SRI VISHNU SAHASRANAMAM (SHLOKA 81) – PART 90

In this part we will explore the meaning of the 81st Shloka of Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam.

Shloka 81

TejoVrisho Dyutidharah SarvaShastraBhritaamVarah     |
Pragraho Nigraho Vyagro Naikashringo Gadaagrajah ||81||

Purport:
He causes rain to fall on the earth through the medium of the Sun and showers  Grace in the form of protection of the good-hearted beings. He carries brilliance and radiance all over His limbs and is preeminent among all weapon bearers. He accepts or receives any offerings such as flowers or leaves offered by his devotees with pleasure. He applies the necessary controls using His power on sense organs and He is Endless, Immortal who showers His grace on His devotees endlessly. He has not one but four pinnacles, the Vedas, and has multiple means for causing distress to His enemies.  He manifests Himself at the conclusion of a Mantra or prayers rendered with devotion and faith.

The above Shloka has the following Namas:

  1. TejoVrishah
  2. Dyutidharah
  3. SarvaShastraBhritaamVarah
  4. Pragrahah
  5. Nigrahah
  6. Vyagrah
  7. Naikashringah
  8. Gadaagrajah

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

  1.    TejoVrishah – He showers His splendour and protects His devotees

Vrisha and Varsha denotes rain and Varshah in particular means rainfall. Tejah means water among its other meanings.  Based on this, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this name as ‘Tejasaam ambhasaam sarvadaa Aaditya rupena Varshanaat TejoVrishah – He causes rain to fall on the earth through the medium of the Sun hence He is called TejoVrishah’. The Sun is one of His manifestations. Sun’s heat causes the Ocean waters to evaporate causing precipitation and rainfall. So He is the ultimate cause for the rain fall and therefore Bhagavan is TejoVrishah.

Govardhan_Lila1Sri Parasara Bhattar assigns the meaning “protection” for TejoVrishah in his interpretation:  ‘Evam suhrit-paalana lakshanam tejo varshati iti Tejo-Vrishah – He showers splendour in the form of protection of the good-hearted beings, so He is Tejo-Vrishah’. Sri Bhattar connects the sequence of Namas, and in the current Nama he interprets this to the Krishna Avataar’s Govardhana Giri episode where Lord Krishna gave protection to the cows and the cowherds against Indra’s wrath.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan explains that this Nama refers to Bhagavan showering His ‘Tejas or Shakti’ on His devotees in the form of His protection.  The innocent folks of Ayarpadi loved Kannan with all their hearts, and He showered His Grace and protected them like a Cow secreting milk for its Calf with all its heart.

Sri Ananta Krishna Shastri interprets as ‘Tejaamsi Adaaya Aditya rupena varshati va’ – He causes showers by taking the form of Sun. Sri Satyadevo Vasishta uses the root words ‘tij or tej – nishaane’ meaning ‘to whet’, ‘palane ca – to protect’ and ‘Vrish – secana’ – ‘to rain, to shower’.   ‘Tejah’ also refers to Tejas meaning lustre, light, brilliance, splendour.  Thus, this Nama means One who showers brightness, One who gives protection, etc.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj indicates that He showers His lustre on everything because of His divine and auspicious Form – Sri Vigrahaat tejasvinah prabha kiranah sarvatah prasaranti.   Whatever radiance a living organism has, is a result of a miniscule fraction of His Tejas.  Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan gives yet another interpretation: sva-bandhu rakshayai cakraadi duh-sahani tejaamsi varshati iti Tejo-Vrshah – He showers His magnificent weapons such as the Sudharsana Chakra (on the enemies) to protect His devotees, hence He is Tejo-Vrishah. 

The Dharma Chakram writer points out that just as the sea water, which by itself is unusable for most purposes, is converted by the Sun into potable and usable water, so also the thought of Bhagavan distils our mind and purifies it, thereby eliminating bad thoughts.  Just as we cannot live without water, we cannot live without Him either.  Just as the Sun keeps functioning behind our conscious thoughts to purify the sea water into a form that is usable by us, so also His Grace is always functioning to purify our thoughts constantly.  

  1.    Dyuti-dharah – He is always brilliant and effulgent

visnu2Dyuti means radiance or shine emanating from any object. Bhagavan carries brilliant radiance all over His limbs. Based on this, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama as ‘Dyutim Angagataam Kaantim Dhaarayan Dyutidharah – He carries brilliance and radiance all over His limbs, hence He is called Dyutidharah’. Sri Sankara uses ‘Kanti’ to describe Bhagavan’s limbs. Other Namas that describe Bhagavan’s beauty and splendour are Hemaangah, Varaangah, Shubhaangah, Chandanangadheeh etc. Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj describes His unique Kanti – atiSayita kanti sampannah. 

Sri Parasara Bhattar interprets as ‘One with an effulgence or radiance even from a very young age in His Krishna Avataar, that He could bedazzle Devendra’. 

Dyuti-dharah was covered earlier in Shloka 30 (Ojas-tejo-dyuti-dharah).  ‘Dyuti’ refers to effulgence or radiance and the root word involved is ‘dyut – diptau’ meaning ‘to shine’.  Sri Radhakrishna Shastri explains that ‘dyuti’ refers to unique effulgence that is a characteristic of the Devas.  The word ‘dharah’ can refer to ‘One Who protects or One Who bears’.  Hence, Bhagavan is called Dyuti-dharah because He supports the dyuti that is characteristic of the Sun, the Moon, all the Devas, lightning, Ratna, etc.   In fact, whatever radiance we all possess in us, is but a tiny part of His radiance.

Swami ChimayAnanda points out that it is this ‘Kanti’ in us that enables us to be aware of all our perceptions, emotions, and thoughts.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishta explains that ‘Dyuti’ refers to ‘One Who possesses effulgence’, and the word ‘dharah’ refers to “One Who protects”, thus giving the meaning to ‘Dyuti-dharah’ as ‘One Who has Effulgence, and One Who protects everyone and everything – svayam prakaashamanah sarvam dharati iti;  vaasatavika arthah prakaashamanah sarvasya Adhaarashca iti arthah’. 

The Dharma Chakram writer comments that ‘Dyuti’ that is referred to here is not the physical beauty that one sees in the body, but the radiance that emanates from the inner Atma, and is reflected in the body.    Unlike the physical beauty which stirs thoughts of Kama in the observers’ mind, the beauty that is seen within the body because of ‘Dyuti’ emanating from the Atma, kindles thoughts of Bhakti.  He quotes the famous saying in Tamil:  ‘Raman irukkum idatthil Kaman illai; Kaman irrukkum idatthil Raman illai – There is no Kama where Rama is, and there is no Rama where Kama is’.  This Nama signifies to us that every part of Bhagavan’s Form is such that it evokes extreme devotion. 

  1.    Sarva-Shastra-Bhritaam-Varah – He is the Best among those who are weapon wielders

Sri Krishna 7Sarva means all, Shastra means a weapon, Bhrit means bearer and Varah means Supreme or of the highest order. So the overall meaning is that He is the topmost among all weapon wielders. Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Sarva Shastra Bhritaam Shreshthah Sarva-Shastra-Bhritaam-Varah – He is the most eminent among all weapon bearers hence He is called Sarva-Shastra-Bhritaam-Varah.

In Bhagavad Gita (10.31), Lord Krishna says ‘Ramas Shastrabhritaam Aham – Among weapon wielders I am Rama’. He is the best not only in terms of skills but also in terms of the intent. Bhagavan’s motive in wielding a weapon is purely to protect Dharma whereas others wage a fight for their personal gains.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishta uses root words ‘Sas – himsayam’ meaning ‘to cut up or to destroy’, ‘bhR – dharana poshanayoh’ meaning ‘to hold, to support’, ‘bhrit’ means ‘One Who holds’ and ‘Vri – varane’ meaning ‘to choose’.  Varitum arhah varah – One Who is fit to be chosen is Varah. So the Nama means ‘He Who is Best among all those who hold or carry weapons – Sarvesham Shastra-bhritam madhye Varah – Sreshthah’. 

Sri Parasara Bhattar’s interpretation is that He was the foremost among the wielders of weapons in His fight against the Asuras like Naraka, Jarasandha, Ravana, Banasura and others. Sri Bhattar emphasises that it was a child’s play for the Lord to wield these weapons against His enemies:
manushya dharma leelasya leela sa jagat-pateh   |
astraanyaneka rupani yad aratishu muncati   ||  (Vishnu Purana 5.22.14)
Meaning: For the Lord of the world, Who was engaging Himself with the activities of the human beings, it was a mere child’s play to discharge different kinds of weapons against His enemies.

Swami ChimayAnanda points out that Bhagavan is the ‘Best’ among those Who wield weapons, because He uses them to bring about ‘constructive destruction’, as opposed to other weapon-wielders who bring about ‘destructive destruction’. His words are: The Lord never uses His weapon of annihilation indiscriminately – for He is ever just. It is also significant that all destructions in nature are always ‘constructive destructions’; therefore, the Lord’s Discus is itself called ‘the auspicious vision’ – Su-darshana.  In the maturity of one’s evolution, when one becomes fit for inner unfoldment, slowly but irresistibly, the seeker can ever detect a secret hand that diligently cuts off all this connections with the outer world, and compels him to lean more and more on the higher aspects of self-realisation. Our Puranic literature is replete with instances, and, without exception, in all of them Sriman Narayana is described as using His weapon to destroy the devilish – and to give Moksha! with ‘the divine vision – Su-darshana’.  Others, when they employ their weapons of destruction, the result invariably ends in a sad ‘destructive destruction’, and therefore, to invoke Him as the ‘the best among those who wield weapons’ is most significant for a Seeker.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishta asks the rhetorical question as to why He should be considered the ‘Best among those with weapons’, and answers it by pointing out that it is because He has expressed Himself by equipping every living creature with the appropriate weapon for its own protection against its enemies’.  On the one hand, He has equipped the different creatures with different claw types for those creatures with claws, the different types of teeth for those that protect themselves with their teeth from their enemies, with their fangs, horns, etc.  However, it is to be noted that each creature has only one or two such weapons for its own protection.  He is the origin of all these Shastras, and so He is rightly known as the Sarva-Shastra-Bhritam-Varah.  He also reserves for Himself the ability to strike with all the weapons as and when necessary.  Thus, the enormous earthquakes, the great epidemics that strike down masses of people, etc., are weapons that He wields as He deems necessary on a mass scale. 

The Dharma Chakram writer comments that it is because Rama and Krishna used their weapons for the destruction of evil and for the protection of the good, that they were Sreshtas or Varas among wielders of weapons.  Those that used their weapons for committing atrocities only ended up being ruined.

The Story of Bhasmasura

Bhasmasura was a devotee of the Lord Shiva and he performed great penance to obtain a boon from the Shiva. Shiva became pleased and asked him to seek a boon. Bhasmasura asked for immortality, but Shiva said that he did not have the power to grant him immortality and asked him to seek something else. Bhasmasura wanted to be invincible and hence asked that he be granted the power that if he touched anyone’s head with his hand that being should perish immediately and turn into ashes (bhasma). Shiva granted this request, but Bhasmasura thereupon attempted to touch the head of Shiva with his hand because he saw Parvati and wanted to possess her, which would only be possible when he turned Shiva into ashes. Shiva fled, and was chased by Bhasmasura. Somehow, Shiva managed to reach Vishnu to seek a solution to this predicament. Vishnu on hearing Shiva’s problem, agreed to help him out.

Vishnu appeared in the form of Mohini in front of Bhasmasura. Mohini was so exceedingly beautiful that Bhasmasura immediately fell in love with Mohini and was awestruck. Bhasmasur asked Mohini to marry him. She told him that she was very fond of dancing, and would marry him only if he could match her moves identically. Bhasmasura agreed to the match and hence they started dancing. The feat went on for days and as Bhasmasura matched the Mohini’s move for move, he began to let his guard down. While still dancing, Mohini, struck a pose where her hand was placed on top of her own head. As Bhasmasura imitated her, he was tricked into touching his own head, and Bhasmasura immediately turned into ashes, due to the power he had gained.

Thus the Lord uses many of His powers to outwit the enemies of the Devas and His devotees. Om Namo Narayana.

  1.    Pragrahah – The Controller

shabariPragraha has two connotations: a) Receiver and b) Controller. Based on this, Sri Adi Sankara gives two different interpretations, the first of which is ‘Bhaktaih upahritam Patrapushpaadikam Pragrinhaati iti Pragrahah – He accepts or receives any offerings such as flowers or leaves offered by His devotees, hence He is called Pragrahah’.  As the Bhagavad Gita (9.26) says ‘Patram Pushpam phalam toyam yo me bhaktyaa prayacchati tadaham bhaktyupahritam ashnaami prayataatmanah – Whatever my devotee offers me with devotion whether it be leaves, flowers, fruits or even water, I accept and consume it’. So in this sense He is Pragrahah.

Sri Sankara’s second interpretation is ‘Dhaavato vishayaaranye Durdaantendriya vaajinah Tatprasaadena Rashmineva Badhnaati iti vaa Pragrahavat Pragrahah – When the horses in the form of sense organs tend to run wild in the forest of sense objects, He applies the necessary controls on the run away horses as if using a rope’. He is therefore the Pragrahah or the controlling rope that is applied on the senses running wild. It is because of His Grace that a true devotee is able to overcome indulgence in sense-objects, and progress to self-realisation. 

Sri Parasara Bhattar explains this Nama as referring to Lord Krishna’s excellent control over Arjuna, even though He was his charioteer.  Lord Krishna controlled Arjuna just like the reins that control a horse.  The word Pragraham refers to the reins.  In the Katha Upanishad (1.3.3) we have the parable of the Chariot:
Atmanam rathinaṁ viddhi, Shariram ratham eva tu |
buddhim tu saaradhim viddhi, manaḥ pragraham eva ca ||1.3.3||
Meaning: Yama explains to Nachiketas: “Know the Atman as the Lord of the chariot, the body as the chariot; know the intellect as the charioteer and the mind again as the reins”.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishta uses the prefix ‘Pra’, and the root word ‘grah – upadane’ meaning ‘to take hold of or to seize’, and explains Bhagavan’s exceptional control of everything in the Universe – ‘Prakarshanena grihnati vishvam iti’. 

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj interprets the prefix ‘pra’ as representing ‘prakrishta’ meaning ‘special or exalted’, and the word ‘grahah’ to mean ‘One Who accepts or receives’. He explains the Nama as ‘prakrito grahah sveekaro yasya iti Pragrahah – One Whose acceptance (of Saranagati) is unique, exceptional, special and exalted.  He further explains that ‘svajanam sakridapi  Saranagatam sveekritya punah kadapi tam na partityajati iti prakrishta eva grahah prabhoh – He is the Lord Who accepts the Saranagati from His devotee the very first time, and will never ever forsake the devotee; such is the superiority of His acceptance of Saranagati.

  1.    Nigrahah – He has a firm control over all Creation

krishna's armyThe word Nigraha means control. Based on this, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Svavashena Sarvam Nigrinhaati iti Nigrahah – He controls everything using His power, hence He is called Nigrahah’. He is the Supreme power and everything is under his sway and control. As the Tamil proverb says ‘Avanindri oru anuvum asayadhu’ meaning without His involvement not even a single atom can move, hence he is Nigrahah, the Supreme controller of everything.

The word ‘Nigraha’ means restraining or keeping in check; ‘Nigrahana’ means holding back or down, suppressing.  Thus, the Nama means ‘One Who restrains’ or ‘One Who keeps in check’.

Sri Parasara Bhattar’s interpretation is that since Bhagavan has this Nama as He successfully subdued all the enemies in the MahaBharata war by His skill as a Charioteer, without expecting the support of Arjuna. Sri Satya Sandha Yatiraja alludes to His subduing all the Asuras – Nigrihnaati daityan iti Nigrahah.  

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj interpretation is ‘nigrihnaati vipatha gaminah iti Nigrahah – He restrains those Who stray away from the path of Dharma’. 

Taking the same approach as in previous Nama, Sri Satyadevo Vasishta gives the interpretation, ‘Nishcayena grihyate yena iti Nigrahah Vishnuh meaning Bhagavan has a firm grasp and leads everything in this Universe as He wishes, creating what is fit to be created, destroying what is fit to be destroyed, etc.

Swami ChimayAnanda literally translates the Nama ‘Nigrahah’ as ‘The Terminator’, and points out that such a Nama is justified for Bhagavan in the context of His destroying the ego in His devotees.  This is like a doctor who ‘terminates’ the diseases in the patients or the Sun eliminating darkness, etc. The Nama also means ‘One Who absorbs the devotees unto Himself’. 

  1.    Vyagrah – He is Endless and Eternal

Akshaya 1Agrah means end and Vyagrah means endless. Based on this, Sri Adi Sankara gives two different interpretations for this Nama, the first of which is ‘Vigatam agram antah vinaashah asya asti iti Vyagrah – For Him there is no end, therefore He is Vyagrah, the Immortal One’. The second interpretation is ‘Bhaktaanaam abheeshta pradaaneshu Vyagrah iti vaa – There is no end to His Grace that He showers on His devotees, hence He is called Vyagrah, the Endless Giver’.

Sri Parasara Bhattar interprets that the Lord is eager to please His devotees and this is evidenced in the MahaBharata when Lord Krishna hastened as He could not put up with any further delay in subduing the enemies of Pandavas.  This is evidenced by His action against Bhishma:
Ye yanti yantyeva Sini-pravira! Ye’vasthita satvaram te’pi yantu   |
Bhishmam rathat pashyata paatyamanam Dronam ca sankhye sa-ganam maya’dya   ||
… rathat avaplutya visrijya vahan   ||  (MahaBharata, Bhishma Parva 59.86)
bhishma-wheelMeaning: “O Sini-pravira (referring to Satyaki)! Those who have gone, have gone for ever.  Those who are still left, let them all go at once.  You will see now that Bhishma is thrown from his chariot, and also Drona with his army”.  So saying, Krishna jumped down from the chariot, and leaving the horses, advanced forward against Bhishma with a chariot wheel as a weapon.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan translates the above quote from MahaBharata slightly differently:  He describes the scene where the Pandava forces were running confused at the intensity of Bhishma’s attack, and then Krishna declared:  “Let those who run keep running, and let the remaining watch Me defeat Bhishma and Drona”; so saying, He jumps from His chariot, even forgetting His own promise not to take to weapons.  Thus, He does not flinch and is determined to get rid of the enemies of His devotees. 

Sri NammAzhwar beautifully captures this Guna of Bhagavan in Thiruvai Mozhi (9.2.10): 
கொடுவினைப்படைகள்வல்லையாய் அமரக்கிடர்கெட அசுரர்கட்கிடர்செய்
கடுவினைநஞ்சேயென்னுடையமுதே கலிவயல்திருப்ஙபளிங்குடியார்
வடிவிணையில்லாமலர்மகள் மற்றை நிலமகள் பிடிக்கும் மெல்லடியை
கொடுவினையேணும்பிடிக்கந்யொருநாள் கூவுதல் வருதல்செய்யாயே.
Meaning: O Lord of the fertile fields of Tiruppulingudi, my ambrosia! You are the one, like an efficacious poison (for which there is no antidote), determined to eliminate the terrible Asuras! The Lord wielding many fierce weapons who is the vanquisher of the foes of Devas. You sleep as Lakshmi gently presses your feet, Can I too have the good fortune to do so? Or, will you come to me on your own accord?

Sri Satyadevo Vasishta interprets as ‘Vividham gamanam yo vidhatte sa Vyagra ucyate – He Who moves around using many different ways is Vyagrah. He points out that everything that is moving is a manifestation of His Guna of Vyagra, or movement in various ways. 

Sri Satya Sandha Yatiraja gives the explanation: ‘Vih Garudo agre asya sa Vygrah’ – He Who has Garuda as His vehicle to move around.

  1.    Naika-Shringah – He adopts diverse tactics for controlling His devotees’ enemies

Hayagreeva‘Shringa’ means a horn, a peak or a pinnacle. Based on this, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Chatush Shringo Naikashringah – He has not one but four pinnacles, hence He is called Naikashringah’. The four pinnacles referred to here are the four Vedas. Sri Sankara gives support from Rig veda (4.58.3):
Catvaari Shringa trayo asya paadhah dve Shirshe sapta hastaso’sya   |
Tridha baddho Vrishabho rorarviti Mahadevo martyagm Avivesha    || 
Meaning:  The four horns refer to the four Vedas, the three feet refer to the three daily sacrifices, etc.).

Sri Parasara Bhattar has used the meaning ‘himsa sadhanam’ in his interpretation –  na + eka + Shringah = Naika-Shringah – He Who has multiple means for causing distress to His enemies.  Sri Bhattar elucidates his interpretation using the instances of MahaBharata:
Buddhi-yogah sarathyam anayudha grahana vyajah
Praptakale tad-grahanam iti bahu-vairi-badhakam asya iti Na-eka-Shringah ||
Meaning: He is Naika-Shringah since He adopted several devices for bringing about the fall of the enemies, like giving sound advice, skilfully driving the chariot, pretending that he would not use a weapon but actually making use of His weapon at the opportune moment, interchanging day and night etc.  

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri gives other interpretations which includes the four ‘horns’, namely akara, ukara makara, and nada for the Omkara. Sri Shastri further explains that just as the animals with horns come under control when their horns are seized, Bhagavan comes under control of His devotees through the mastery of the four Vedas – the four ‘horns’. 

Swami ChimayAnanda interprets the reference to ‘the four horns’ referred in the Rig Veda as ‘Catvaari Shringa’ as a reference to the four States of Consciousness – the waking, dream, deep-sleep, and Pure Awareness.  He interprets the three feet as the three states of gross, subtle and causal bodies respectively.

‘Shringam’ also means Lordship, Supremacy, etc.  Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj uses this meaning, and gives the interpretation that He adopts multiple means to assert His Supremacy – naikam vividham Shringam prabhutvam yasya iti Naika-Shringah. 

Sri Satya Sandha Yatiraja gives the interpretation – na eka Shringo, na ekani – anekani Shringani yasya Vrisha rupe sa naika-Shringah, which can be translated as ‘He Who has multiple forms in His aspect as the Bestower, or One Who establishes Dharma (Vrisha). 

In his alternate interpretation, he splits the word as Na eka-Shringah, and explains the word ‘Na’ as referring to the Parama Purushatvam of Bhagavan, and then explains Eka-Shringah as Lord Vishnu’s Varaha Avataar – Eka-Shringah tato bhutva Varaho nandi-vardhanah|  imAm ca udhritvaat bhumim Eka-Shringah (Moksha Dharma). 

Sri Satyadevo Vasishta gives the meanings – Deepti (radiance) for the word Shringam and uses this as a means of protection of devotees and destruction of enemies – Shringam iti deepter Nama, himsa-sadhanam tatha para-krita-badha-nivarana-sadanamapi Shringam. The root involved in the Nama is ‘Shr – himsayam’ meaning ‘to tear to pieces, to kill or to hurt’. 

Sri Vasishta interprets the Nama as referring to One Who has many radiant rays emanating from Him. He also gives two other interpretations, first of which is ‘He Who has many ways of causing himsa’ and the second is ‘He Who provides many ways to ward off himsa.

  1.   Gadaagrajah – He manifests at the recital of Mantra or Prayer

om-namo-bhagavate-vasudevaya-
Sri Adi Sankara gives two interpretations ad the first is ‘Nigadena Mantrena Agre jaayate iti Nishabdalopam kritvaa Gadaagrajah – He manifests Himself at the conclusion of a Mantra or prayers, hence He is called Gadaagrajah’. Nigada means a Mantra and He appears after the Mantra or prayer is recited. He appeared at the end of Dhruva’s prayers and Prahalada’s call. He was born as Krishna as a result of Devaki’s prayers.

The syllable ‘Ni’ in the word ‘Nigada’ is removed while forming this compound name, so Nigadaagrajah becomes Gadaagrajah though the meaning remains the same ‘One who manifests at the recital of a Mantra or prayer’.

Sri Sankara’s second interpretation is ‘Yadvaa Gado naama ShreeVaasudeva Avarajah; Tasmaadagre Jaayate iti Gadaagrajah – Vaasudeva had a younger brother called Gadah and so He is called Gadaagrajah, the elder brother of Gadah’.

Sri Bhattar’s interpretation is that Krishna is the elder brother of a child named Gadah, born to Vasudeva after Krishna. Gada’s mother is Sunama, one of the wives of Vasudeva.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri notes that in her letters to Krishna, Rukmini calls Him Gadaagrajah. 

Sri Satyadevo Vasishta gives a different interpretation by splitting the Nama as: Gada + Agra + Jah.  For Gada, he derives the meaning from ‘Gada vyaktayam vaaci’ – ‘to speak’;  For Agra, he derives the meaning from ‘agi – gatau’ – ‘to go’; and for Jah he derives the meaning from ‘Jata – anupavishta’ – ‘who enters or pervades’.  Thus, his interpretation for the Nama is “He Who pervades (in the form of the Soul) those that speak and those that walk or move around –  Gadeshu – gadana Seeleshu, agreshu – gamana Seeleshu, anupravishto jata iva pratIyamano gadaagraja iti Vishnor Nama. Shabdayamane, gamanashile ca jivita Sharira eva jivAtmano’vabhasah prakasha ityarthah”. 

An alternate interpretation by Sri Vasishtaa is ‘gadanam vyaktam Shabdam kurvatam manushyanam agrajah – jyeshthah  Sreshthah’ – The foremost and the best among those who have produced sound.  The reference here is to His revelation of the Vedas and the pranava mantra ‘OM’.  For this reason, He is also called Vacaspati. 

IN SUMMARY

TejoVrisho Dyutidharah SarvaShastraBhritaamVarah     |
Pragraho Nigraho Vyagro Naikashringo Gadaagrajah ||81||

Vishnu3He causes rain to fall on the earth through the medium of the Sun. He rains splendour and Grace in the form of protection of the good-hearted beings, so He is called Tejo-Vrishah. He carries brilliance and radiance all over His limbs, hence He is called Dyutidharah. He is preeminent among all weapon bearers, hence He is called Sarva-Shastra-Bhritaam-Varah.

He accepts or receives any offerings such as flowers or leaves offered by His devotees with pleasure, hence He is called Pragrahah. When the horses in the form of sense organs tend to run wild in the forest of sense objects, He applies the necessary controls using His power, hence He is called Nigrahah. He is Endless, Immortal and also there is no end to His Grace that He showers on His devotees, hence He is called Vyagrah, the Endless Giver. He has not one but four pinnacles, the Vedas, hence He is called Naikashringah and He has multiple means for causing distress to His enemies. He manifests Himself at the conclusion of a Mantra or prayers, hence He is called Gadaagrajah.

HARI OM TAT SAT

OM NAMO NARAYANAAYA

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

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