With this feature we mark our Golden Jubilee and in this Part we will explore the meaning of the 41st Shloka of Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam.

Shloka 41
Udbhavah Kshobhano Devah Srigarbhah Parameshvarah      |
Karanam Kaaranam Kartaa Vikartaa Gahano Guhah              ||41||

Bhagavan is the Cause of Creation and He is the One who can set us free from this bondage called Samsara. He creates tumult in our mind as part of His Leela. He is always accompanied by Lakshmi and He is the Supreme Ruler of the Universe.  Besides being the Cause and the effect, He is also the prime ‘Doer’. The variety of his Creation are examples of his Leela. His actions are inscrutable and He remains invisible even while sitting inside our heart all the time. The way to reach him is through constantly meditating on Him. Hari Om!

This Shloka contains the following 11 Namas:
375.   Udbhavah
376.   Kshobhanah
377.   Devah
378.   Srigarbhah
379.   Parameshvarah
380.   Karanam
381.   Kaaranam
382.   Kartaa
383.   Vikartaa
384.   Gahanah
385.   Guhah


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

375.   Udbhavah – One who removes bondage

Sri Adi Sankara interprets this in two ways. The first is ‘Prapanchotpatti upaadaana kaaranatvaat Udbhavah – He is the basic or primary Cause of Creation of the Universe hence He is called ‘Udbhavah’. The second interpretation is ‘Udgato bhavaat samsaaraat iti vaa – He is above and beyond the shackles of Samsara or earthly existence and therefore he is Udbhavah, the elevated one’.

DamodaraSri Parasara Bhattar interprets this to mean ‘Udbhavo bhavah asmaat iti Udbhavah – One who removes the bondage of Samsaara of those who meditate upon Him’. He points out that those who meditate on the incident of His being bound by the rope (Kanninun Sirut-taambinaal kattunnap panniya perumaayan – the reference to Daamodarah which we covered in the previous Shloka) will be freed from the bondage of Samsara.

The Story of NammAzhwar

Nammalvar-Alvar (2)Swami NammAzhwar is the most celebrated Azhwars of the Srivaishnava tradition.  NammAzhwar was a manifestation of Vishvaksena, the Commander-in-Chief of Lord Vishnu.

There lived a pious couple Kariyar and Udaiya Nangai in a town called Thirukurungur. They had prayed to their deity Thirukurungudi Nambi for an offspring.  Once the Lord Himself had prophesied through the Archakar that his Amsam will be born to them. Soon they were blessed with a child Maran. The Azhwar was born in the 8th century A.D on a full moon day in the year Pramadhi, Vaikasi Tamil month and Visakam Nakshatram on a Friday. Thirukurungur is now called as Azhwar Thirunagari to mark NammAzhwar’s birth there.

This Divine baby did not eat or move normally like other babies but the growth was very normal. The grief stricken parents, with their unusual or abnormal child went to Lord AdhiNatha and placed the motionless baby in a cradle under a Tamarind tree beside the temple.

The Sthala Vriksha, the Tamarind tree (Puliyamaram) was believed to be an Avatar of “AdhiSeshan” (the Serpent of Mahavishnu). The tree has flowers, which yield raw Puliyangai and not a ripened one (Puliyampazham). Unlike other Tamarind trees this tree does not fold its leaves at night; and it is still called “urangap puliyamaram (the tree which does not sleep). Even to this day one can witness this phenomenon at AzhwArthirunagari.  According to hagiology it is said that, NammAzhwar sat in meditation in the hollow of this tree for sixteen years.

Nammalvar_MadhuraKavialvar (2)The parents used to place the baby in the cradle every day and paid obeisance to the Lord AdhiNatha. One day when they relaxed for a short while, the “little Azhwar” crawled towards an hallow in the tree and sat down cross-legged and closed its eyes. From then on, the divine child grew in the same state of meditation for 16 years, without consuming any food or water. The boy was a 16 year old Divya Tejas, (Golden hued divine form). People affectionately named him NammAzhwar (our Azhwar), Sadagopan, Parangusar, etc.

One fine day the Great Lord had sent a Brahmin saint by name Madhurakavi. This Madhurakavi of Thirukkolur was on a padayatra (by walk) to North India and was fascinated by the beauty of Ayodhya. He chose to stay there. One night Madhurakavi saw a very bright star shining extraordinarily in the southern direction. He was drawn by a strange magnetism of this light and started his journey towards the South following the course of this intriguing ‘Southern Star’. He soon found himself at Lord AdhiNatha temple and the same Tejas (sparkle) on NammAzhwar’s face. He was exalted by the euphoric brilliance emitting from the Azhwar and was deeply attracted by the Divine form.  Madurakavi was a Sanskrit and Tamil scholar and a great philosopher too. He wanted to test the Azhwar, without knowing that the Azhwar had not talked or opened his eyes before.

He threw a small stone into a pond nearby and hearing the splash, Azhwar opened his eyes. Madhurakavi asked in Tamil “Seththathin vayitril siriyadhu pirandhaal yetthai thindru enge kidakkum?” Meaning: If the small is born in a dead’s body (or stomach) what will it eat and where will it stay?

Azhwar, the one who has not opened his mouth since his birth (not even for food) opened his mouth and answered “aththaith thindru ange kidakkum” meaning It will eat that and stay there.

The small one refers to to individual soul and the dead one refers to the gross matter, the body. When the soul enters the body, the body comes to life; and when it leaves, the body becomes a corpse. The soul experiences the pleasures and pains through its body and its senses and reaps only what it has sown quite unaware and unconscious of its true nature of its being part of the Almighty, as His body. So the soul will eat that and stay there; when the soul realises its true nature and does prapatti to Him Sriman Narayanan (realising the body/mind and intellect as not attached to its nature) it will eat His thoughts. Verses and Pasurams as his “annam” (or food) will stay there (at His abode as His servant rendering service to Him).

Madhurakavi was greatly impressed at AzhwAr’s depth of answer and his philosophy. He prostrated at the feet of Azhwar and with tears in his eyes said  ” O, Southern Sun! Please accept me as your disciple: Please help me cross the Ocean of Births and deaths. Please take me into your fold”.  Seeing him at his feet, the Azhwar said “Stay with me and write my Pasurams on Sriya patih”.

From then on NammAzhwar sang with utmost Bhakti several Pasurams on Sriman Narayanan. He goes on to say that he played with Lord, meditated at His holy feet, he had no interest in pleasures of the senses and he could not tolerate mundane life and that is why he kept his eyes closed.

கண்டுகேட் டுற்றுமோந்துண்டுழலும் ஐங்கருவி
கண்டவின்பம், தெரிவரிய அளவில்லாச் சிற்றின்பம்,
ஒண்டொடியாள் திருமகளும் நீயுமே நிலாநிற்பக்,
கண்டசதிர் கண்டொழிந்தேன் அடைந்தேனுன் திருவடியே. [Thiruvai Mozhi 4-9-10]

Meaning: I have experienced the pleasure of seeing, hearing, touch, smell and taste, and the limited joy of heaven that lies beyond the senses.  Only you and Lakshmi are permanent, My Lord, what a wonder that I have attained your Lotus feet!

His mind dwelt on Lord all the time – ஒழிவில் காலமெல்லாம் உடனாய் மன்னி [Thiruvai Mozhi 3-3-1].

The Lord along with His consort MahaLakshmi appeared before NammAzhwar and blessed him after which Yemperuman gave him a unique Darshan of His various forms from different thiruthalams (Divya Desams) one by one.  NammAzhwar wrote several beautiful Pasurams with reverence to each of these Perumals that he envisioned with his divine experience. Such is the Greatness of “NammAzhwar”.

NamNammAzhwar stayed under that tamarind tree for 35 years. His Pasurams are compared to essence of Rig, Yajur, Sama and Adharvana Vedas. After living for 35 years he wished to reach His abode (and the Lord too looked forward to him). Madhurakavi’s eyes welled with tears at the thought of parting from his Guru. But was overwhelmed and felt bliss to see the glorious sight of the Acharya merging with his beloved Lord Adhinatha Perumal. Simultaneously, he was also blessed with a Swarna Vigraha (Golden statue) of Nammazhwar which he consecrated at the Tamarind tree. He performed Nitya Aradhana to his Azhwar and he even ignored the Lord Sriman Narayana ever since.

Swami NammAzhwar is known in tradition as the ancestral forbearer for those who have surrendered to the Lord whole-heartedly. In all the Sri Vaishnava temples in South India one can see a Crown or Sadaari (A symbol of the Deity’s Feet which is used to bless the devotees).

Screenshot_2015-05-26-15-03-23-1Sadaari is said to be the form of Sri NammAzhwar who is also named as “Sadagopan”. As Sri NammAzhwar says in his Thiruvai Mozhi, that all our sins will vanish if we strongly attach ourselves to the divine feet, the Thiruvadi of Sriman Narayanan. He also explains that this is the Universal way of attaining Moksha. Throughout this work he reassures us that reading and understanding Thiruvai Mozhi is the surest way towards eternal bliss.

Since, his Thiruvai Mozhi can’t reach all the people in this world   Sri NammAzhwar himself is found as “Sri Sadaari” in all the Vaishnavite temple as an alternate way to attain his blessings. In the Sri Sadaari, we can find the Thiruvadis (two feet at the top of the Sadaari), which are said to be the feet of Sriman Narayanan signifying that Sri NammAzhwar is holding the Thiruvadi of Sriman Narayanan on his head. Hence we bow down our head to get the Sadaari in reverence and humility.

NammAzhwar composed the following Pasurams:

  1. Thiruviruttam (100 verses as the essence of Rig Veda)
  2. ThiruvAsiriyam (7 verses as the essence of Yajur Veda)
  3. Periya ThiruvandhAdhi (87 verses as the essence of Atharvana Veda)
  4. Thiruvai Mozhi (1002 verses as the essence of Sama Veda)

The sentiments expressed in every single Pasuram reflects the bhakti and ecstasy of NammAzhwar which transports us to a divine and emotive feelings of bhakti for Sriya pathih Sriman Narayanan.

Sri Parasara Bhattar wrote this thaniyan for NammAzhwar:

vAn thigazhum sOlai madhil arangar vAn pugazh mEl / Aanra thamizh maraigal Ayiraum- EenRa /
mudhal thAi sadagOpan moymbAl vaLarttha / Edhat thAi ErAmAnujan /

NammAzhwar summarised his writings thus:
mikka iRainilaiyum meyyAm uyir nilaiyum/ thakka neRiyum thadaiYAgi -thokkiyalum/
Oozh vinaiyum vAzhvinaiyum Odhum kurugaiyOr kOn/ yAzhin isai vEdaththiyal.

The ThiruvAimozhi” (tamil Vedam) composed by kurugaiyor kon-NammAzhwar, contains the five realities namely:

  1. The nature of the Eternal ParamAtma
  2. The nature of the Eternal JivAtma
  3. The means for the JivAtma to attain the goal of ParamAtma
  4. The blocks and hurdles on the way
  5. The goal of life i.e Moksha.

NammAzhwar thiruvadigale saranam   _/\_

376.   Kshobhanah – The Creator of Commotion

The Interpretation for this is derived from the root ‘Kshubh’ which means ‘to agitate’ or ‘to disturb violently’. Sri Adi Sankara explains this as ‘Sargakaale Prakritim Purusham cha pravishya kshobhayaamaasa – At the time of Creation, He entered Prakriti (the Primordial Matter) and Purusha (the Cosmic Consciousness) and agitated or stirred them together to bring about the Universe into being’.

Sri Parasara Bhattar’s explanation is ‘bandhaarhaan kshobayati iti Kshobhanah – One who Creates tumult in the minds of those who are seen to be enslaved in Samsara or the routine life cycle’.

Vishnu Puranam (1.2.29) describes this describes this process as:
‘Prakritim Purusham chaiva Pravishya Aatmecchayaa Harih  |
Pravishya Kshobhayaamaasa Sargakaale Vyaavyayau             ||
Meaning: Bhagavan entered the mutable Prakriti and the immutable Purusha at the time of Creation and forcefully mixed them together to Create the Universe’.

An alternate interpretation, supported by Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha, Swami ChinmayAnanda and others is that He is Kshobanah because He keeps the beings in the Universe vibrant by being their antaryami and keeping them constantly in motion.

377.   Devah – He sports Himself with his Creation

Sri Adi Sankara gives the explanation ‘Yatah Deevyati Kreedati Sargaadibhih, Vijigeeshate suraareen, Vyavaharati sarvabhooteshu, Aatmatayaa dyotate, Stooyate Stutyaih, Sarvatra gacchati Tasmaat Devah – The play of Creation, the desire to conquer the enemies of gods, functioning and shining in all beings, being praised by holy men, pervading and ever present etc., are the reasons for Him being called Devah. He is constantly enacting his Leelas, ever dazzling with his personality, goes anywhere and everywhere at Will and is worshipped by his devotees.

krsna-opens-his-mouthSvetasvatara Upanishad says ‘Eko devah sarva bhooteshu goodhah (6.11) – There is only one God who is hidden deep inside in all things that exist’.

Sri Bhattar says DIvyati krIdati iti devah – He plays with the Jivas by binding them with Maya or Prakriti.

Sri V V Ramanujan refers to Divya Prabandham and quotes from NammAzhwars Thiruvai Mozhi 3.10.7:

துன்பமும் இன்பமு மாகிய செய்வினை யாயுல கங்களுமாய்,
இன்பமில் வெந்நர காகி இனியநல் வான் சுவர்க் கங்களுமாய்,
மன்பல் லுயிர்களு மாகிப் பலபல மாய மயக்குகளால்,
இன்புரும் இவ்விளை யாட்டுடை யானைப்பெற் றேதுமல் லலிலனே. [3226]
Through his many tricks of Maya He created the world of pleasure and pain, heaven and hell and the countless souls.  All this is His Cosmic Leela or sport, so I end my despair and praise Him.

Swami ChinmayAnanda points out that the term Divyati means “to shine’, ‘to conquer’, ‘to praise’, etc.

378.   Sri-Garbhah – He has Lakshmi or the Prakriti in Him

IMG_9178The word ‘Sri’ has many meanings such as Goddess Lakshmi, Wealth, Beauty and Magnificence. Garbhah means the womb or the source or the place where life is created. Combining these two Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama as ‘Sri Vibhootih yasya udaraantare Jagadroopaa yasya garbhe sthitaa sa Srigarbhah – He is the source of all the magnificence we see in the Universe, hence He is Srigarbhah’.

Sri Parasara Bhattar takes Sri to mean Lakshmi Devi and so his interpretation is ‘Bhogakreedaa sahaayatvena vardhaneeyaa asya Srih iti Sri-garbhah – He is inseparable from Sri or Lakshmi in His sports’.

He is inseparably united with Lakshmi in His play as Deva. Vishnoh esha anapaayini – She is ever inseparable from Vishnu (Vishnu Purana – 1.9.144).

Sri V.V.Ramanujan refers to Divya Prabandham and quotes NammAzhwar’s Thiruvai Mozhi (10-10-7):
கோல மலரிப்பாவைக் கன்பா கியவென்
அன்பேயோநீல வரையிரண்டு பி றைகவ்வி
நிமிர்ந்த தொப்பகோல வராகமொன் றாய்நிலங்
கோட்டிடைக் கொண்டேந்தாய்நீலக்
கடல்கடைந் தாயுன்னைப் பெற்றினிப் போக்குவனோ?          [3996]
Varaha 4Meaning: O’ My Lord, you became the beloved of the Lotus-dame! Forming like a dark mountain with a crescent moon on you came as a boar and took the Earth between your tusks.  O Lord who churned the ocean, how can I let you go! Swami Chinmayananda gives the interpretation that He has all the glories (Sri) in Himself, and so He is Sri-garbhah.

The Dharma Chakram writer points out that just like a mother protects her child in her womb with care or a jnaani his knowledge, so does Sri MahaVishnu by keeping the Universe within Him as Sri-garbhah. The Universe exists with the care and protection of Bhagavan just like the child within a mother’s womb.

hiranyagarbhaSri Satyadevo Vashishtha points out that Bhagavan is the antaryaami or the inner-dweller inside everyone in this Universe (Sri), and He is the garbha (hiranya-garbha or the primordial egg or Anda) of the Universe, and so He is called Sri-garbhah.

379.   Parameshvarah – He is the Supreme Ruler

Param means above all and Eeshanasheelah means that He acts as the prime leader. Sri Adi Sankara defines this as ‘Paramashcha asau Eeshanasheelash cha – He is the Supreme Leader and also a Ruler, hence He is called Parameshvarah’.

Aishwarya means Lordship and Bhagavan is Parameshvarah because He is the Lord of all, including Maha Lakshmi. Thirumangai Azhwar’s in Periya ThiruMozhi 7.7.1 sang this Pasuram:

திருவுக் கும்திரு வாகிய செல்வா தெய்வத் துக்கர சேசெய்ய கண்ணா,
உருவச் செஞ்சுட ராழிவல் லானே உலகுண் டவொரு வா.திரு மார்பா,
ஒருவற் காற்றியுய் யும்வகை யென்றால் உடனின் றைவரென் னுள்புகுந்து, ஒழியா
தருவித் தின்றிட அஞ்சிநின் னடைந்தேன் அழுந்தூர் மேல்திசை நின்றவம் மானே.  [1608]

: The Wealth of the Goddess of Wealth Lakshmi, with thick hue of cloud over you and eyes like that of the Lotus, O’ King of Gods, the beautiful radiant Discus wielder, the swallower of the Worlds and the bearer of Sri on his chest, when even one of the senses is hard to absorb your splendour, you have entered through all of the five senses (eyes, ears, nose, tongue and skin) at the same time! I am overwhelmed with this Bliss, O’ the Lord, the resident to the West of Therizhandur!

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri derives the meaning from para ma – parama- Mahalakshmi, One who is above all Shaktis. This Parama voluntarily seeks the place in His vaksha-sthala or chest and serves Him; thus He is ‘Paramaayaah Eeshvarah’ – Parameshvarah.

The Dharma Chakram writer indicates that just as a human being when in control of senses does well in ruling over himself, Bhagavan who is always in full control of all the beings is Parameshvarah or Ruler of the Universe.

Sri Satyadevo Vashishtha gives an interpretation based on maa as Shobha. Parameshvarah thus denotes One who has Supreme Shobha. The Lord has full control of Shobha, hence He attracts and controls everything because of this – Para maayasya sa paramah sa cha asau Eeshvarah Parameshvarah, hence He is Parameshvarah.

The next 4 Namas belong to one logical group. All 4 of them cover different aspects of ‘Karma’, or action. They describe how Bhagavan controls different aspects of every single action. Every action has 3 prime components, the doer, the cause and the instrument (Who, Why and How?) and Bhagavan relates to all 3 of them.

380.   Karanam – He is the means of Creation                                                           

Sri Adi Sankara interprets Karanam as ‘Jagadutpattau Saadhakatamam Karanam – He is the prime instrument in the Creation of the World, hence he is called Karanam’.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha gives the derivation ‘Kriyate anena iti Karanam – that by which or through whom an act is done’.  Bhagavan is the only means for attaining Him. The eyes, ears, nose, tongue and skin, the five senses are the means of knowledge bestowed by Bhagavan.  Karanam is the Cause that makes the beings act using the Karanas or tools.

Sri V.V.Ramanujan points us to Panini’s words – Saadhaka-tamam karanam – Karanam is the means or Sadhanas or the principal instrument for doing something. He also reminds us of the Nama “Hrisheekesha” in this context – He who is the Eesha or Lord of the Indriyas – the eyes, ears, nose, tongue and skin are the Gnanendriyas and the legs, hands, mouth, rectum and reproductive organs are the Karmendriyas. Beyond these Indriyas, there are the antah-karanas which are the chitta or the mind, buddhi or the intellect, and ahamkara or the ego which are also controlled by Bhagavan.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri distinguishes Karanam from the next Nama – Kaaranam, by interpreting Karanam as the primary Cause, and Kaaranam as the supplementary Causes. Bhagavan is both the primary Cause and the supplementary Cause in the act of Creation. He gives the example of making a pot from clay. Both the clay and some mechanism with instruments are needed for this process. But these alone will not result in the production of the clay pot, unless there is the conscious involvement of the maker of the pot. Bhagavan is the reason for not only the primary cause but all the other causes as well.

Swami ChinmayAnanda explains Kaaranam as “He who from whom the Universe arises”.

381.   Kaaranam – He is the Cause of Creation

Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Upaadaanam Nimittam cha Kaaranam – He is the primary as well as the secondary cause for all (including the Creation of the Universe) hence he is called Kaaranam’. He is both the gold (upaadaanam) and the goldsmith (nimittam) creating the gold ornament. He is both the clay and the potter resulting in the pot, which is the Universe.

The Dharma Chakram writer points out that to control the jnaanendriyas, the karmendriyas, the antah-karanaas etc. meditation on Sri MahaVishnu is the means. He also refers us to the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 12 Verse 9) to point out: “Abhyaasa yogena tatah Maam icchaaptum Dhananjaya” – The way to achieve this control is firm determination (Vairaagya) and disciplined practice (Abhyaasa).

Bhagavan is the only means by which one can attain Him. The Indriyas are the means of knowledge using which one attains the Kaaranam or the Ultimate Goal by constantly meditating on Him. Swami ChinmayAnanda explains Kaaranam as “He who causes the Universe to arise”.

382.   Kartaa – He is the Agent who causes other to act

1511502_716731801705171_1904257645_nSri Adi Sankara simply defines this as ‘Kartaa svatantratah – He is a doer independent of others’. Other people’s actions are simply a reaction to external events. They are not svatantra or independent of others. But Bhagavan’s deeds are spontaneous and not dependent on external factors.

Sri Parasara Bhattar’s interpretation of Kartaa is that Bhagavan is the Agent who causes others to act.

Swami ChinmayAnanda quotes Paanini – svatantrah Karta – One who freely and independently performs the functions of creation, protection and destruction, is the “Doer”.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri points out that He is Kartaa because without Him, the mere existence of the Pancha bhootas etc. could not have resulted in the Universe, just as the presence of clay without the presence of a pot maker could not have resulted in the creation of a pot. Even though the JivAtmas may think that they are independent in their acts, nothing functions without His Will – Bhagavan is the only svatantra Kartaa – One who acts independently of everything else.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan refers us to NammAzhwar’s Thiruvai Mozhi 5.6.4 –
செய்கின்ற கிதியெல்லாம் யானே என்னும்,
செய்வானின் றனகளும் யானே என்னும்,
செய்துமுன் னிறந்தனவும் யானே என்னும்,
செய்கைப்பய னுண்பேனும் யானே என்னும்,
செய்வார்களைச் செய்வேனும் யானே என்னும்,
செய்யகம லக்கண்ண னேறக் கொலோ?
செய்யவுல கத்தீர்க் கிவையென் சொல்லுகேன்,
செய்ய கனிவா யிளமான் திறத்தே.                                   [3399]
Meaning: “All that is being done is Me; all that remains undone is Me; all that has been done is also Me. I enjoy the fruit of all action; motivation too is Me. The Lotus-eyed Lord has possessed her (Lakshmi). What can I say?  Bhagavan just does not stop with being the Agent, He also feels the effects of the actions of the JivAtmas as if they were His own.

‘Vyasaneshu manushyaanaam bhrisham bhavati duhkhitah utsaveshu ca sarveshu piteva paritushyati’ – When the people of Ayodhya suffered, Rama suffered more than they did, and when they were happy, He felt happy like a father. After crowning Vibheeshana, Lord Rama felt very fulfilled – krita krityah pramumoda ha.

383.            Vikartaa – He who Creates a World of varieties

According to Sri Adi Sankara ‘Vichitram Bhuvanam kriyate iti Vikartaa sa eva Bhagavan Vishnuh – He Creates this varied Universe, hence He is called Vikartaa, the change maker’.

indian-faunasSri Parasara Bhattar says He is Avikaarah, the changeless one but he makes everything else change over time which is part of his Leela or the Cosmic play. The Universe is but an extension of Him, and since the Universe undergoes modifications constantly, it can be said that a part of Him too undergoes modifications. He has no joy or sorrow that results from His own act; but since He considers others’ acts as His own and feels one with the joys and sorrows of His creations, the resulting vikaara or modification and feeling of joy and sorrow is for the sake of His creation.

Lord Rama did not experience joy when He was crowned, nor did was He sorrowful when He lost it the next day.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri points out that His creation is Vichitra because it is beyond comprehension, and He did it as His Leela.

The Dharma Chakram writer points that in addition, no two minds are same and no two beings are the same. We don’t know our past; we don’t know where we go after we pass away, nor how many more births we have to go through. We go through birth after birth, and in each birth we learn that the external pleasures are not real pleasures, but we don’t carry this memory and experience to the next birth. Time does not leave anyone behind, but we ignore this and try to immerse ourselves in the pleasures of our Indriyas. All these are the vichitras of His Creation.

384.            Gahanah – He who is deep and inscrutable

Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Svaroopam Saamarthyam Cheshtitam vaa tasya jnaatum na shakyate iti Gahanah – His real nature, His prowess and His actions cannot be fully understood, hence He is called Gahanah, the deep and inscrutable one’.

Sri Parasara Bhattar explains that He is beyond our intellect and reasoning.  He is inside all of us, and yet we don’t know Him.  Brihadaaranyaka Upanishad (5.7.3) says ‘Yah Prithivyas Tishthan yam Prithvee Na Veda – He who is in the earth but whom the world does not know’.

Sri Radhakrishna Sastri refers to the Kathopanishad (1.21) and says ‘Tam durdarsham goodham anupravishtham guhaahitam gahvareshthham puraanam – He is invisible yet deeply embedded within us’.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan refers to NammAzhwar’s ThiruvaiMozhi (1-9-2)- ‘Vinnavarkku ennal ariyaan’ – He is in all the gods but the gods don’t know Him.  He is both the eye and the object to be seen – Cakshushca drashtavyam ca Narayanah.

The Dharma Chakram writer takes us through several instances Krishna’s Leelas to illustrate this point. The Gopika vastraapaharanam, the instance of Putana, the lifting of the Govardhana Giri, the episode of being tied by Yashoda by a rope etc., illustrate our inability to understand Him through our logic and rationale. The only way to understand Him is through devotion.

385.   Guhah – He is the Saviour

Sri Parasara Bhattar’s interpretation is ‘Guhati Rakshati iti Guhah – He protects his devotees, hence He is called Guhah’.

Sri Adi Sankara explains this as ‘Guhate Samvrinoti Svaroopaadi Nijamaayayaa iti Guhah – He conceals his real nature and aspects using his Maya or power of illusion hence he is called Guhah’.

In the Bhagavad Gita (7.25) Bhagavan says ‘Naaham Prakaashas sarvasya Yogamaayaa samaavritah – Covered by the power of Maya I am not perceived by most people’. One who hides Himself effectively from non-devotees.

Sri V.V.Ramanujan gives reference from NammAzhwar’s Thiruvai Mozhi (2.2.9) – Kakkum iyalvinan Kanna Perumaan – Krishna, the One who has taken upon Himself to be the protector.

Swami Chinmayananda gives reference to VishnuBhagavata 10.37.11 – ‘Gudho guhashayah sakshi maha purusha Eeshvarah – The Lord, the Great Purusha, the witness who dwells in most secretively.’

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri adds that His protection is like that of a mother protecting the child in her womb. Bhagavan remains concealed and he refers us to Katha Upanishad 3.12 – ‘Eshas sarveshu bhooteshu goodhaatmaa naprakaashate – He is hidden in every being but not visible’.

In the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 9 Verse 11) Krishna says:
Avajaananti maam moodhaa maanusheem tanuaashritam  |
param bhaavamajaananto mama bhoota maheshvaram      ||
Meaning: Since I am in a human form people underestimate Me and do not realise My Cosmic eminence’.

Yet another interpretation, given by Shri R. Anantakrishna Shastri, is that He reclines in the heart (Guhah) of all. Mundaka Upanishad describes Him as Nihitam Guhaayaam meaning He is hidden in our heart.


Udbhavah Kshobhano Devah Srigarbhah Parameshvarah     |
Karanam Kaaranam Kartaa Vikartaa Gahano Guhah            ||41||

RangaBhagavan is the basic or primary Cause of Creation of the Universe, hence He is called ‘Udbhavah’. He Creates tumult in the minds of those who are seen to be enslaved in Samsara or the routine life cycle, so He is Kshobhanah.

He is constantly enacting his Leelas, ever dazzling with his personality, goes anywhere and everywhere at Will and is worshipped by his devotees and hence called Devah.

He is Sri-garbhah as He is inseparable from Sri or Lakshmi in His sports or Leelas.  He is the Supreme Leader and also a Ruler, hence He is called Parameshvarah.

He is the prime instrument in the Creation of the Universe and hence he is called Karanam.

He is the primary as well as the secondary cause for all (including the Creation of the Universe) hence he is called Kaaranam. He is Kartaa and the Agent who causes others to act.

The varied Universe was created by Him and hence He is called Vikartaa, the change maker.

He is called Gahanah as His real nature, His prowess and His actions cannot be fully understood and He is deep and inscrutable one.

He is called Guhah as He protects his devotees. He is also known as Guhah as He conceals his real nature and aspects using his Maya or power of illusion while remaining hidden in our heart.



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



  1. Greetings! Congrats on your 50th episode. Wishing you a grand success in all your endeavors. Liked your simple and meaningful explanations. Never felt like an overdose. It comes in the right package. I don’t know shlokas, began to develop a liking towards this blog and to be honest this is the only blog I follow on a regular basis, your blog is very enlightening and I love the way you text. I can see that you are doing great guns, wishing you much more. Cheers!

  2. Hari om from Nicholas Herman. I have read this 50th part for Mr.Nicholas and he felt very overwhelmed and was moved to tears and has sent his humble wishes to both of you. He will be back soon to read and comment on his own. He has blessed both of you with long life and good health. Amen from Mr.Nicholas Hermen.

  3. Hari om and congrats on your 50th part of Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam. You have celebrated beautifully with the story of Namalvar. We are indeed blessed to receive such a wonderful post in our inbox right where ever we are. We don’t have to make any effort to even search or move an inch. God bless you sir for your efforts in spreading god’s gospel. Thank you sir hari om!

  4. Hari Om to you sir, Congratulations on your 50th part. We are very happy that we subscribed to this divine blog. Its definitely one of the best that we have come across. May you bring divine inspiration to many more.
    Brahmaarpanam Brahma Havir
    Brahmagnau Braahmanaa Hutam
    Brahmaiva Tena Gantavyam
    Brahma Karma Samadhina
    Any means of offering is Brahman, the oblation is Brahman, the fire in which the offering is made is Brahman, and the one who offers is Brahman. Such a person who abides in Brahman indeed gains Brahman.
    This shloka is dedicated to you sir, for your religious offering to this world. God bless!

  5. It is heartening to note that apart from completing 50 Parts so far we have also secured more than 50,000 hits for the blog, must be a record for a purely noncommercial spiritual blog! Well done Sridhar Acharya.

    • Thanks to you too 🙂

      I think there isn’t anything comparable to this blog as it brings together several things that makes it unique. The key features that make it different to everything else are:
      1. An easy to follow commentary together with multiple view points;
      2. Integrated with references from the Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita and Divya Prabhandam;
      3. A relevant Story to illustrate the Guna or attribute;
      4. Amply illustrated with pictures to make it vivid and lively.

      Above all, Aandavan Anugraham!

      Om Namo Narayana! Hari Om!

  6. This is Perumal’s Anugraham…let me explain in short…my soninlaw going to buy one small house.I want to pray for this. First I want to go to Srimushnam and worship Bhoovaraha swamy…then I want to go to Mahapalipuram…Sri Nithya Kalyana Perumal…but my wife told, we will go to Ennayiram (a small village…near Tindivanam…there is one Azhagiya Narasinga Perumal Temple…very old temple…Sri Ramanuja defeated 8000 Jains and they become “Sri Vaishnavas” and the another story about this village is a Smartha Brahmin sub-sect “Ashtasakasram” emerged from this village..whatever may be story….but this is the place where one Nachiyaar ready to give herself to a merchant, in order to ;feed the Thirukoshti of Sri Ramanujar…(you know the story) Sri Narasimhan with Thayaar is really beautiful…made up of greenstone (Marakatha Pachchaikal) but due to Sultan Invasion, this Narasimhar was mutilated….broken right hand…
    In this temple, there is one shrine…where Sri Bhoovaraha Perumal with Bhudevi Thayar…in a Upadesam paisture…one leg on the earth and the another one on ;the head of Periya Thiruvadi…He is 5 feet tall. We prayed…did archanai etc., and returned….Now I received this mail…with Sri Bhoovaraha perumal…I received Narasimhar, and other perumal pictures….but this is ;the first one…and by this way he accepted and recognised me, though I am not all a qualified..(Puzhuvai kattilum keezhanavan) I am very happy and kindly accept my thanks.

    We are living in Kanchipuram…adjacent street of Sri Varadharaja Perumal Temple…tomorrow “Karuda Sevai”on this Holy Occasion I am praying to you and for and others with you. Thanking you once again…Namaskaram.

  7. Hari om Uncle! Excellent story! I want to visit this Puliyamaram to see its wonder. At first I did not follow the difference between Karanam and Kaaranam. I called my Shloka Maam’ and asked her, she explained to me. The big images are very beautiful.
    sarva-pratyaya-hetave I
    asata cchayayoktaya
    sad-abhasaya te namaha II

    Thank you Uncle! You are a messenger of God!
    Hari om!

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