distinguishing marks.
“Dhyaayet kamala-garbhaabham Devam Lakshmee-patim tatah|
Kamalaalaya heteesha Vibhooshita kara-dvayam ||”
Meaning: One should meditate on that Deity who is the Consort of Lakshmi, who has the splendor of the inner part of a Lotus, and whose two hands are adorned by the lotus which is the abode of Lakshmi and Chakra which is the Lord of all weapons”.
He also gives reference to the mantra “Pundareekaaksha! sakala-sukha Saubhaagya vaaridhe! – O’ the Lotus-eyed Lord! Thou art The Sea of Bliss and Good Fortune”.
Sri V.V. Ramanujan gives reference from Divya Prabandham (Thiruvai Mozhi 6-10-10):
அகல கில்லேன் இறையும் என் றலர்மேல் மங்கை யுறைமார்பா,
நிகரில் புகழாய் உலகமூன்றுடையாய் என்னை ஆள்வானே,
நிகரில் அமரர் முனிக்கணங்கள் விரும்பும் திருவேங் கடத்தானே,
புகலொன் றில்லா அடியேனுன் அடிக்கீ ழமர்ந்து புகுந்தேனே. 
Meaning: O Lord, you bear the inseparable Lotus-dame on your chest! O My Master of unparalleled fame, bearing the three worlds, the One who is desired by celestials and great sages, Thiru Venkatathaane! Falling at your feet, this refuge less has found his refuge. He also refers to the Vishnu Puranam – ‘pashyataam sarva-devaanaam yayau vaksha-sthalam hareh – When Lakshmi came out of the Milky Ocean when it was churned, She chose the vaksha-sthalam of MahaVishnu out of all the Devas standing there; such are His attributes or Lakshana.
Sri Radhakrishna Shastri points out that Bhagavan is the ultimate definition for each and every Lakshana or attribute, and so He is Sarvalakshanalakshanyah.
The Dharma Chakram writer points to four types of pramaanas which are used for recognising something. These are:
- Prakyaksha pramaana (recognition through our senses, such as taste, touch etc.)
- Yukti pramaana (recognition through indirect evidence – such as recognising fire through smoke)
- Shastra pramaana (what is laid down in scriptures)
- Anubhava pramaana (what we experience ourselves)
He gives the example of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa who recognized God as the Only Truth through all the different pramaanas. He could talk to God, he could not live without the thought of God just as we can’t live without air, he recognized him through the Shastras, and in essence he recognised God as the ultimate Truth through all the pramaanas.
Sri Satyadevo Vashishtha describes this Nama’s significance by pointing out that He is Sarvalakshanalakshanyah since everything that we see points to Him as the reason behind it. He defines Himself through everything that we can see or otherwise recognise.
363. Lakshmivaan – He is always with Lakshmi
Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Lakshmeeh Asya vakshasi nityam vasati iti Lakshmeevaan – Goddess Lakshmi resides on his chest permanently hence He is called Lakshmivaan’. There is however a deeper symbolism in this relationship. There are two things that are eternal and always existed and will always exist, without beginning or end. One is Bhagavan. The other is Prakriti, the Primordial Matter that is the material from which all the things in this Universe are created. This Primordial Matter signifies Lakshmi, the Universal Mother. The Universe is a result of the Union of Lakshmi and the Lord. Neither exists without the other.
There is change in the Svarupam of the Prakriti depending on the proportion of the three Gunas viz. Sattva, Rajas and Tamas, but prakriti does not end at the time of Pralaya or Deluge, nor does it have a beginning and thus is eternal. The Mula-prakriti is without a beginning and is endless just like Bhagavan and this is none other than Lakshmi. Sri Parasara Bhattar emphasises this by saying that The Moola Prakriti which is without a beginning and an end is just like Bhagavan, who is none other than Lakshmi.
Sri Bhattar has given the following Shloka in support –
“Dvayam devI-parinaye leelayaiva samarpayan |
prakaashayan anAditvam Atmana prakrithe saha ||
Mat-karaih anuviddheyam prakritih praakritaih aham |
yato’ham Ashritashca asyaa murtih mayi etat Atmika” ||
Meaning: At the time of my marriage with Lakshmi, in a spirited mood, I revealed the secret to all that the Supreme Reality is a couple and not Narayana alone or Lakshmi alone. Then I also revealed that like Myself Lakshmi is also without a beginning (i.e. eternal). This Prakriti was embraced by My hands, and I was embraced by Her hands; wherefore I have resorted to Her, and She in turn has resorted to Me. So we are always together.
Prof. SrInivasa Raghavan, in his translation of Sri Bhattar’s Vyakhyana, adds a personal note that this tattvam, Viz. the association between Bhagavan and Lakshmi, should be learned through an Acharya.
Swami ChinmayAnanda echoes the same spirit through the following words: “He is the Spirit (Purusha) that thrills the entire world-of-matter (Prakriti). Matter thrilled with the spirit is the dynamic world that we see around. Thus, the manifested Lord is ever wedded to Lakshmi”.
It is also possible to take a broader meaning of Lakshmi to denote all forms of wealth and as Bhagavan’s consort. In the Valmiki Ramayanam (1 – 1 –11) we have the passage:
Samassama vibhaktha angah snigdha varnah prathaapavaan |
Peena vakshaa visaala akshaa Lakshmivaan subha lakshanah ||
Meaning: The beauty of young Rama is described as He is medium-sized physically, with limbs poised symmetrically, broad-chested, wide-eyed and attractive. He is a prosperous personality with all the providential features, and thus he is self-resplendent. Here Lakshmivaan is used in the sense of prosperous personality with all positive qualities.
364 Samitinjayah – He who is victorious in battles
Samiti means battle and Jayah means one who is victorious. On this basis Sri Adi Sankara defines this as ‘Samitim yuddham jayati iti Samitinjayah – He wins all wars or battles and so He is called Samitinjayah’. Basically in each of his incarnation He is involved in a war with the evil forces and He emerges victorious every time.
Sri Parasara Bhattar interprets this as He is the destroyer of pain of His devotees. He helps them overcome the feeling of independence from Him, and thus brings true happiness to them by winning over their minds.
Sri Radhakrishna Shastri uses the meaning “gathering” or “assembly” for the word Samiti and gives the meaning that Bhagavan wins over the Samiti no matter how large it is or if it is all assembled against Him. Even the huge armies of Asuras were no match for him in any encounter.
Atulah Sharabho Bheemah Samayajno Havirharih |
Sarvalakshanalakshanyo Lakshmivaan Samitinjayah ||39||
He destroys those who transgress the bounds of ethics, hence He is called Sharabhah. The whole world operates in an orderly way due to fear of the consequences from violating His ‘Will’ and hence He is called Bheemah.
Bhagavan knows the proper time to bestow his grace on his devotees, or the proper time when He should fulfil the vow of protection He has taken. He is Samayajnah since He establishes the rules for proper order in the Universe.
He is the Ultimate acceptor of offerings in Yajnas or sacrificial ceremonies, hence He is called Havirharih. Bhagavan is the ultimate definition for each and every Lakshana or attribute and hence He is Sarvalakshanalakshanyah.
Goddess Lakshmi resides on his chest permanently, so He is called Lakshmivaan.
Bhagavan, in each of his incarnation, is involved in a war with the evil forces and He emerges victorious every time. Hence, He is Samitinjayah.
HARI OM TAT SAT
OM NAMO NARAYANAAYA
This Vishnu Sahasranamam series is authored with the help of my friend Shri Balaji.