In this part we will explore the meaning of the 84th Shloka of Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam.

Shubhaango Lokasarangah Sutantuh Tantuvardhanah |
Indrakarma Mahakarma Kritakarma Kritagamah         ||84||

He is endowed with beautiful limbs and He extracts the essence of the world like a honeybee. He has laid out the whole Universe in a beautiful expanded form like a thread and protects this string, the Universe.  His actions are of grandeur and He is the performer of several great deeds like the Creation of Space, Wind, Fire, Water and Earth.  There is nothing further that remains to be done by Him as He has accomplished all His duties.  He is the Creator of Vedas and all other scriptures.

The above Shloka has the following Namas:

  1.    Shubhaangah
  2.    Lokasarangah
  3.    Sutantuh
  4.    Tantuvardhanah
  5.    Indrakarma
  6.    Mahakarma
  7.    Kritakarma
  8.    Kritagamah

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

  1.    Shubhaangah – He Who has a bewitching form that mesmerises even the Asuras

RamaWe have covered this Nama earlier in Shloka 63 (Nama 593).  The details covered here are supplemental to that described for Nama 593. Sri Adi Sankara’s interpretations are: 

  • Sundareem tanum dhaarayan Shubhaangah – One Who has a handsome form
  • Sobhanaih angaih dhyeyatvaat Shubhaangah – One Who is to be meditated upon with a form of auspicious limbs

Sri Sankara explains as ‘Shubhaangas Shaantidas Srashtaa Kumuhah Kuvaleshayah – One with beautiful limbs’. He further interprets the Nama as ‘Shobhanaih angaih Dhyeyatvaat Shubhaangah – Since He is to be worshipped in the form endowed with auspicious and lovely limbs He is called Shubhangah, one who is to be meditated on in a beautiful image’. Sri MahaVishnu is known as Alankara priyar, one who loves to be well adorned.  The mental image that we frame should be as lovely as possible to make the meditation easy and a pleasurable experience. It may be recollected that in the Dhyana Shloka ‘Vishvaakaaram Gaganasadrisham Meghavarnam Shubhaangam’ we saw the importance of holding a lovely mental image of the Lord while meditating.

Sri Parasara Bhattar’s explanation earlier was that Bhagavan is called Shubhaangah because He makes His devotees succeed in the eight Angas of the Bhakti Yoga (Ashtanga Yoga – Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadhi). 

In the current instance, Sri Bhattar interprets the Nama Shubhaangah in the context of His ‘Kapata Vesham’ (deceitful form) to fool the Asuras. He gives the meaning as ‘He Who had limbs that were bewitching’, or ‘He Who had a bewitching form’ – a form that easily mislead the Asuras. The Lord assumed the bewitching Mohini Avataar to divert the Asuras from the nectar and thus ensured that the Devas took control of it after the Samudra Manthan (churning of the Ocean). As a mendicant, His words of deceit were trustworthy enough for Vrikasura to believe Him and thus Vrikasura perished.

The Story of Vrikasura

Once, the wicked Vrikasura met Sage Narada and asked him which of the trinity (Lord Shiva, Lord Vishnu and Lord Brahma) could be most easily pleased. Sage Narada, quickly replied that Lord Shiva was very kind and could be pleased with utmost ease.  He also told Vrika that once Lord Shiva is pleased, He grants any boon.

vrikasura-1Accordingly, Vrikasura proceeded to worship Lord Shiva at Kedarnath. He performed severe penance and sacrifice by beginning to take pieces of flesh from his own body and offering them as Yagna into the sacred fire. Vrikasura went on repeating this sacrifice until the seventh day and there was no more flesh left on his body. He then decided to cut his head off to be thrown into the fire, when suddenly Lord Shiva pleased with his sacrifice appeared in front of him and stopped him from killing himself.

Lord Shiva saw the suffering that Vrikasura had subjected himself to in order to please Him, and granted a boon. Vrikasura with his hands folded asked for immortality. Lord Shiva said that would not be possible but he offered anything other than that.  Vrikasura thought for a while and said, “May death come to whomever I touch upon the head with my hand.”

Lord Shiva was disturbed on hearing such a terrible request but he granted the boon and said “Thathastu” (so be it)! With the boon conferred by Lord Shiva, Vrikasura became invincible and all powerful. He started killing people by merely touching their heads. He then wanted to attack Lord Shiva too as he coveted Parvati.  As Lord Shiva became aware of Vrikasura’s motive, He sought Lord Vishnu’s help to punish the demon.

Lord Vishnu, disguised as a Brahmin radiating brilliance, went and spoke to Vrikasura. Vrikasura expressed his desire of destroying Lord Shiva. On hearing this, the Brahmin told him that Lord Shiva had lost all his powers due to a curse as a result of which his boon will not be effective anymore. Vrikasura did not believe what the Brahmin said and thought that he was being fooled.

The Brahmin then asked Vrikasura to test it by trying it on himself. He said it in such a reasonable and captivating way that the foolish Vrikasura, placed his hand on his own head instantly. In no time, his head split into two halves. Lord Vishnu’s brilliant form fooled Vrikasura and he was thus conquered.

hanuman sitaIn Sundara Kandam, Sita Piratti asks Hanuman to describe Rama and Lakshmana to her, partly because she wants to make sure that Hanuman has been genuinely sent by Rama, and partly because she wanted to enjoy the narration of His beauty described to her. Lord Hanuman wonderfully describes Lord Rama’s charm and the characteristics in verses 5.35.8 to 5.35.22. The first of these is given below:
रामः कमल पत्र अक्षः सर्व भूत मनो हरः |
रूप दाक्षिण्य सम्पन्नः प्रसूतो जनक आत्मजे ||
Meaning: O’ Sita, the daughter of Janaka! Rama has His eyes resembling the petals of a Lotus. He has a handsomeness that attracts the hearts of all living beings. He is endowed with grace and dexterity, by birth.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri refers us to His bewitching form as narrated by Sage Narada and Lord Hanuman, as revealed to us by Sage Valmiki in Srimad Ramayana. Srimad Ramayana begins with a question to Narada: 
कः नु अस्मिन् सांप्रतम् लोके गुणवान् कः च वीर्यवान् |
धर्मज्ञः च कृतज्ञः च सत्य वाक्यो धृढ व्रतः || १-१-२
Meaning: Who really is that person in this present world, who is principled, brave, righteous, gracious, a redeemer, also a truth-teller and self-determined in his deed?

Narada responds to Valmiki and tells him that there is no one other than Rama, born to King Dasharatha, who has all these qualities in one Person.  In three Shlokas (Bala Kandam 1.9-11), Narada describes the beauty of Rama’s form:
बुद्धिमान् नीतिमान् वाङ्ग्मी श्रीमान् शत्रु निबर्हणः |
विपुलांसो महाबाहुः कंबु ग्रीवो महाहनुः || १-१-९
महोरस्को महेष्वासो गूढ जत्रुः अरिन्दमः |
आजानु बाहुः सुशिराः सुललाटः सुविक्रमः || १-१-१०
समः सम विभक्त अंगः स्निग्ध वर्णः प्रतापवान् |
पीन वक्षा विशालाक्षो लक्ष्मीवान् शुभ लक्षणः || १-१-११
Meaning: Rama is an adept One with high intellect, moralist, learned, propitious, and a destroyer of enemies. One with broad shoulders, long arms, beautiful neck like a conch-shell and high cheek bones, great facial features, broad chest, great at wielding weapons, a muscular body, One who subdues His enemies easily, long hands that reach up to His knees, beautiful head and forehead, beautiful gait etc. He is Lion-chested, thick-shouldered, knee-length are His arms, and His longbow, an enemy-subjugator, and His emperor’s countenance is with a crowning-head on an ample forehead, and his pacing is lion-like. He is medium-sized physically, with limbs poised symmetrically, sinew-chested, wide-eyed, and complexioned glossily. He has a rich personality with all the providential features, and thus He is self-resplendent.

It is one thing to be praised and admired by those who are followers or admirers of Rama like Hanuman but Rama was praised and admired by even His adversaries! Such was His bewitching form.

In Aranya Kandam, Shurpanakha describes Lord Rama and Lakshmana in such glowing terms to her brother Khara while narrating the incident of her humiliation:
तरुणौ रूप संपन्नौ सुकूमारौ महाबलौ |
पुण्डरीक विशालाक्षौ चीर कृष्ण अजिन अंबरौ || ३-१९-१४
फल मूल अशिनौ दान्तौ तापसौ ब्रह्मचारिणौ |
पुत्रौ दशरथस्य आस्ताम् भ्रातरौ राम लक्ष्मनौ || ३-१९-१५
Meaning: Those two are in adulthood, good-looking, gentle yet greatly mighty, eyes broad like lotuses, dressed in jute-cloths and deerskin, subsistent on fruits and tubers, composed, sagacious and celibate, and they are the sons of Dasharatha, namely Rama and Lakshmana.

Here, when asked by Khara ‘who mutilated you?’ Shurpanakha should have normally reported that, ‘Sons of some King Dasharatha, namely Rama and Lakshmana did this atrocious act to me’.  But she starts her narration with an appreciation of Rama’s aspects.  Such is the effect of Lord’s enchanting form.

In Kishkindha Kandam, Tara rushes out to reach her slain husband Vali and is filled with grief and anger. She arrives at the place and sees Rama, Lakshmana, her husband Vali and Sugreeva. She wails for the departing soul of Vali and holds Sugreeva and Rama responsible for the untimely death of Vali. Sage Valmiki narrates Tara’s thoughts in this following verse:
सु संवृत्तम् पार्थिव लक्षणैः च तम् चारु नेत्रम् मृगशाव नेत्रा |
अदृष्ट पूर्वम् पुरुष प्रधानम् अयम् स काकुत्स्थ इति प्रजज्ञे || ४-२४-२८
Meaning: On seeing at Him (Lord Rama) whose eyes are graceful, one endowed with all Kingly attributes, who looked best among men, and who is unseen so far, that fawn-eyed Tara realized Him alone as that Rama. [4-24-28]

And Tara speaks to Rama thus:
त्वम् आत्त बाणासन बाण पाणिः महाबलः संहनन उपपन्नः |
मनुष्य देहाभुदयम् विहाय दिव्येन देहाभ्युदयेन युक्तः || ४-२४-३२
Meaning: You with your proportionate physique are a mighty one handling bows and arrows, but your bodily magnificence is more than that of magnificent humanly body. [4-24-32]

It is said that while she rushed to Rama wishing to hurl a mouthful of swears, on nearing a pure Shuddha Sattva Rama, her other two human traits, namely anger and stupidity, Rajo and Tamo Gunas quietened in her and she became very polite and started to eulogise Him.  Such was Lord Rama’s charm.  In the Yuddha Kandam, Mandodari laments, recollecting the strength and power of Ravana. But, she realises that Rama, who killed Ravana, is none other than Vishnu the Lord of the World.

Swami ChinmayAnanda translates the Nama Shubhaangah as ‘One with enchanting limbs of perfect beauty’. 

Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan gives a similar interpretation – ‘Subhani Darshakanaam manga lot padakaani angaani carana-vadana Nayanaadini yasya iti Shubhaangah – He Who has a form that bestows auspiciousness to those who meditate on Him – His Lotus Feet, His Lotus eyes, His beautiful form etc.  He also gives an alternate interpretation for the Nama. He says that Bhagavan makes auspicious things, such as trust in the Shastras, guidance from Acharyas, etc.,  accessible to the devotees – Subhani Guru Sastrokti Vishvaasa svapna Asvasana Lakshanani angyati utpalambhayati iti Shubhaangah.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishta interprets based on the root word ‘agi –gatau’ meaning ‘to go’, and gives several alternate interpretations: 

  • Sobhamaano angati – gacchati yah sa Shubhaangah – He Who has a beautiful gait. (Recall the Simha gati, Gaja gati, etc. that Perumal has in Sri Rangam during Utsavas)
  • Anganam – Sarva-kaalikam Sarva-deshikam ca vyapanam; Shubham anganam yasya sa Shubhaangah – He Who pervades everything and everywhere at all times with His auspicious Form
  • Shobhayanjagat gamayati iti Shubhaangah – He Who makes things functional in this Universe in a beautiful way.
  1.    Loka-Sarangah – He preached to the World

cropped-1150835_1770949879710962_1481570615_n.jpgThis Nama has several meanings:

  1. He preached to the World
  2. He grasps the essence of the World like a Saranga or a Honeybee
  3. He is reachable through the essence (Sara) of the Vedas, namely Pranava Mantra (AUM)
  4. He is the object of devotion (Loka-sara)
  5. He Who is attracted by Bhakti
  6. He bestows Moksham, and the Jnanis are attracted to Him
  7. He has devotees singing His auspicious qualities

Sri Adi Sankara gives two meanings for this Nama. The first one is based on the meaning of Him extracting essence like a honey bee. Sri Sankara says ‘Lokanaam Saaram Saarangavat Bhringavat Grinhaati iti LokaSarangah – He extracts the essence of the World like a honeybee extracts the essence from a flower and hence He is called LokaSarangah’.

Hinduism.AtmanBrahmanSri Sankara’s other interpretation is ‘Lokasaarah Pranavah tena Pratipattavya iti vaa LokaSarangah – Pranava or the syllable ‘AUM’ is the essence of all the Vedas and Bhagavan is realisable through the meditation on Pranava, hence He is called LokaSarangah, the one who is reachable through the essence of the Vedas’.

Sri Bhattar explains as ‘Loke yat saram tat gacchati iti Loka-Sarangah’ – He Who preached what was instantly more appealing outwardly from the Vedas.  Sri Bhattar continues that He taught that there are only two things to worry about: 

  1. How to enjoy while we live?
  2. How to get Salvation or Moksham in the end?

He told ‘Kurushvam mama vaakyani yadi muktim abhitshtatha” (Vishnu Puranam 3.18.5) – If you want salvation, follow my words’.  

Bhagavan gave guidance through the Bhagavad Gita as an essence of the Vedas, a form much easier to learn and follow when compared to the Vedas.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishta explains as ‘Sthiro bhavati iti Sarah – One who moves while remaining fixed throughout time is Sarah’.   Sri Vasishta interprets Loka-Sara as referring to Bhakti towards Bhagavan – ‘Loke saro bhagavati Prema’.  The second meaning he gives is ‘He Who is the recipient or object of this Bhakti, or He Who is attracted by Bhakti, is Loka-Sarangah – Loka Sarah tad gacchati prapnoti, tat prati Akrishto bhavati iti Loka-Sarango Vishnuh’. So the two interpretations that Sri Vasishta gives for the Nama are: He Who is the ob
ject of devotion (Loka-Sara), or He Who is attracted by Bhakti.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan gives support from NammAzhwar’s Tiruviruttam (96): 
வணங்கும் துறைகள் பலபல ஆக்கி, மதிவிகற்பால்
பிணங்கும் சமயம் பலபல ஆக்கி, அவையவைதோ
றணங்கும் பலபல ஆக் கிநின் மூர்த்தி பரப்பிவைத்தாய்
இணங்குநின் னோரையில் லாய்,நின்கண் வேட்கை எழுவிப்பனே.
Meaning: You created several ways to worship You, including those that conflict with, and contradict each other; You created several Gods, and in all of them, you spread your peerless form. My heart swells with love for you!

Sri Satya Sandha Yatiraja gives the interpretation by viewing the Nama as LokaSah + rangah.  He uses the roots ‘san – daane’ – to give, and ‘ranj – raage’ – to be devoted to, in his interpretation.  His commentary is ‘Lokam Vaikunthaadi Lokam sanoti dadati iti Loka-Sah; rajyante jnaninah atra iti rangah; Loka-Sah asau rangashca iti LokaSarangah – He Who bestows Sri Vaikuntham on His devotees and to whom Jnanis are attracted, is LokaSa-rangah.

The word Saranga also refers to a conch shell or a kind of musical instrument.  Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan takes the word Loka to refer to Bhaktas – the devotees, and Saranga as a reference to a conch shell or a kind of musical instrument, and says ‘He Who has devotees singing His auspicious qualities – Loka hari-bhakta-janaah Saranga monodvatad Guna gaayaka yasya sa Loka-Sarangah’.

  1.    Su-tantuh – He who has a powerful net to capture the Asuras from which there is no escape

spiral galaxyThe word Tantu means a string or a thread. Based on this, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama as ‘Shobhanah tantuh Visteernah Prapanchah asya iti Sutantuh – He has laid out the whole Universe in a beautiful expanded form like a thread and hence He is called Sutantuh’.  

Mundaka Upanishad says ‘Just as a spider projects the web out of its body and then again withdraws it into itself, so also the Brahman projects this world and then withdraws it into itself’.
Yathorṇa-nabhiḥ sṛjate gṛhṇate ca, yatha pṛthivayam oṣadhayas sambhavanti,
Yatha sataḥ puruṣaat keshalomaani tathaakṣaraat sambhavatiha Vishvam (1.1.7).
Meaning: From this Eternal Being, this world, this Universe, has emanated. How does the world come from God? We have seen a spider spitting threads from its own body. From its saliva, as it were, threads come out, and it weaves a web around itself. Or we have seen trees spontaneously growing from under the earth, or we have seen hair growing on the head. In some such way is the manner of the Creation of this World.

Thus the allegory of the Universe being a thread is a famous Vedic concept. Modern physics now speaks of ‘String theory’ to explain the origin of the Universe.

‘Su’ is an upasarga and ‘tantu’ is derived from the root ‘tanu – vistaare’ meaning ‘to spread, to go’. Among the meanings for the term ‘tantu’ are thread, cord, wire, string, etc.  Sri Bhattar uses the meaning ‘a net of threads’ for the term ‘tantu’, and gives the meaning ‘One Who has such a net to capture the evil-minded folks’ for the term tantuh.  Bhagavan puts in an appearance of tranquillity and meditation in this deceitful role, and the Asuras are trapped in this net, and never get out of it. 

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri explains that since Bhagavan created everything, like a long piece of thread from a small ball of cotton, He is called Su-tantuh. Sri Shastri further explains that this net is beautiful and attracts the Asuras, and at the same time it is very strong, and so they can’t get out once they are caught.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishta develops his interpretation based on the meaning ‘to expand’ for the root ‘tanu – vistaare’, and explains as ‘tanyata iti tantuh Sobhanah tantuh yasya sa su-tantuth Vishnuh; Sobhanam tanyate vishvam yena sa su-tantuh iti arthah – Consistent with His act of the beautiful expansion that He does, we see that right from the start of Creation and up to the time of Pralaya, the different species remain the same and keep expanding at the same time.  They have expanded before, they are expanding now, and they will continue to expand in the future (expansion here is to be understood in terms of new members of each species being created, while old members die).  

Sri Satyasandha Yatiraja uses the sense of vistara or expansion for the term tantu, and interprets the Nama as signifying that Bhagavan has this Nama because He has the likes of Brahma as His son – Shobhanas-tantuh catur-mukhaadi santaano yasya sa Su-tantuh. 

Sri Ananta Krishna Shastry gives the interpretation that because Bhagavan expanded the race of Yadavas in an auspicious way being the progeny of Vasudeva, hence He is called Su-tantuh.

  1.    Tantu-Vardhanah – He Who increases the meshes

milky-wayThe word Vardhanah is derived from the root ‘vridh – vriddhau’ meaning ‘to grow’.  So this Nama can be viewed as an extension of the previous Nama – One who increases the meshes in the net, or One Who continues to maintain or sustain the expansion of this Universe.

Sri Adi Sankara gives two meanings for this Nama. The first is ‘Tameva Tantum Vardhayati iti TantuVardhanah – He expands and protects the above string, namely the Universe, and hence He is called TantuVardhanah’.

The second interpretation is ‘Tameva tantum Chedayati iti vaa TantuVardhanah – At the appointed time He withdraws the same Universe into Himself and hence He is called TantuVardhanah’. Even in the spider analogy of Mundaka Upanishad, the Brahman projects this world and then withdraws it into itself’. The name ‘TantuVardhanah’ fully explains both these aspects lucidly.

Sri Bhattar gives the interpretation as ‘evam papa rucibhih amsubhiriva Samsara-tantum santanoti iti Tantu-Vardhanah – Thus, by aggravating the taste for sin in these people (who deserve to be punished), He strengthens the snare of Samsara as if by strong fibres’.   Sri Bhattar gives reference from the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 16, Verse 19), where Lord Krishna says:
tan aham dvisatah kruran samsaresu naradhaman |
ksipamy ajasram asubhan asurisv eva yonisu || B.G.16.19
Meaning: Those who are envious, cruel, the vilest and the most inauspicious of mankind, I hurl them forever into the cycles of births and deaths, into the wombs of demons”. 

He further quotes from the Vishnu Puranam (3.18.32)
trayi-marga samutsargam mayamohena te’surah   |
karitas-tanmaya hyaasan tathanye tat-pracoditaah   ||
tairapyanye’pare taishca tairapyanye pare ca te   |      (VP 3.18.32)
Meaning: The foes of Devas being thus induced to apostatise from the religion of the Vedas by the enchanting power of Vishnu, became in their turn teachers of the same heresies, and perverted others; and these, again, communicating their principles to others, by whom they were still further disseminated and alienated from the Vedas and in a short time Vedas were deserted by the Daitya race.

This is how Bhagavan ‘increased the meshes’ – Tantu-Vardhanah.  

Sri Ananta Krishna Shastry interprets the Nama as referring to His extending the progeny of the Vasudeva family through Pradyumna and others.

  1.    Indra-Karma – He Whose acts reflect Supreme Lordship

indrakarmaSri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama as ‘Indrasya Karma iva karma asya iti Indrakarmaa Aishvaryakarmaa iti Arthah– His actions are comparable to the actions of Indra or actions of glory and grandeur’. Indra controls all the Devas like Agni, Vaayu and Varuna but Lord is the antaryami of Indra and hence He is the source for all their splendour and glory.

Bhagavan performs similar actions endowed with grandeur and awe encompassing the whole Universe. In fact He gives the power to Indra to act in the way that Indra is able to. The actions of Indra can be regarded as a representative subset of Bhagavan’s actions. Hence the Nama IndraKarma, one who acts like Indra, is appropriate.

Sri Bhattar says that Bhagavan assisted Indra and other Devas in response to their request for help.  He gives support from the Vishnu Puranam:
tam Ucuh sakala devah pranipaata purassaram    |
prasIda natha! daityebhayah trahi iti Saranarthinah   ||   (VP 3.17.36)
Meaning: All the Gods prostrated before Him and said:  O Lord! Be merciful towards us.  Please save us from the Asuras.  We seek refuge in Thee.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri gives the interpretation that He has the Nama because He has the actions of Indra as His own;  in other words, He is the Antaryami of Indra, and thus He is the cause behind Indra’s power.  

Sri Satyadevo Vasishta uses the generic meaning ‘Ind – paramaishvarye’, and gives the interpretation – Indrani karmani yasya – pramaishvarya SalIni karmani yasya sa Indra-karma – He Whose actions reflect His Supreme Lordship, is Indra-karma.  Sri Vasishta gives examples of His Indrakarmas’ – the support of all the worlds, ensuring that the planets function in their correct paths with correct trajectory, velocity etc., bestowing the Sun with its power, etc.  

Swami ChinmayAnanda gives a similar interpretation as ‘One Who always performs gloriously auspicious actions’.

  1.    Maha-Karma – He performs magnanimous actions

avatar-varahaThe word ‘Maha’ means great, so this Nama refers to a person of awesome deeds. Based on this, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama as ‘Mahaanti Viyadaadini Bhutaani Karmaani Kaaryaani asya iti Mahakarma – He is the performer of several great deeds like the Creation of Space, Wind, Fire, Water and Earth, so He is called MahaKarma, a person of phenomenal achievements’.

Sri Parasara Bhattar explains this Nama as:
Evam prapanna paripalana Arthatvaat duracara-dandana arthatvacca Parama-karunikasyaiva vipralambha sambhavah| evam nyaya vrittatvaat Maha-Karma. 
Meaning: Even though Bhagavan is of a merciful nature, He perpetrated acts to deceive the evil doers for the sake of the protection of the Prapannas, those who had taken refuge in Him.  He ensured the destruction of those who were engaged in unholy and evil practices.  Since all His acts were thus justifiable, He is Maha-Karma.

One can relate this aspect of Bhagavan to the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 4 Verse 8) where the Lord says:
Paritranaya sadhunam vinasaya ca duskrtam
Dharma-samsthapanarthaya sambhavami yuge yuge ||
Meaning: In order to protect the pious and to annihilate the miscreants, as well as to re-establish the principles of righteousness, I advent Myself millennium after millennium.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj gives the interpretation that He has this Nama because He performs divine actions – ‘Mahat MahanIyam divyam karma yasya iti Maha-Karma’.  He gives the support from the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 4 Verse 9) – ‘Janma karma ca me divyam – My birth and My actions are of a divine nature’.

Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan’s interpretation of the Nama ‘MahaKarma’ is based on the incident involving Lord Krishna restoring Indra’s Royal umbrella and Aditi’s earrings – Mahanti bhauma vadha mani parva chatra aditi kundala Anayanani karmani yasya sa Maha Karma.  The reference to these incidents is found in Srimad Bhagavatam in Canto 10, Part 59, Shloka 2:
Indrena hritac-chatrena hrita-kundala-bandhuna |  
hrita amara adri sthanena indrena jnapito bhauma ceshtitam   |
sa-bharyo garudarudhah prag-jyotisha puram yayau   ||        SB 10.59.2)
Meaning: Having been requested by Indra for His help in recovering his Royal umbrella, his mother’s ear-rings, and his seat called mani parvatam in Sumeru hill, that was forcibly taken away by NarakAsura, Lord Krishna went to the city of NarakAsura with Satyabhama, riding on His Garuda Vaahanam.  This Chapter in Srimad Bhagavatam deals extensively describing Krishna’s fight with NarakAsura, and the slaying of NarakAsura in the end.

In Shloka 43 of the above Chapter, Lord Krishna is referred to as A-tarkya-krit – He Who performs acts that are inconceivable and undisputedly great.   The use of the word A-tarkya-kritah conveys the same meaning as ‘MahaKarma’.

Swami ChinamyAnanda explains that in order to create a cosmos so scientifically precise and perfect out of the five great elements, and to sustain them all with an iron hand of efficiency, all the time constantly presiding over the acts of destruction without which the world of change cannot be maintained, is in itself, a colossal achievement of Absolute Intelligence.

  1.    Krita-Karma – He Who practiced the acts He preached

ananthasayanamSri Adi Sankara gives two interpretations for this Nama. The first of which is ‘Kritameva sarvam Kritaarthatvaat na kartavyam kinchidapi Karma asya vidyate – He has done everything that was expected of Him and there is nothing further that remains to be done by Him, hence He is called Kritakarma, one who has accomplished all his duties’.

The other interpretation is ‘Dharmaatmakam Karma Kritavaan iti vaa – He performed all actions pertaining to Dharma or to protect Dharma, hence He is called KritaKarma’. Here Karma is used in the special sense of Dharmic actions.

Sri Bhattar’s interpretation is that Bhagavan played His role of deception by following the practices He preached to the Asuras in order to ensure that they believed in Him completely – svayam anushthita tad-Acharah. 

Sri V.V. Ramanujan comments that Bhagavan stressed the motto ‘ahimsa paramo dharmah’ to the exclusion of every other code, and made sure that the Asuras rejected the Vedic sacrifices and such other acts. 

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj gives reference from the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 3, Verse 22), where the Lord says:
na me Partha asti kartavyam trishu lokeshu kincana   |
na anavaptam avaptavyam varta eva ca karmani  ||  (B.G. 3.22)
Meaning: Arjuna, there is nothing in all the three worlds that is left for Me that is yet to be done, nor is there anything that is needed to be still acquired.  Yet I go on working.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishta gives the interpretation that the Nama signifies that Bhagavan is ‘One Who keeps repeating the process of Creation, Protection, and Destruction in cycles – One Who keeps doing these actions again and again – kritameva jal-lakshanam karma punah punah karoti’.

He also refers to the Rig Veda (10.190.3) – ‘Yatha Poorvam Akalpaat – He created everything as before’, in support.  

Sri Vasishta gives an alternate interpretation as well – ‘He Who performs the work that no one else can do – anyaih kartum anarham bahubhirapi yat karma, tat karoti iti Krita-Karma.  He gives the example of the function of the Sun appearing and setting unendingly every day from the beginning of the world, and continuing till the end of the world.  This process of Creation is something that no one else can do, with perfection, over and over again.

Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan, a follower of the Chaitanya tradition, explains the meaning of this Nama in terms of the many acts of Sri Krishna that are in the category of ‘No one else can do’ – the slaying of NarakAsura, the liberation of the 16000 Raja Kumaris who had been imprisoned by him, the fetching of Parijata tree for Satyabhama, the victory over Banasura, the freeing of Aniruddha and Usha, the slaying of Kamsa, Putana and other Asuras etc.

  1.    KritAgamah – He is the Propounder of Agamas (Spiritual texts)

hayagriva2Agama refers to scriptures like Vedas, Upanishads, Shastras etc. Based on this, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama as ‘Krito Vedaatmaka Agamo  yena iti KritAgamah – All the scriptures including Vedas were created by Him and hence He is called KritAgamah’.  In support of this, Sri Sankara quotes from the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (2.4.10) which says ‘Asya Mahato Bhutasya NisshvaSitam etad Yadrigvedah – As various kinds of smoke emanate from a fire kindled with wet fuel, so does the Rig Veda, the Yajur Veda,  the Sama-Veda, the Atharva Veda and several other scriptures emanate from this Supreme Self’, so He is named KritAgamah, one by whom the scriptures were created. 

Sri Parasara Bhattar explains this Nama in the context of Bhagavan’s acts of deceiving the evil people.  To make them believe in His deceitful acts, He further created spiritual texts propounding the faiths of Buddhism, Jainism, etc.  – Buddha arhata samayika Agamah KritAgamah (from Vishnu Purana).

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj explains the Nama as referring to His being the Originator of the Pancaratra Agama – ‘Pancaratrasya kritsnasya karta Narayanah svayam” – The whole of Pancaratra was originated by Lord Narayana Himself.

Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan interprets the word Agama as ‘arrival’, and gives the meaning for the Nama as referring to the arrival of Lord Krishna in Dwaraka after performing several of His Leelas –  Kritas-tat-tat caritani prakashya Dwarakayam Agamo yena sa KritAgamah.

Sri Vasishta gives the derivation – Agamyate anena iti Agamo Vedah – That through which knowledge is obtained is Agama, namely, the Vedas.  He Who created the Vedas is Krita-Agamah – Krita Agamo yena sa KritAgamah.   The term Agama also means ‘appearance’.  Sri Vasishta gives an interpretation using the meaning ‘Avarta’ meaning ‘revolution or repeated appearance’.  He gives the example of the Sun appearing repeatedly, as a Vibhuti of Bhagavan.  Bhagavan Himself appears in His incarnations repeatedly, and in this sense also He is ‘Agamah’ – He Who appears repeatedly.


Shubhaango LokaSarangah Sutantuh Tantuvardhanah |
Indrakarma Mahakarma Kritakarma Kritagamah         ||84||

pattabhishekamHe is endowed with beautiful limbs and is to be worshipped in His divine and auspicious form, hence He is called Shubhangah. He extracts the essence of the world like a honeybee extracts the essence from a flower, so He is called LokaSarangah. He has laid out the whole Universe in a beautiful expanded form like a thread and hence He is called Sutantuh.  He expands and protects the above string, the Universe, and hence He is called TantuVardhanah.

His actions are of grandeur and He is the antaryami for Indra who controls all the Devas like Agni, Vaayu and Varuna, and hence He is called IndraKarma. He is the performer of several great deeds like the Creation of Space, Wind, Fire, Water and Earth, hence He is called MahaKarma, a person of phenomenal achievements.  He has accomplished everything expected of Him and there is nothing further that remains to be done by Him, hence He is called KritaKarma.  All the scriptures including Vedas were created by Him, so He is called KritAgamah.



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



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