In this part we will explore the meaning of the 70th Shloka of Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam.

Shloka 70
Kaamadevah Kaamapaalah Kaamee Kaantah Kritaagamah |
Anirdeshyavapur Vishnuh Veero Ananto Dhananjayah       ||70||

He is the wish-fulfilling Deity and the Protector of desires. He has all things that are desirable and He Himself is an object of desire for His devotees.  He is Charming and is also the Composer of all Vedas, Shrutis and Smritis. He is of Undefinable form who can simultaneously assume many forms. He is all pervasive and present in everything and everywhere. He is Valiant and Eternal whose Wealth is Limitless as He is the winner of all treasures.

The above Shloka has the following Namas:

  1. Kaamadevah
  2. Kaamapaalah
  3. Kaamee
  4. Kaantah
  5. Kritaagamah
  6. Anirdeshyavapur
  7. Vishnuh
  8. Veero
  9. Ananto
  10. Dhananjayah

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

  1. Kaamadevah – The One Who grants all Desires

tirupathi-balajiThe word ‘Kaama’ means ‘desire’ and ‘Deva’ means ‘God’. On this basis, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Dharmaadi Purushaasrtha chatushtayam Vaancchadbhih Kaamyate iti Kaamah, Sa cha asau Devashcha iti Kaamadevah – He is desired by those seeking the four Purushaarthas namely Dharma (Virtue), Artha (Wealth), Kaama (Pleasure) and Moksha (Liberation) and He is Deva, so He is called Kaamadevah’. Apart from the seeking the four goals of life He is the most desired object to attain and He is himself Kaama or Desire. He is both the Desire and the Deva and hence He is called Kaamadevah.

Sri Parasara Bhattar interprets this as ‘Kaaman dIvyati iti Kaama-devah’ – One who gifts all that His devotees desire.  The term “dIvyati” signifies Dhaana-Karma. He quotes from MahaBharata (Shanti Parva) to support his interpretation ‘Kaamadevastu Bhagavan sarveshaam sarva-Kaamadah’ meaning ‘The Lord is known as Kaama-Deva as He grants all the desires of all beings’.

Kaama or desire can either be consistent with Dharma or contrary to Dharma.  The Kaama that one should seek is the one that is consistent with Dharma.  In the Bhagavad Gita Chapter 7 Verse 11, Bhagavan says:
Balam balavatam caham kama-raga-vivarjitam
Dharmaviruddho bhutesu kamo ‘smi bharatarsabha ||
Meaning: O’Arjuna, I am the strength of the strong devoid of attachment; I am the passion and energy of procreation in all beings which is not contrary to Dharma.

Swami ChinmayAnanda interprets this as He is the beloved Lord who is to be worshipped by the seekers who strive for the four aspirations in life (Purusharthas).  He also gives an alternate meaning that this Nama as also refers to Bhagavan’s Pradyumna vyuha since Pradyumna is an incarnation of Kaama (love).

The Dharma Chakram writer points out that by worshipping Bhagavan, the Kaamadeva, one can develop the enrichment of the desire that is consistent with Dharma, and move away from the Kaama that is opposed to Dharma.  One should chant the Nama of Kaamadeva to grow the Dharmic Kaama.

  1. Kaama-paalah – The Protector of the gifts that He bestows

Sri_Krishna_largeSri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Kaaminaam kaamaan paalayati iti Kaamapaalah – He protects the desires (or the objects of desire) for those who desire them’.

In the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 9 Verse 22) Bhagavan says:
Ananyaas Chintayanto mam ye janah paryupasate               |
Teshaam nityabhiyuktaanaam Yoga-khsemam vahamy aham ||
Meaning: For those who desire my eternal association precluding all else meditate on Me with exclusive devotion, I take full responsibility for uniting their individual consciousness with the Ultimate Consciousness perpetually. I provide them with what they lack and preserve what they have.

So not only does Bhagavan bestow their desires but also protects them so that they do not lose what they already have, hence He is Kaamapaalah, the protector of the desires.

Sri Parasara Bhattar interprets that this Nama refers to Bhagavan’s Guna of protecting that which He has bestowed as Kaamadevah – ‘Sa eva datta (Kaaman) Anupaalanaat Kaama-Devah’.

Swami ChinmayAnanda interprets Kaama as referring to those who desire Him, and then extends the meaning to Kaamapaalah as One who protects those who desire Him. He also refers to the Bhagavan’s incarnation as Balarama (Halaayudhah) as wielder of the plough as the Kaama-Paalah.

  1. Kaamee – He who has all things that are desirable

Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Poornakaama svaroopatvaat Kamee – He has all desires fulfilled hence He is Kamee or one with sated desires’. Bhagavan has everything He can possibly desire and has nothing more to be fulfilled or nothing further to achieve. He is Poorna or the Perfect one and hence He is called Kaamee.  He only desires for His devotees.

Sri Parasara Bhattar gives the interpretation that He is Kaamee because He has everything that is desired.  Sri V.V. Ramanujan emphasises the abundance of all good things that He possesses, such that He can bestow anything to the devotees that they want.

  1. Kaantah – He is Charming

aniruddhaWe covered this Nama earlier in Shloka (Nama 297).  Sri Adi Sankara gives two interpretations for this Nama. The first is ‘Abhiroopatamam Deham vahan Kaantah – He carries the most charming body or form hence He is called Kaantah’. We have also seen Namas like Shubhaangah, Hemaangah, Svaangah and Varaangah describing the beauty of His body.  The second interpretation is based on the fact that Ka means Bramha, the Creator and Antah means termination. It is ‘Dviparaardhaante Kasya Bramhanah api Antah asmaat iti vaa Kaantah – Since He is the Cause of the end of Bramha at the end of the Paraardha (100,00 billion years), He is called Kaantah’. He is the terminator of Bramha, the Creator at the end of the allotted term and is appropriately called Kaantah.

Sri Parasara Bhattar gives the interpretation – ‘sa eva svayameva KaamanIyah Kaantah –  He is, by Himself, fascinating’. Under the earlier occurrence of this Nama, Sri Bhattar indicated that this natural charm of Bhagavan is because of His eternal Saukumaaryam, Saundaryam, etc. – Svayam Saundarya, Saukumaaryaadi rupa Gunaih. 

Sri V.V. Ramanujan refers to NammAzhwar’s Thiruvai Mozhi – (7.1.7):
ஒன்று சொல்லி ஒருத்தினில் நிற்கிலாத ஒரைவர் வன்கயவரை,
என்று யான்வெல் கிற்பனுன் திருவருளில் லையேல்?,
அன்று தேவர் அசுரர் வாங்க அலைகட லரவம் அளாவி,ஓர்
குன்றம் வைத்த எந்தாய் கொடியேன் பருகின்னமுதே!
Meaning:  My Lord, you churned the ocean with gods and the Asuras, with a snake rolled around a mountain planted in the deep and gave the nectar to the Devas. How will I ever control my senses to enjoy my sweet Ambrosia Lord if your grace is not forthcoming?

Unlike the Devas who made Him strain Himself by churning the ocean for getting the nectar for them, the Azhwar just wants to drink Him directly, because He is the ‘amudam’ or nectar Himself! 

Sri Ramanujan also gives reference to Kulasekhara Azhwar’s Perumal Thirumozhi 8.2:  ‘Kandavar tam manam vazhangum kana purattu en karu maniye! – Those who see Him in Thirukkannapuram, just lose themselves to Him and surrender to His beauty – such is His Charm’.

Swami ChinmayAnanda gives the meaning that the Lord is Enchanting.  He gives another meaning that the Lord is Kaantah as the terminator of Brahma at the end of Brahma’s term.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha derives another interpretation based on the root kani – dipti kaanti gatishu, and gives the meaning that He is around everywhere, and He is Effulgent.

The Story of Nappinnai

nappinnai (1)Lord Krishna was only a child while residing in Vrindavan. Yashoda and Nanda Gopan hadn’t even performed the Upanayanam ceremony for Him.

Neela Devi Nachiar incarnated as the daughter of Yashoda’s brother Kumban who lived near present day Nepal.  She came to be called as “Pinnai” for her lovely locks and the prefix “nal” was added to her name thus changing her name to Nappinnai. As soon as Nappinnai incarnated, Kumban purchased seven identical male calves and raised the seven bulls. He vowed that the young man who would control the seven would win his daughter’s hand in marriage when she came of age.

The next day when Kumban visited the barn, he was surprised to see that the calves had grown into adult bulls overnight as they were Asuras in disguise. The bulls started to torment the people and Kumban was unable to find a person who could control them. Soon Nappinnai turned three years old when Yashoda visited her brother along with a five year old Krishna.

Kumban remarked, ‘Your son is very Charming! I can see that He will turn into a handsome youth. I wish I can promise Nappinnai to Him but I made a foolish vow that I will give her hand in marriage only to the man who can control all seven bulls tied in my barn,’ said Kumban.

‘Uncle, don’t worry,’ said Krishna, ‘I will subdue those bulls this very second!’ Kumban laughed at the sweet child but was terrified when Krishna went about in search of the bulls.

7bulls‘Yashoda stop your son! I am afraid that He might get hurt!’ screamed Kumban.

As Yashoda and Kumban rushed to the barn they found that Krishna had killed all seven bulls with one blow!

‘What a marvel!’ exclaimed Kumban. As promised he gave Nappinnai in marriage to Krishna but as they were only children, Kumban allowed Yashoda to take Nappinnai with her so that she could raise them together. 

Sri Andal refers to Nappinnai in two of her Pasurams in Thiruppavai.
உந்து மதகளிற்றன் ஓடாத தோள்வலியன்

நந்தகோ பாலன் மருமகளே நப்பின்னாய்
கந்தம் கமழும் குழலி கடைதிறவாய்  [Thiruppavai 18]
Meaning: After waking up Nanda Gopalan and Yashoda, the Gopis proceeded to wake Goddess Nappinnai who is the consort of Lord Krishna and the incarnation of Neela Devi Nachiar. ‘Oh daughter in law of the mighty Nanda Gopalan who has big elephants, O’ Nappinai, the lady with fragrant looks, please open the door.

Nappinnaiசெப்பென்ன மென்முலைச் செவ்வாய்ச் சிறுமருங்குல்
நப்பின்னை நங்காய் திருவே துயில்எழாய்
உக்கமும் தட்டொளியும் தந்துஉன் மணாளனை
இப்போதே எம்மை நீராட்டேலோர் எம்பாவாய். [Thiruppavai 20]
Meaning: Wake up, O’ beautiful lady Nappinnai with slender waist and coral lips! Give us your fan and your mirror, and let us attend on your husband now.

Periazhwar sang about Nappinnai in his neeratam pasurams as ‘Nappinnai, with the beautiful bangles, who adorns the chest of the Lord, who measured the Earth’.

Sri NammAzhwar in his Thiruvai Mozhi Pasuram (4.8.4) says:
நிறையினாற் குறைவில்லா நெடும்பணைத்தோள் மடப்பின்னை,
பொறையினால் முலையணைவான் பொருவிடைஏழ் அடர்த்துகந்த,
கறையினார் துவருடுக்கை கடையாவின் கழிகோல்கை,
சறையினார் கவராத தளிர்நிறத்தால் குறைவிலமே.
Meaning: The Lord wears a pearl necklace, and robes dyed red.  He carries a milk-pail and a grazing staff.  He deftly subdued seven fierce bulls for the joy of embracing the beautiful Nappinnai who has slender arms; if He does not desire my pink cheeks, I have no regrets.

Jai Shri Krishna|

  1. Kritaagamah – The Revealer of the Sacred Mantras to the Pure

hayagrivaThis Nama has several meanings:

  1. He is the Revealer of the Sacred Mantras to the Pure minded
  2. He who has propounded the Pancaratra Agamas
  3. He Who has given us the Shrutis and the Smritis
  4. He from Whom the Krita Yuga emerged
  5. He who victoriously entered the gathering of His kith and kin after slaying Keshi
  6. He Who appears to His devotees again and again in whatever form they desire

Krita means ‘created’ or ‘produced’ and Aagama refers to all scriptures including Vedas, Upanishads and Puranas.

Sri Adi Shankara interprets this as ‘Krita Aagamah Shruti Smriti Aadi lakshanah yena sah Kritaagamah – One by whom all scriptures comprising of Vedas and other supporting scriptures were created’. Bhagavan himself has declared ‘Shruti Smritee Mamaiva Aajne – Vedas and other scriptures are my own edicts’. Being the creator of all Shruti and Smriti, Bhagavan is called Kritaagamah.

The phalashruti of Vishnu Sahasranamam says ‘Vedaas Shaastraani Vijnaanam Etat sarvam Janardanaat – The Vedas, Shastras and the sciences all came from Janaardana (Vishnu), that is Bhagavan Himself’. So He is verily Kritaagamah.

Sri Parasara Bhattar explains the Nama as referring to Bhagavan being the Revealer of the sacred Mantras to those who are pure-minded.  Every Mantra has a Mantra-Draashta associated with it, the Seer or the Sage who is associated with the revelation of that Mantra.  It is He who reveals Himself to the Mantra-Draashta in the form of the Mantra, thus He is called Kritaagamah.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj gives the derivation – ‘krito viracita Upadishto va Agamah Pancaratra-Shastram yena iti Kritaagamah – He is called Kritaagamah because He propounded the Pancaratra Agama.  The Pancaratra Agama was given to us directly by Bhagavan, and thus has the same authority as the Vedas. 

Sri AnnangaAcharya gives the following interpretation from Divya Prabandham – “Kalaigalum vedamum needi noolum karpagamum sol porul taanum matrai nilaigalum vaanavarkkum pirarkkum neermaiyinaal arul Seidavar (Peria Thirumozhi 2.8.5)” – He Who gave the Vedas, Vedanta Sutras, itihaasas, kalpa sutras, vyaakarana, mImaamsaa, etc., to the Devas and to the Mansuhyas, by His sheer kindness towards them. 

Swami ChinmayAnanda gives the interpretation He is the One who inaugurates the Krita Yuga (Krita Agamah) after the completion of Brahma’s term as interpreted in previous Nama Kaantah.  Thus, He is the One into whom the whole world dissolves at the time of Pralaya, and from whom the world re-emerges at the beginning of the next Yuga.

Sri Baladeva Vidyabhushan continues his thoughts from the previous Shloka dealing with the slaying of Keshi, and gives the interpretation to the current Nama that He is Kritaagamah because He annihilated Keshi and marched to the assemblage of His kith and kin victoriously (probably the root he draws on is Kr himsayam – to kill, and gam gatau – to go). Here Krita refers to the act of destruction of Keshi, and Agamah refers to His gamana or arrival in the midst of Keshi’s kith and kin.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha uses the roots ‘Kr karane – to do, and gam gatau – to go’,  to derive his meaning, and gives the following interpretation – Krita Agamo yena sa kritaagamah – Bhagavan does the act of appearing to His devotees in whatever form they desire, in response to the stuti of the Strotrams of the devotees.   He bases his interpretation on the Rig-vedic mantra 8.3.13-14:
kadu stuvanta Rtayanta devata Rshih ko vipra ohate     |         
kadaa maghavan indra sunvatah kadu stuvata Agamah   ||
Meaning: “What prayers shall we the mortals sing, so that You will appear in response to the call of the praiser?”

He also goes into further sub-classifications under these.  He points out that all these different categories of Darshans are provided to us by Bhagavan Himself, or by those who are blessed with the right knowledge by Him, in order to guide us towards Him. 

  1. Anirdeshya-vapuh – He is of Indefinable Form

omvibrationThis Nama occurred earlier as Nama 179 (Shloka 19). Nirdesha is to define with certainty. So Anirdeshya refers to something, which cannot be defined or classified with certainty.  Vapuh means shareera or body. So putting these terms together Anirdeshyavapuh means someone whose body cannot be described or defined with certainty.

Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Idam Tad Eedrisham vaa iti nirdeshtum yat na shakyate Gunaadi ateetatvaat tadeva roopam asya iti Anirdeshyavapuh – His form  cannot defined as this or that or like that or that much so He is called Anirdeshyavapuh, one with indescribable form’. He is beyond our senses to comprehend, being unique He cannot be compared to anything known. So He is beyond definition or description, hence He is Anirdeshyavapuh.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj gives the derivation as: ‘na nirdeshtum Sakyam vapuh yasya iti Anirdeshyavapuh – He is Anirdeshya-vapuh because He has a body that is beyond the reach of the mind, words, comprehension etc.

Sri Parasara Bhattar quotes from Maula Samhita, and gives an analysis of the difference between the nature of Bhagavan’s form Vs. our forms.  Our body is formed by the seven great elements – the Panca bhutas (five elements – Water, Air, Earth, Space and Fire), plus Mahat (Intellect) and Ahamkara (Ego).  We possess intellect, mind, body and limbs.  From the Shastras, we know that Bhagavan also has intellect, mind, body and limbs.  So the question arises:  “Of what substance is Bhagavan’s body composed?”, and the answer is given:  Bhagavan’s body is composed of His form itself”.  

In other words, there is nothing else of which He is composed, and so He can’t be described in terms of something else. This Anirdeshya-vapuh is further revealed thus:  “Bhagavan is of indescribable form because His body is knowledge incarnate, Lordship incarnate, power incarnate, like the glowing ember, of the burning khaadira or silk-cotton that has fire on all sides, like pure honey, when drunk, that is sweet on all sides, like a bar of gold that is being polished is gold all around, like a mansion that will be attractive when viewed from all angles.  Similarly, Bhagavan is entirely Lordship and power in full grandeur.  Whatever He wants to become, He becomes”.  It is very clear that this description keeps looking for similes to describe Him unsuccessfully, illustrating that He can’t be described.

Sri Parasara Bhattar also gives reference from the Vishnu Purana (1.2.10-1.2.12), which states the impossibility of describing Him:  “Who can describe Him One who is not apprehended by the senses, who is the best of all things, the Supreme Soul, Self-existent, who is devoid of all the distinguishing characteristics of form, colour, etc., is exempt from birth, growth, aging, death or decay, who exists everywhere and in whom everything exists always  – Varjjitah Sakyate vaktum yah sada asti iti kevalam’. All we can say is that He exists always, but we can’t describe Him in words.

Sri Bhattar gives another explanation that as Bhagavan assumes different forms in the different Yugas as is needed in order to bless the devotees, so He is called Anirdeshya-vapuh.  The nirukti author summarises Sri Bhattar’s thoughts thus – Yuganusaaari rupatvaat A-nirdeshya-vapuh.  

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri quotes Katha Upanishd 2.5.14 – “
Tad-etad-iti manyante Anirdeshyam paramam sukham |
Katham nu tad vijaaniyaam kim u bhaati vibhaati va ||
Meaning: They (the Sages) perceive, that indescribable highest bliss as “This is That. How shall I know That? Does it shine (of Itself) or does it shine by another light?”

Those who have realised Him give up after struggling for words in their description of Him. This thought is echoed by Sri Thirumangai Azhwar in his 3rd PaSuram in tiruneDunTAnDakam as referenced by Sri V.V. Ramanujan:
திருவடிவில் கருநெடுமால் சேயன் என்றும திரேதைக்கண் வளையுருவாய்த் திகழ்ந்தா னென்றும்,
பொருவடிவில் கடலமுதம் கொண்ட காலம் பெருமானைக் கருநீல வண்ணன் றன்னை,
ஒருவடிவத் தோருருவென் றுணர லாகா ஊழிதோ றூழிநின் றேத்தல் அல்லால்,
கருவடிவில் செங்கண்ண வண்ணன் றன்னைக் கட்டுரையே யாரொருவ ர் காண்கிற் பாரே?
Meaning: The dark blue-hued Lord is a picture of auspiciousness.  In each Age he takes a different form, suited to that age, In the Tretayuga He is known to have a reddish colour and He also took the huge form of a tortoise to churn ambrosia from the Ocean; in Krita Yugam His complexion is white like that of the Conch; other than praising him as the fair Lord of dark hue and lotus eyes, can anyone describe him in totality?

Sri V.V. Ramanujan also gives several references from Divya Prabhandam:

  • Padiye idu endru uraikkalaam padiyan allan paramparan (Thiruvai Mozhi 8.8.2) – His Nature is not such that it can be described as such and such;
  • Idum eduppum il Isan (Thiruvai Mozhi 1.6.3)- There is nothing that is equal to Him or above Him;
  • Oruvaraiyum nin oppaar oppu ilaa enginraalaal (Periya Thirumozhi 8.1.2) – He is beyond comparison
  • Tan oppaar il appan – Oppu ili appan (Thiruvai Mozhi 6.3.9) – There is no one comparable to Him says NammAzhwar while praising Lord Oppiliappan of Thiruvinnagaram.

There are a vast number of additional references in Divya Prabandham indicating the indescribable nature of Bhagavan.

In the Taittiriya Upanishad mantra – yato vaaco nivartante, apraapya mansaa saha (Anandavalli – Anuvak 4) meaning He is inaccessible to words or to mind; He can only be experienced.

Similar passages in various scriptures are present for e.g.

  • Kena Upanishad 1.5 to 1.9 – Brahman is that which reveals speech, but which cannot be revealed by speech; that which gives us the ability to see but which cannot be seen, etc.;
  • Isavasya Upanishad mantra 4-5 – The Self is inaccessible to the mind since it is faster than the mind; it is beyond the reach of the senses; It moves and moves not; It is far for those who are ignorant, and near for those who are wise; It is within and without; etc.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha observes that He is inside everyone, permeates everything inside and out, has a Viraat Shareera and Vishvarupa, who is neither born nor decays nor ages, and this is His Guna of Anirdeshya-vapuh. 

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha also gives an alternate interpretation based on the root Vap – bija santaane chedane ca – to sow (the seed, Vapati).  Since Bhagavan is the One who sows the seeds that result in the Creation of the Universe, and since He is indescribable, He is the Indescribable Originator or the seed-sower.  He relates the origin of the word Baap or Bapu in Hindi to this root Vap – to sow.

  1. Vishnuh – The Pervader

mahavishnuThis Nama occurred as Nama 2 and Nama 259 (Shloka 1 and 28).  The root word ‘Vish’ means ‘to enter’. Vishnu is one, who is All-Pervasive. Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Rodasee vyaapya Kaantih Abhyadhikaa Sthitaa asya iti Vishnuh – Having penetrated the sky and all space, His shine and brilliance is all pervasive hence He is called Vishnuh’. He quotes from Mahabharata Shanti parva (12.328.37) which says ‘Vyaapya me rodasee Paartha Kaantirabhyadhikaa Sthitaa, Kramannad vaapyaham Paartha Vishnuritya bhi samjnitah – I am renowned as Vishnu because my brilliance has filled all space between earth and sky and also because I go everywhere and I am all-pervasive and all-penetrating’.

Sri Adi Sankara gives further references for this Nama:

  • antar bahishca tat sarvam vyapya Narayanah sthitah – Maha Narayana Upanishad 1.13) – Narayana pervades the whole Universe externally and internally.
  • yasmaad vishtam idam sarvam tasya Saktya Mahatmanah |
    tasmaad Vishnuriti khyaato vesher dhaatoh praveshanaat    ||      (Vishnu Puranam 3.1.45)
    Because the whole world has been pervaded by the energy of the great Self, He is named Vishnu, from the root Vish – to enter or pervade.”

This Nama can be derived from the root ‘vish – vyaaptau’ – to pervade, or ‘vis – praveshane’ – to enter.  Sri Parasara Bhattar’s interpretation is – sva vibhuti bhutam cit acit Atmakam sarvam vishati iti Vishnuh.  The idea is that Keshava exists everywhere and permeates everything. He is unlimited by space, time, and substance; He pervades the whole Universe internally and externally. Sri Bhattar gives the following references in support.

  • vivesha bhutaani caraacaraani – He entered all beings, movable and immovable
  • tat srshtvaa | tadevaanupraavisat – Having created it, He entered into the same.
  • vyaapya sarvAn imaan lokaan sthitah sarvatra kesava: |
    tatasca Vishnu Namasi viserdhaato:  pravesanaat     ||    
    Meaning: Keshava exists everywhere having pervaded all these worlds.  Therefore His name is Vishnu since the root Vish denotes entry i.e., pervasion”.

Sri Bhattar explains Vyaapti (pervasion) further, and says the relation between Bhagavan and the Jivas is similar to the nature of the relation between fire and smoke.  When there is smoke, there is fire, but the reverse is not always true (as in the case of a red hot iron rod).  Thus, Bhagavan and the Jivas are related in the sense that without Bhagavan the Jivas do not exist.  The Supreme Person and the Jivas are never identical, but there is inseparable connection between Bhagavan and the rest.  He is greater by virtue of the diverse kinds of help He renders to all who are of a lower order.  

Sri Bhattar refers to the mantra about Bhagavan – Sarva SaktyAtmane – He, Who is the embodiment of all powers.  As an instance of this Shakti, the Trivikrama Avataar is also cited – the Smriti declares “Vishnuh Vikramanaat Devah” – Mahabharata), a reference to His name being Vishnu because He measured the three worlds with His gigantic steps.  

Sri Bhattaralso refers us to the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 10 Verse 39) – na tadasti vinaa yat syaat maya bhutam caraacaram – “There is no object, moving or non-moving, which can exist without Me”. 

Sri V.V. Ramanujan refers to NammAzhwar’s Thiruvai Mozhi (1.1.7):
திடவிசும் பெரிவளி நீர்நில மிவைமிசை
படர்பொருள் முழுவது மாயவை யவைதொறும்
உடல்மிசை யுயிரெனக் கரந்தெங்கும் பரந்துளன்
சுடர்மிகு சுருதியு ளிவையண்ட சுரனே.
Meaning: The Lord created the five elements, and from them He created all others.  Indeed He became all others.  He pervades everything in and out.  He is the Soul for the body of everything and every being.  The term ‘He enters all the worlds’ should be understood as ‘He enters everything in all the worlds’. 

Sri V.V. Ramanujan gives a further reference from to NammAzhwar’s praise of Lord’s Shakti from Thiruvai Mozhi (2.7.4) – ‘ennaik kondu en paavam  annaiyum paarak kaittu emar ezh ezhu pirappum mevum tan maiyamaakkinaan vallan empiraan en Vittuve – He changed me from a Nitya Samsari to a Nitya Suri; He exterminated all my sins, those of my predecessors and my successors for several generations, so that all of us have reformed to become His.  Who did this?  Vishnu!  He does this because His Nama implies All-Pervasiveness’. 

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri gives another view of the reason why Bhagavan has pervaded everything. It is for the purpose of ensuring that everything is in its designated and assigned place, and things don’t come into collision with each other, for example, the different planets and constellations etc.  He quotes from the Taittiriya Aranyaka, wherein first the question is asked – keneme vidhrite ubhe – “Who is keeping the two things from colliding with each other?”, and response is: Vishnuna vidhrite bhumI; iti vatsasya vetana – “Vishnu is the One who is supporting them with His Shakti; this is the finding of Sage Vatsa”.  

Swami ChinmayAnanda refers us to Isavasya Upanishad – Isavasyam idam sarvam yat kinca jagatyam jagat – Everything that exists in the Universe is nothing but of the nature of the Lord, and without Him nothing exists.  He pervades everything, unlimited by space, time, or substance.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj gives an additional interpretation: 
Vi + shnuh = Vishnuh – Visheshena snaavayati prasraavayati bhakta abhilashaan iti Vishnuh meaning He who bestows the wishes of the devotees like a fountain is Vishnu.

The meaning for the first Nama Vishvam was that Bhagavan is everything, the Absolute, full in all respects.  Sri V.V. Ramanujan nicely explains the difference between the first two Namas viz. Vishvam and Vishnu:  “Angu Purtiyil Nokku, Ingu Vyaaptiyil Nokku” meaning the first Nama emphasises His Fullness and Perfection, and the second Nama indicates that He permeates everything.

Sri Parasara Bhattar’s explains that the Nama Vishvam symbolizes the primary attribute of the para form as one of shadgunya paripurnatva, and the Nama Vishnu and the following Namas elaborate on the Guna represented by the Nama Vishvam.

Sri Surin, in his commentary on Amara Kosha, has given the following derivation for the word Vishnu – Veveshti iti Vishnu – One who surrounds and envelops.  This is derived from the root word Vesht – to surround (interestingly the word ‘Veshti’ in Tamil is used for dhoti, which surrounds!).

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha asks a rhetorical question:  If Lord Vishnu is everywhere, in everything, why is it that most of us don’t see Him?  The key is the Shraddha.

  • SraddhayAgnih samidhyate Sraddhaya huyate havih |
    Sraddham bhagasya murdhani vacasa vedayamasi  ||Rig Veda 10.151.1
    Meaning: By Faith is Agni kindled, through Faith is oblation offered up. We celebrate with praises Faith upon the height of happiness.
  • Sraddhaya vindate vasuh – Rig Veda 10.151.4
    Man wins Faith by yearnings of the heart, and opulence by Faith
  • Sraddham pratar havamahe SraddhAm madhyam dinam pari |
    Sraddham Suryasya nimruci Sraddhe Sraddhapayeha nah   | Rig Veda 10.151.5
    Faith in the early morning, Faith at noonday will we invocate, Faith at the setting of the Sun. O Faith, endow us with belief.

He who is endowed with the Sattvic disposition, or has developed it, keeps seeing Vishnu in everything around him all the time.

  1. Veerah – The Valiant

Krishna-kills-Kamsa1This Nama was described earlier under Shloka 43 – Nama 402. This Nama has several meanings (as noted earlier as well):

  1. He is Valiant
  2. He is a swift Mover (into the hearts of His devotees or against demons)
  3. He destroys His enemies
  4. He Who makes the enemies tremble in front of Him and run showing their backs

Sri Adi Sankara explains this as ‘Gatyaadimattvaat Veerah – He has all the qualities denoted by the root Vee such as movement hence He is called Veerah’. The basic root Vee has got several meanings like ‘to go, to pervade, to obtain, to throw, to conceive, to be born, to shine, to be beautiful, to desire and  to eat’. He fulfils all these attributes (‘Gati Vyaapti Prajana Kaanti Asana Khaadaneshu’) denoting motion, creation, radiance, existence and consumption. Therefore He is appropriately called Veerah.

Sri Parasara Bhattar derives the interpretation for the Nama from the root aja – gati kshepanayoh – to drive or to lead, and a grammatical rule which states that Vee is the substitute for aja under certain conditions (Ashtaadhyaayi 2.4.56), and gives the meaning – He Who is valiant. 

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj uses the interpretation – Veerayate iti Veerah – He who displays Valour is called Veerah, and expands – ripu damanaaya vikramate – It is for the destruction of the enemies. 

Sri Parasara Bhattar describes that it is for the destruction of the enemies of His devotees that He uses His Valour.  Thus, Sri Bhattar emphasises that whatever Bhagavan does, it is for the sake of His devotees.  Sri Bhattar describes the Nature of this Valour as One where He induces terror in the hearts of the enemies of His devotees’ – Rakshsaam ati-bhaya calana hetutvaat Veerah.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri gives the interpretation that He makes swift entry into the hearts of His devotees, as well as His swift move against enemies of His devotees’.  This Guna of Bhagavan making a swift entry to the heart of His devotee to please the devotee, and His swift effect on His devotees’ enemies by causing error in them is amply demonstrated in Lord’s Narasimha Vapuh incarnation. In this incarnation, Bhagavan’s form as Lord Narasimha causes terror in Hiranyakashipu, but at the same time this same form is so pleasing to Prahlada.  This is one more example of the Guna of His Anirdeshya-vapuh that we covered in the previously – the form that cannot be described as this or that, because simultaneously it is many things.

Other interpretations that are given are:

  • Viruddhaan Raati hanti iti Veerah – One who destroys the enemies
  • Vidvishtaan Irayati iti Veerah – One who makes the enemies tremble and run showing their backs (Ira – gatau kampane ca)

The Dharma Chakram writer emphasises that we should be Valiant against the internal enemies more than the external enemies.  The internal enemies like Kaama, Krodha, Lobha, Moha, Bhaya, Matsarya etc. are the ones that one should learn to overcome valiantly and effectively.  It is by constantly meditating on the Lord and resorting to prayers with devotion to Bhagavan can we effectively gain control over these internal enemies.

  1. Anantah – The Limitless

sri-padmanabha-swamy-thiruvananthapuramAnantah means endless or limitless or eternal. There are other Namas like Anantaroopah, Anantashreeh and Anantahutabhuk. Sri Adi Sankara explains this as ‘Vyaapitvaat, Nityatvaat, Sarvaatmatvaat Deshatah, Kaalatah, Vastutah cha Aparicchinnah Anantah – Because He is all-pervading, eternal, and the Self of all, and because He is unlimited by space, time, or matter, He is known as Anantah, the boundless one’. Sri Sankara quotes from Taittiriya Upanishad (2.1) which says ‘Satyam Jnaanam Anantam Bramha – The Bramhan is Truth, Wisdom and Limitlessness’.

Sri Sankara has given another interpretation on this Nama giving reference from the Vishnu Purana (2.5.24) which is ‘Gandharvaapsarasas Siddhaah Kinnaroragachaaranaah; Naantam Gunaanaam Gacchanti Tena Ananto ayam Avyayah – The Gandharvas, Apsaras, Siddhas, Kinnaras, Uragas, and the Charanaas are unable to find the end of His attributes; hence, the imperishable Lord is called Anantah’.

This is one of the Namas from the trio of Acyuta, Ananta and Govinda, that is uttered several times daily as Achamanam.

Sri Parasara Bhattar gives the interpretation – na asya desha kaala vastutah avadhayah santi iti Anantah – He for whom there is no limitation of space, time or object, He is Ananta-Murti – One of unbounded form.  In the Bhagavad Gita, Bhagavan (Chapter 10 Verse 19) declares:  Naastyanto vistarasya me – There is no limit to My auspicious manifestations (Vibhutis).  Sri Bhattar also gives reference to the Shrutis: 

  • Satyam, Jnanam Anantam Brahma (Taittiriya Upanishad – Ananda Valli 1) – Brahman is Existence, Knowledge, and Infinite;
  • Athaitasyaiva anto Naasti tad brahma” (tait. yajur. 7.3.4) – There is no limit or end to this object known as Brahman.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan NammAzhwar refers to Bhagavan as ‘Kanakku aru nalattanan, antam il Adi am Bhagavan” (Thiruvai Mozhi 1.3.5) – “Bhagavan possesses limitless Kalyana Gunas, He is the beginning of everything, and He has no end”.  He captures the Ananta aspect of Bhagavan in this Thiruvai Mozhi (1.1.4) Pasuram:
நாமவ னிவனுவன், அவளிவளுவளெவள்
தாமவரிவருவர், அதுவிது வுதுவெது
வீமவை யிவையுவை, யவைநலந் தீங்கவை
ஆமவை யாயவை, யாய்நின்ற அவரே.
Meaning: We are but He; What one indicates as that man, this man, that woman, this woman, that object, this object; on whatever we indicate in plural similarly, all are but He and He alone; Things with good traits or bad traits, things there or here, things that go off, things that will come one day, all are merely He.  All are aspects of His splendour.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri elaborates further on His being unlimited by time, space, and substance. Since He existed before everything else, He exists now, and He will exist for ever in the future, He is unlimited by time (Bhuta-bhavya-bhavan-naathah).  Thus He is Nitya (Eternal) – Nityo nityaanaam (Katha Upanishad 2.5.13).  Since He pervades everything and is everywhere inside and out, He is unlimited by space (Vishnu);

Sarvaananshirogrivah SarvaBhuta Grihashrayah sarva-vyapi ca Bhagavan (Svetasvara Upanishad 3.11) – The Divine Lord being all pervading, omnipresent and benevolent dwells in the eharts of all beings and makes use of all faces, heads and necks in this world.

He is neither male, nor female, nor neuter. Whatever body he assumes he becomes identified with that – naiva stri na puman Eshah na chaivayam napumsakah yaddhasharira madhatthe thena thena sa yujyate (Svetasvara Upanishad 5.10). 

  1. Dhananjayah – The Conqueror of All Wealth

arjuna_krishna_chariot-frontLiterally Dhananjayah means who wins wealth. Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Yad Digvijaye prabhootam Dhanam ajayat tena Dhananjayah – One who gained a lot of wealth during his rounds of conquests, in other words Arjuna’. This refers to Bhagavan’s manifestation as Arjuna. Arjuna was always victorious during his marches around the country and earned a lot of wealth during these conquests and he was called Dhananjaya because of this. Bhagavad Gita (10.37) says ‘Pandavanaam Dhanajayah – I am Arjuna among the Pandavas’. So appropriately He is named Dhananjayah denoting a manifestation of His own as Arjuna.

He is the source of redemption for everyone, and those who know this will seek Him above all other wealth like gold and diamond, because of His far superior qualities and possessions.  Those who know the Truth will seek Him above all, and will want to keep Him secure with them.

Mani-mauktika ratnaadi hema-rupyaadikam dhanam jayati – adhah karoti iti dhanan’njayah – As wealth that is to be desired, He is the wealth who surpasses all other wealth such as gold, diamond, etc.  Those who know His value will consider the likes of gold and diamond as less than grass. 

This aspect of Bhagavan being the ultimate desire is brought out beautifully in this famous Pasuram of Thondaradipodi Azhwar:
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 (Sri Rangam), with the hue of a huge green mountain! Lord of coral lips, lotus-red eyes, Achyuta! Lord of Eternals, O Cowherd-Lord, compared to joy of experiencing you and praising you even if you gave me Indra’s kingdom, I shall not want it.

Swami Desikan points out in his Vairagya pancakam that the real dhanam or wealth is ‘Dhananjaya vivardhanam dhanamududha Govardhanam su-saadhanam a-baadhanam su-manasaam samaaraadhanam – The true wealth that will never diminish, that will always give the utmost pleasure to those who are of pure mind, that is the surest means of attaining anything that is desired, is the One that bore the Govardhana mountain, and that gave Arjuna the greatness that he attained’.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan gives reference from NammAzhwar’s Thiruvai Mozhi (10.7.2) where the Azhwar describes Him as “Enakkut Thene, Paale, Kannale, Amudhe” – He is the honey, milk, sugar-candy, nectar, everything for me. 

Arjuna is also known as Dhananjaya because he conquered several Kings and accumulated enormous wealth to facilitate the Rajasuya Yaga by Dharmaputra.  In the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 10 Verse 37), Lord Krishna declares that ‘Pandavanam Dhananjayah’ meaning Arjuna is a vibhuti or manifestation of Himself. 

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha gives the interpretation that the whole Universe belongs to Him, and all this is under His control, and hence He is Dhananjayah – the Conqueror of all Wealth.


Kaamadevah Kaamapaalah Kaamee Kaantah Kritaagamah     |
Anirdeshyavapur Vishnuh Veero Ananto Dhananjayah       ||70||

aniruddhaHe is the wish-fulfilling Deity and so He is called KaamaDevah. He is the Protector of desires and hence He is Kaamapaalah. He has all things that are desirable and He Himself is an object of desire for His devotees, so He is Kamee.  He is Kaantah or Charming and is also the Composer of all Vedas, Shrutis, Smritis and Agamas, so He is Kritaagamah.

He is of Undefinable form who can simultaneously assume many forms, so He is Anirdeshyavapuh. He is Vishnu as He is all pervasive and present in everything and everywhere. He is Veerah as He is Valiant and Anantah as He is Eternal. His Wealth is Limitless as He is the winner of all treasures and hence He is called Dhananjayah.



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



  1. Vishnu sahasranamam is the capsule for all malice. The present paret explanation of the following lines will suffice everything”He is the wish-fulfilling Deity and so He is called KaamaDevah. He is the Protector of desires and hence He is Kaamapaalah. He has all things that are desirable and He Himself is an object of desire for His devotees, so He is Kamee. He is Kaantah or Charming and is also the Composer of all Vedas, Shrutis, Smritis and Agamas, so He is Kritaagamah.”

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