In this part we will explore the meaning of the 85th Shloka of Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam.
Udbhavah Sundarah Sundo Ratnanaabhah Sulochanah |
Arko Vaajasanah Shringee Jayantah Sarvavijjayee ||85||
He is Superior in all His incarnations and is an acme of beauty. He has melting compassion towards His devotees and is ever-ready to rush to protect them or fulfil His promise. He is bejewelled in His navel, has mesmerising Lotus eyes and He is most adorable. He is worshiped by Gods like Brahma and hence He is the most worthy of worship. He sustains the Universe by bestowing food and protects the World by taking such forms as the horned fish to rescue the Earth. Because of His knowledge of everything, He emerges victorious in all His pursuits and battles, hence He is Invincible.
The above Shloka has the following Namas:
- Vaajasanah or Vaajasanih
Now let’s examine the meaning of the above Namas in detail:
- Udbhavah – He Who is Superior rising above Samsara
This Nama occurred earlier in Shloka 41 as Nama 375 and has many meanings:
- He Who rose above Samsara
- He Who is of a Superior birth, taking birth as He likes, when He likes and where He likes
- He from Whom everything originated
- He Who resides in an exalted place (Sri Vaikuntham)
- He Who Created the Devas
- He Who is born again and again for the protection of Dharma
Sri Adi Sankara offers two interpretations, the first of which is is ‘Utkrishtam Bhavam Janma Svecchayaa Bhavati iti Udbhavah – He takes eminent births of His own volition, hence He is called Udbhavah’. He has taken many incarnations such as Rama, Krishna, Parashurama etc. out of compassion for people and because of His many eminent births, He is called Udbhavah. It may be noted that others take births due to their Karma but Bhagavan takes births of His own free will and to protect the good.
Sri Sankara’s second interpretation is ‘Udgatam Apagatam janma asya Sarva Kaaranatvaat iti vaa Udgatah – He Who has no birth or origin, as everything originated from Him’. He is above the process of birth, as He is the Creator of All Beings.
The word ‘Ud’ is a prefix and the root word for ‘bhava’ is ‘Bhu – Sattayam’ meaining ‘to be, to live or to be born’. The word ‘Udbhava’ therefore refers to origin, source, creation etc. The difference in the various interpretations arises mainly due to the different ways in which the Upasarga ‘Ud’ is interpreted, for e.g., Udgata – rising above, Utkrishta – excellent, Uttama – best or superior, Uccaih – high, etc.
Sri Parasara Bhattar interprets both the instances of the Nama as ‘Udgatah bhavaat iti Udgatah – He Who pulls us out of the cycle of Samsara’. Sri Bhattar points out that by meditating on the Lord’s image of breaking free from the bondage of being tied to the mortar (to which He submitted Himself when Yashodha tied Him), we will be released from our bondage of Samsara – ‘Damodaram bandha haram’.
Sri Radhakrishna Shastri gives the interpretation – ‘Uttamo bhavo yasya sa Ud-bhavah – He Whose birth is Superior’. He gives reference from Srimad Bhagavatam 10.3, which describes child Krishna’s birth to Devaki in the prison. His birth is Superior because it is unlike any other birth that is known, that is accompanied by wonderful and rare events. Unlike other children who are born, His eyes were not closed at birth; He appeared with beautiful Lotus eyes wide open; He was not connected to His mother through the umbilical cord at birth; He was not covered with the signs of being inside a mother’s womb, but appeared with a clean and beautiful body, bearing the conch, the discus etc.; the waves dashing against the shore sounded like the beautiful beat of an auspicious drum at His birth; and all other kinds of other auspicious and unusual things occurred when this One Who has no birth, ‘was born’ to Devaki.
Sri Satya Sandha Yatiraja conveys a similar idea with his interpretation as ‘Bhavaat Samsarat utpatter va Udgata iti Ud-bhavah – He Who is beyond Samsara, birth etc., is Udbhavah.
Swami ChinmayAnanda gives the meaning as ‘Source or Origin’ for ‘Udbhavah’, and gives his interpretation for the Nama as ‘The Ultimate Source – He from Whom everything originated – the very spring of Creation’. He gives reference from the Bhagavad Gita Chapter 14 Verse 4 in support:
Sarva yonishu kaunteya murtayah sambhavanti yah|
tasam Brahma mahad-yonih aham bija-pradah pita ||
Meaning: Whatever forms are produced in any womb, O Arjuna, the prakriti is their great womb, and I am the seed giving father. You may recall that the Lord is also called Vishvareta, the seed of the Universe.
Bhagavan is the One who decides the birth of each individual according to one’s Karma – He decides whether one is born a Deva, a Gandharva, an Animal, a Human etc., according to their Karma.
Sri Satyadevo Vasishta uses the meaning ‘Uccaih’ for ‘Ut’ prefix and gives the interpretation – Uccaih bhavanam yasya sa Udbhavah – He Whose place of existence is at the highest level. Sri Vasishta gives the example of the Sun moving at a very high altitude as a manifestation of Bhagavan. The meaning is more enjoyable if we take relate it to the ‘highest place’, Sri Vaikuntham or Parama Padam.
Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj gives another interpretation as ‘He is born again and again to protect Dharma – Dharma Samsthapanarthaya Sambhavami Yuge Yuge’.
- Sundarah – He Who is handsome
The word ‘Sundara’ means handsome. Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Vishvaatishayi Saubhaagyashaalitvaat Sundarah – His glory or beauty surpasses the whole world, hence He is called Sundarah’. Vishva means the whole world and Atishayi means exceeding, so His beauty and charm is unparalleled. In other words no other object in the world comes anywhere close to Him in beauty or is as auspicious and joy-giving. Hence, He is called Sundarah, the most beautiful entity in the whole world.
Sri Bhattar explains that He assumed the beautiful Mohini Avataar to distract the Asuras away from the pot of Nectar during the Samudra Manthan (churning of the Ocean), and so He is aptly described as Sundarah. Sri V.N. Vedanta Desikan gives the explanation as ‘He Who had a captivating form so as to impress and attract a large following’.
Sri Thirumangai Azhwar describes this charming beauty of Bhagavan in Periya Thirumozhi Pasurams (9.2). A sample of two of the ten Pasurams with each one of them ending with the exclamation of ‘Acho oruvar Azhagiyava’ meaning ‘O’ what a beauty!’
தோடவிழ் நீலம் மணங்கொ டுக்கும் சூழ்புனல் சூழ்குடந் தைக்கிடந்த
சேடர்கொ லென்று தெரிக்க மாட்டேன் செஞ்சுட ராழியும் சங்குமேந்தி
பாடக மெல்லடி யார்வ ணங்கப் பன்மணி முத்தொடி லங்குசோதி
ஆடகம் பூண்டொரு நான்கு தோளும் அச்சோ ஒருவர் அழகியவா. [9.2.2]
Meaning: Was he one of the young men who lazed in Kudandai surrounded by waters that spread the fragrance of blue water lilies? I do not know. Bearing a radiant discus and white conch in His hands, wearing many radiant jewels made of gems and pearls set in gold, He stood with four arms, worshipped by maidens with tender anklet-feet. Acho He was so beautiful!
வம்பவி ழும்துழாய் மாலை தோள்மேல் கையன ஆழியும் சங்கும் ஏந்தி,
நம்பர்நம் மில்லம் புகுந்து நின்றார் நாகரி கர்பெரி துமிளையர்
செம்பவ ளமிவர் வாயின் வண்ணம் தேவ ரிவர துருவம்சொல்லில்
அம்பவ ளத்திர ளேயு மொப்பர் அச்சோ ஒருவர் அழகியவா. [9.2.4]
Meaning: Wearing a bee-humming Tulasi garland over His shoulders, bearing a conch and discus in His hands, the trusted Lord entered our house. He looked exceedingly youthful and dignified. His lips were the hue of red coral. His whole frame looked like a heap of corals. ‘Oh! What a bewitching beauty! O’ how can I ever describe this beauty?!’
Sri Thirumazhisai Azhwar describes His beauty as ‘Ari pongik kaattum Azhagu (Naanmugan Thiruvandhadhi 21) – The Lord of the Devas came as a ferocious Lion, O’ what a wonder! His gaping mouth spit fire, His red eyes shone like hot embers. O’ What a beautiful form it was!
Sri Thiruppaan Azhwar is unable to contain His exuberance at the beauty of Lord Ranganatha, and in two of the total of his ten Pasurams in Amanaladhipiraan, he exclaims in ecstasy at the Lord’s beauty by calling out ‘Aiyo! – What a Beauty!’
கையினார் சுரிசங்கன லாழியர் நீள்வரைபோல்
மெய்யனார் துளப விரையார் கமழ்நீள் முடியெம்
ஐயனார் அணியரங்கனா ரரவின ணைமிசை மேயமாயனார்
செய்யவா யையோ. என்னைச் சிந்தை கவர்ந்ததுவே. 
Meaning: He wields the discus and conch in His hands. His body is like a dark mountain. He is my master with a tall crown wafting the fragrance of Tulasi. He is the wonder-Lord of Arangam reclining on a serpent bed. Aiyo, His red lips have won my heart over!
ஆலமாமரத்தி னிலைமே லொருபாலகனாய்
ஞாலமேழு முண்டா னரங்கத் தரவி னணையான்
கோலமாமணி யாரமும் முத்துத் தாமமும் முடிவில்ல தோரெழில்
நீலமேனி யையோ நிறை கொண்டதென் நெஞ்சினையே. 
Meaning: He swallowed seven worlds and lay as a child on a fig leaf. He reclines on a serpent in Arangam. He wears a beautiful gem-set garland and a necklace of pearls on His dark frame. Aiyo! His matchless beauty has stolen my heart!
Swami ChinmayAnanda relates ‘Sundara or beauty’ to mental peace that is derived from meditating and contemplating on Sriman Narayana. He observes that meditation leads to the joy of ecstasy. The mind is at peace when meditating, and it is at these moments of supreme inner satisfaction that the flashes of beautiful experiences flood the bosom. This is nothing but the manifestation of Sriman Narayana, and this is why He is referred to as ‘Peace-Auspiciousness-Beauty’ – ‘Santam Sivam, Sundaram’ in the Upanishads.
Sri Satya Sandha Yatiraja interprets the Nama as ‘Sundarah Soundarvaan’. Using the meaning ‘conch shell’ for the word ‘Dara’, he gives the additional interpretation as ‘Sobhanam darah Sakho yasya iti Sun-darah – He Who wields the beautiful conch –Pancajanyam’. He gives another interpretation as ‘Sundam upasundena repayati nashayati iti Sunda-rah – He Who killed Sunda through Upasunda’. The story relating to this incident is that of Sunda and Upasunda who were sons of the demon Nikumbha. They had been blessed with a boon from Brahma that would only die if they destroyed each other. Blessed with boon, they became very oppressive, and ultimately Indra had to send a nymph named Thilotthama to initiate a fight among them. While fighting for her, they killed each other. Since all creation and destruction is because of Bhagavan, He is called Sunda-rah – The Destroyer of Sunda.
Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj gives yet another explanation as ‘Sutaram driyate prashasyata iti Sundarah – He Who is exceedingly well regarded and worshipped (using the meanings Sutaram – exceedingly, driyate from the root dr – to worship, to regard). He gives support from Srimad Bhagavatam (4.8.45) for this:
Prasadabhimukham Shashvat prasanna vadanekshanam|
Su-nasam su-bhruvam caru-kapolam sura-Sundaram ||
Meaning: The Lord’s face is perpetually very beautiful and pleasing in attitude. To the devotees who see Him, He appears never to be displeased, and He is always prepared to award benedictions to them. His eyes, His nicely decorated eyebrows, His raised nose and His broad forehead are all very beautiful. He is more beautiful than all the Devas.
Sri Satyadevo Vasishta derives the meaning based on the root ‘dr – vidarane’ meaning ‘to tear, to divide’. Using ‘Su’ as a prefix meaning ‘well’, he gives the meaning for the Nama as ‘He Who divides or separates well – Susushtu nirdosham vidaranam yah kurute sa Su-darah sanneva varnagamena Sundara ityukto bhavati’. His interpretation is in terms of all the parts of the bodies of different creations being properly divided or separated (such as the two wings of the birds, the branches of the trees, etc.). Part of the Shloka that he has composed to explain this Nama is – ‘Sa Sundaro Vishnur-ananta rupo yonih samagram vividham drinaati” – Vishnu, who has many forms, has separated or divided the different creatures in different ways.
- Sundah – He is compassionate to His devotees
The word ‘Su’ is a prefix. The root involved in the Nama is ‘Und – kledane’ meaning ‘to wet, to moisten’. Sushthu unatti iti Sundah – He Who softens. Sri Bhattar gives the interpretation that He is called Sundah because He melted the hearts of the Asuras by His fascinating form, and drew them towards Him. This is true of His Mohini incarnation where he diverted the attention of Asuras away from the pot of Nectar.
Swami ChinmayAnanda describes His Mercy as ‘Whatever be the amount of Vasanas (desires and past impressions) hoarded in our personality due to the ego-centric, extroverted activities, once a devotee turns unto Him in total surrender, all the Vasanas are purified, and the devotee moves more and more towards Him”. In His infinite mercy, Bhagavan forgives all sins that a person might commit in his ignorance.
In the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 18 Verse 66), Bhagavan says:
Sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja |
Aham tvam sarva-papebhyo moksayisyami ma sucah ||
Meaning: Abandon all varieties of rituals and righteousness, and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reactions, Do not despair.
Sri Satya Sandha Yatiraja’s interpretation is that He has this Nama signifying that He is the Bestower of joy and happiness to His devotees – Sum sukham dadati iti Sundah.
Sri Satyadevo Vasishta uses the meaning ‘und – kledane’ meaning ‘to wet’, and attributes the Nama to the act of Him providing with the water for the all beings, rain for crops etc. – yo vrisha karmana samyag unatti; lokepi ca pashyamah, manushyo jalena kvacit bahu-kritvah sincati, kvacicca alpashah; esha yo niyamo sa tasyaiva vyapakasya Vishnoh.
The Story of Krishna and Jara
The Yadavas were in eternal bliss in Dwaraka, in so much bliss, that they forgot good conduct, morals and the importance of discipline and humility. So once when some of the Saptha Rishis came to visit Krishna and Balarama, they went beyond the restraints of respect for the Maha Purushas.
“Let’s test the powers of these so called ‘Thava sreshtas’ (best of the people in tapas)”, suggested Sambha, the son of Krishna, to his friends. Sambha dressed himself as a woman, and then placed a mace underneath his dress, and led by two other men approached the Rishis, the very picture of an expecting mother. “Oh learned men”, one of the Yadavas voiced, ”My wife here is pregnant. Can you, by the divine powers vested in you, predict the gender of the child to be born?”
The Rishis were furious. They saw through the whole prank immediately and Kanva Maharishi instantly grabbed his Kamandala and in a fury sprinkled some water on the three Yadavas. He cursed them saying, “May the very thing that he bears in his stomach be born to him. And that thing will lead to the extinction of the entire Yadava clan”. The Yadavas, shocked though they were, were too arrogant to even apologise. They left the scene, laughing off the curse as the speech of one who had lost all his sanity.
Things were however very different the next morning. Sambha developed labour pains and soon delivered a mace from within him. The Yadavas were now struck with fear. They immediately rushed with the mace to Akroora and Ugrasena. In the presence of Krishna himself, they narrated the tide of events. Akroora imediately ordered, ”Grind the mace to a fine powder and cast it into the seas.”
The Yadavas nodded and retreated. Akroora cast his gaze at Krishna, his eyes full of questions. Krishna simply smiled back. “The wheels of time are turning Uncle and Sambha has played his part perfectly”, He said and left without another word, leaving both of them bewildered.
“What did he mean by that Akroora?” asked the old King, Ugrasena. Rukmini who was standing by the doorway, bedecked with jewels, the goddess shining brightly, reminded them of Gandhari’s curse at the end of the MahaBharata war, some thirty six year ago. Gandhari, in her anger and grief over the death of her sons, cursed Krishna with the death of all Yadavas in a manner similar to the death of her sons, to befall after 36 years. Krishna accepts the curse, but explains to her how he had tried many times to mediate peace. Rukmini said “the time for her curse to act has arrived. Krishna has made sure that her curse would come true as a reward for her devotion in Him” leaving Akroora agape.
Outside the palace, the Yadavas had obeyed Akroora’s command to the dot. They had ground the mace finely. Everything was ground except a sharp triangular piece which appeared to be very hard indeed. And then they had thrown the fine powder and the lone piece into the sea. Happy that they had taken care of the matter so easily, they returned back to their general state of intoxication and bliss.
The triangular piece of the mace was swallowed by a fish. The fish was caught by a hunter, who upon finding the piece in the fish’s entrails immediately used it to craft a fine poisonous arrow. The fine powder, on the other hand, washed back ashore and deposited itself by the beautiful coast of Dwaraka. A certain grass grew in lush abundance in the area where the powder was deposited. Everything was set for the final showdown.
One day, the Yadavas went on a picnic to the beach. They were in an inebriated state and started teasing one another bringing up the ghory pasts and gruesome mistakes of each other. Satyaki and Kritavarma were the starting points for the doom of Dwaraka. Satyaki had fought along the Pandava side in the battle of Kurukshetra and Kritavarma on the Kauravas side. Satyaki, inebriated with wine, goes over to Kritavarma, criticises him for scheming with Ashwatthama and killing the Upa Pandavas while they were sleeping. They begin to argue as to who was more wrong during the war.
Having seen this total destruction unfold before His very eyes, Krishna then decided that it is time for him to shed His coils too. The moment Krishna left Dwaraka, a huge wave splurged up from the Oceans and swallowed the beautiful city into its deep depths, where it continues to lie till this very day.
Balarama, vexed with the battles of life, sat down in meditation and very soon the thousand headed serpent, AdiSesha, came out from his mouth and offering its salutations to Krishna, glided towards the Sea (Balarama is said to be an incarnation of Adisesha). Seeing the death of his dear brother, Krishna became overwhelmed with grief and sat down besides Balarama, by some bushes. By an amazing will of fate, the hunter (Jara) saw the foot of Krishna sticking out from the bushes and assuming it to be a deer shot it down with an arrow. The very arrow made from the lone surviving triangular piece from the mace that was delivered by Sambha.
The hunter (Jara) was none other than Vali in his new birth. After killing Vali, Lord Rama had promised that Vali would have his revenge in his next birth. Vali was reborn as Jara, the hunter who killed Krishna with the poisoned arrow. Krishna’s His soul soared back to Vaikuntha, with His mission on earth accomplished.
The Purna Avataar of Vishnu, succumbed to the arrow of a mere hunter, to honour the curse of a steadfast devotee who had always prayed to Him with a very pure heart.
In one act, He also fulfilled the promise given to Vali in His previous Rama Avataar.
The Lord, once again shows, that He is full of Compassion and Mercy.
- Ratna-nabhah – He has a gem-like navel
The word ‘Ratna’ in this context denotes beauty and attractiveness. Based on this Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Ratna shabdena Shobhaa lakshyate Ratnavat Sundaraa nabhih asya asti iti Ratnanaabhah – Ratna denotes beauty; His navel is very beautiful like a diamond, hence He is called Ratnanabhah. The beauty of the navel is enhanced by having a Lotus making Him Padmanabhah, in addition to Him being Ratnanabhah.
Sri Parasara Bhattar says that He showed off His beautiful navel as a sign of His ‘Pandityam’ or learning. It appears from the translations of some scholars that one of the external gesticulations of a learned person is to massage the belly.
Sri Vasishta explains that the word Ratna is derived from the root word ‘ramu – kreedaayaam’ meaning ‘to play or to rejoice’, and the application prefix ‘ramesta ca’ leading to the word Ratnam means ‘Gem’. The word ‘nabhi’ is derived from the root word ‘nah – bandhane’ means ‘to tie or bind’, and the application prefix ‘naho bhashca’ leads to the word ‘nabhi’. The term ‘nabhah’ means ‘one with the nabhi’, and so the meaning ‘navel’ is the one that is relevant here, and hence it means One Who has a beautiful navel is Ratna-nabhah.
Swami ChinmayAnanda describes the significance of the navel as the originating point of the thought process in the devotee who performs meditation. He describes the findings of deep thinkers about the process of origination of thought. According to them, all thoughts arise in their seed form from the Infinite before manifestation. From this womb (origination), they become manifest, and the individual becomes dimly aware of thoughts in their embryo form – vague, incomplete, and as yet not fully formed (pashyantee). In the next stage, they get translated into expressions (madhyama), and in their last and full stage of manifestation, they express themselves as actions in the outer world (vaikharee). In this chain of processes on how the thoughts become manifest for the thinker, the seat of the pashyantee stage is said to be navel region (nabhi). When one considers the seat of origination of all thoughts of all thinkers, this seat is the Ratna-nabhi of Bhagavan, and hence He is called Ratna-nabhah. Swami ChinmayAnanda suggests that this may be the significance of the representation that the Creator, Brahma, originates from the Lotus that emanates from the navel of Bhagavan.
Sri Satya Sandha Yatiraja gives two explanations, both of which are different from the above. These are based on his taking the Nama as Ratna-nabhah or A-ratna-nabhah. Taking the Nama as Ratna-nabah, he gives the interpretation as ‘Ratnam pum-Ratnam catur-mukho nabahu yasya – He Who has the navel from which the gem among men, like Brahma, originated’. Taking the Nama as A-ratna-nabhah, his interpretation is ‘A-ratnan arat-daityaan nabhati iti A-ratna-nabhah – He Who destroys the Asuras. He uses the root ‘nabha – himsaayaam abhaavepi’ meaning ‘to kill or to hurt’, for this interpretation.
Sri Satyadevo Vasishta explains as ‘Ratnam nabahu yasya iti Ratna-nabhah – He Who has Ratnam in His navel is Ratna-nabhah’. He proceeds to comment that the Nama indicates that He has endowed the Oceans with Ratnam, which is like the Ratnam in His navel – ‘sa Ratna-nabho Bhagavan varenyo loke Samudre vidadhati Ratnam’.
- Sulocanah – One with bewitching eyes
The word ‘Su’ is a prefix and stands for Shobhanam or auspicious or graceful. The root word is ‘loc – darshane’ means ‘to see’. Based on this Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Shobhanam Lochanam Nayanam Jnanam Vaa asya iti Sulochanah – He has beautiful, bewitching eyes or He has Superior Wisdom, hence He is called Sulochanah’. His wisdom is to deceive the demons.
Sri Parasara Bhattar says ‘tatha hridayalu-cora-locanah Su-locanah – He is called Su-locanah as He has charming eyes which enticed the tender-hearted.
The Lord’s eyes have been praised in the various scriptures and He is also called as Aravinda-akshan, Pundarika-akshan, Rajiva-lochana etc. meaning the Lotus-eyed Lord.
As we all know, His beauty is not something that is used by Him only for deluding the Asuras, but is also for drawing His devotees closer to Him. Sri Andal praises His beauty in many places in her Nacchiyar Thirumozhi Pasurams. An instance of this is reproduced below from her Pasuram 11.2:
எழிலுடைய வம்மனைமீர் என்னரங்கத் தின்னமுதர்
குழலழகர் வாயழகர் கண்ணழகர் கொப்பூழில்
எழுகமலப் பூவழக ரெம்மானார் என்னுடைய
கழல்வளையைத் தாமும் கழல்வளையே யாக்கினரே
Meaning: My sweet nectar who resides in Srirangam, the One Who has beautiful hair, beautiful mouth, beautiful eyes, One from whose beautiful navel sprouts the beautiful Lotus, and He wears my Kalalvalai and He has subjugated me as His own by His beauty.
Swami ChinmayAnanda points out that in addition to the beauty of His form that is reflected and enhanced by His beautiful eyes, the significance of the term ‘beauty’ here is that His eyes can see constantly the infinite purpose and goal of the entire creation. His eyes simultaneously perceive everything that is happening in all the three worlds all the time, not only the present, but the past and the future as well. Thus, He gives the meaning ‘One who has the wisdom of the Self’ to this Nama. In the Bhagavad Gita (13.14), the Lord says. ‘He has His eyes everywhere – Sarvato ksiriomukham’.
Sri Satyadevo Vasishta gives the meaning that He has this Nama because of His beautiful eyes, and in addition, he gives the alternate interpretation that the Nama signifies that because of His manifestation as the Sun, the rest of the Creation is able to see well – ‘samyag locante pranino yasmin udite sati iti Sulocanah Suryah. The Sun and the Moon are considered His two eyes – ‘Chandra Suryau ca netre’.
- Arkah – He Who is worthy of worship
The origin of this word is ‘Archyate’ means ‘One who is praised or worshipped’. Based on this, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama as ‘Bramhaadibhih Pujyatamaih api Archaneeyatvaat Arkah – He is worshipped by Gods like Bramha who themselves are worthy of worship, hence He is called Arkah, one who is worthy of worship’.
Sri Parasara Bhattar gives the meaning that He has an adorable form and indicates that He was praised in His Buddha incarnation by His followers as ‘Aho! Mahatma! Aati-dharmikah! – Oh! A great soul and a highly virtuous one!’
Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj explains as ‘Arkyate stuyate Brahmadibhih iti Arkah’ giving similar meaning to that Sri Sankara. He gives the support from Srimad Bhagavatam (12.13.1):
Yam Brahma Varuṇendra-Rudra-Marutaḥ stunvanti divyaiḥ stavair
Vedaiḥ sanga-pada-kramopaniṣadair gaayanti yam Sama-gaaḥ
Dhyaanavasthita-tad-gatena manasa pashyanti yam yogino
Yasyaantam na viduḥ surasura-gaṇa devaya tasmai namaḥ
Meaning: Suta Gosvami said: Unto that personality whom Brahma, Varuṇa, Indra, Rudra and the Maruts praise by chanting transcendental hymns and reciting the Vedas with all their corollaries, pada-kramas and Upanishads, to whom the chanters of the Sama Veda always sing, whom the perfected yogis see within their minds after fixing themselves in trance and absorbing themselves within Him, and whose limit can never be found by any Deva or demon — unto that Supreme Personality, I offer my humble obeisance.
Sri Satyadevo Vasishta points out that the meaning can also be derived starting from the root ‘arc – stutau’ meaning ‘to praise’, and from the root ‘arc- pujayam’ comes ‘to worship’. Based on this, he says ‘He is worthy of praise or worship’. Using ‘arka – tapane’ meaning ‘to heat’, Arkah can also refer to the Sun where Lord is the ‘orb’ of the Sun.
Swami ChinmayAnanda interprets the Nama as referring to His being in the form of the Sun, using the meaning ‘Sun’ for the word ‘Arkah’. The Infinite Consciousness, Sriman Narayana, is the one source of light and energy Who illuminates and nourishes everything. Once He leaves the body of any creature, the body cannot be maintained.
- Vajasanih –He Who provides Nourishment for All Beings
Sri Adi Sankara uses the version ‘Vaajasanah’. Vaaja means food and Sanah refers to a giver. Based on this, Sri Sankara interprets this as ‘Vaajam Annam Arthinaam Sanoti Dadaati iti Vaajasanah – He gives food to those who request for it, hence He is called Vaajasanah’. He is the Ultimate provider of food to all beings.
In the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 15 Verse 14) Bhagavan says:
Aham vaisvanaro bhutva praninam deham asritah |
Pranapana-samayuktah pacamy annam catur-vidham ||
Meaning: I am the fire of digestion in every living body, and I am the air of life, outgoing and incoming, by which I digest the four kinds of foodstuff. Thus, the Bhagavan is not only the provider of the food but He further goes on to ensure that it is digested as well to make a complete job of it.
Sri Bhattar gives the Nama as Vaja-sanih and explains the Nama as ‘Nastikya vadena aihikam annadikameva sambhajati iti Vaja-sanih – By His atheistic teachings He created a taste in them for the enjoyment of pleasures in this world itself’.
Sri Satyadevo Vasishta gives both versions, and points out that ‘Vaja-sanih’ is ‘Vaidika paadham’. This is probably based on the fact that references to this Nama are found in the Rig Veda as ‘Vaja-sanih’ – for example, (Rig. 3.51.2, 9.110.11, 10.91.15). The term ‘Vaja’ refers to ‘Annam or Food’. The root from which ‘Sanah or Sanih’ is derived is ‘San – sambhaktau, daane’ meaning ‘to divide or to give’.
Sri Radhakrishna Shastri adds that the Nama signifies that He has made provision for all living beings for their food even before they are born, such as providing for the milk for the child from the mother’s breast even as the child is born. So He plans and provides for the sustenance of all creatures even before He creates the world.
Swami ChinmayAnanda gives the interpretation that the Nama signifies His being the source or nurturer of the entire world of ‘emotions, feelings and thoughts’ for the experiences of the body, mind and intellect of all creatures. For the interpretation in terms of Him being the provider of food to all beings, Swami ChinmayAnanda refers to the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 15 Verse 13), where Bhagavan says:
Gaam-Avishya ca bhutani dharayamyaham-ojasa |
Pushnami caushadhih sarvah somo bhutva rasatmakah ||
Meaning: I enter into each planet, and by My energy they stay in orbit. I become the Moon and thereby nourish all plant life.
- Shringee – He Who appears having Horn(s)This Nama has several meanings:
- He Who appears with Horn(s). The Lord had Horn(s) in His Matsya and Varaha Avataars’
- He With the peak of Govardhana Mountain on His hand
- He Who has provided every creature with the means to express its Shringa or power
- He Who destroys the fear of rebirth in His devotees
The word ‘Shringa’ means a horn and ‘Shringee’ is one with a horn(s). Based on this, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this name as ‘Pralayaambhasi Shringavan Matsya vishesha rupah Shringee – He appeared in the form of a Golden Fish endowed with a horn (in His Matsya Avataar) and rescued His devotees by pulling the boat through the Deluge, hence He is called Shringee, the One with a Horn’.
This Nama can also refer to Lord’s Varaha Avataar where He rescued the Earth from the slush after conquering Hiranyaksha and lifted the Earth with His two horns.
Sri Bhattar interprets the Nama as One who has a horn, and associates it with His carrying a bunch of peacock feathers in His hand referring to the Buddha incarnation.
Sri Satya Sandha Yatiraja uses the meaning ‘summit of a mountain’ for the word Shringa, and gives the interpretation that the Nama is a reference to His carrying the Govardhana Mountain to protect the cattle and cowherds – ‘Shringani Govardhana Shringani asya Shanti iti Shringee’.
Sri Satyadevo Vasishta interprets the term ‘Shringa’ to mean ‘a ray or emanation, or any kind of energy’. He gives the explanation that this Nama signifies that Bhagavan has enabled all beings with different ways of giving expression to their energy, and so He is Shringee – for e.g. the fangs of a Serpent are the Shringas of the Serpent, and the tail of a scorpion is the Shringa of the Scorpion etc.
Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj interprets Shringa as ‘destroying’ using the root is ‘Shr – himsayam’ meaning to hurt or to kill, and gives the interpretation that ‘He Who destroys the fear of re-birth in His devotees – Shrnaati bhava-bhayam iti Shringam avicintya-saamarthyam; tad-asya asti iti Shringee’.
- Jayantah – The Conquerer
The root word from which the Nama is derived is ‘Ji – Jaye’ meaning ‘to conquer’. Sri Adi Sankara gives two different meanings for this Nama. The first is ‘Areen atishayena jayati – He conquers His enemies with remarkable ease, hence He is called Jayantah’. The second is ‘Jayahetuh Jayantah – He is instrumental in the victory of His devotees, hence He is called Jayantah.
Sri Bhattar continues with the elucidation of the point that just as the good things that exist in this Universe are because of Him and the negative things that exist are also caused by Him, with a purpose.
Sri Radhakrishna Shastri refers to the Lord’s help to the Pandavas in order to gain victory over the Kauravas.
Swami ChinmayAnanda points out that it is His Jayantah Guna that helps us to conquer our lower impulses, our endless desire for the sense gratification. It is His Grace that helps the mind and intellect to conquer our Vaasanas or desires and helps us to connect with the ‘Self or Atma’.
Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan’s explanation is along the lines of the Krishna’s enjoyment during His early life – He is Jayantah because He always won in hand combat as well as verbal combat with His friends – Jayati sakhan bahu-yuddhe vaag-yuddhe va iti Jayantah.
Sri Satyadevo Vasishta captures the spirit of the Nama thus – ‘yo ho sarvada jayati, na kadacit parajayam labhata iti Jayanatah – He Who is always victorious, and can never be defeated under any circumstances by anyone at any time is Jayantah’. Sri Vasishta explains the meaning of the Nama in terms of Bhagavan being victorious over all the beings of the Universe, and keeping everything under His control. His blessings guarantee victory irrespective of any other conditions that may surround the situation. He summarises his interpretation in the following words:
evam hi yo vetti jayantamagryam Vishnum sa sarvam jayatIti bodhyam |
yasyasti savye Bhagavan Jayantah kim Satravas-tasya narasya kuryuh||
Meaning: No amount of powerful weapons or any other force can deny victory to the One who has His support and blessings.
Swami Vedanta Desikan in Sri KamasikAshtakam (Verse 8) describes the Lord as the Ultimate Protector:
Tvayi Rakshathi Rakshakaih kim anyaih Tvayi Chaarakshati Rakshakaih kim anyaih I
Ithi Nischita dheehi shrayaami nithyam nruhareh Vegavati thatashrayam tvamII
Meaning: O’ Kaamasika Narasimha! You are Sarva Sakthan. When You are resolved to protect someone, where is the need to seek the protection of other Gods? When You are resolved NOT to protect someone, which other God is capable of protecting us? There is no one. Knowing this fundamental truth, I have resolved to offer my Saranagati at your Lotus feet alone that rest at the banks of the Vegavati River.
Again, Swami Desikan points out that there is no fear ever, from anywhere, under any circumstance for His Devotees’ – Kadacana kutashcana kvacana tasya na syat bhayam (Abhiti Stavam 5).
In Srimad Ramayana, in Yuddha Kandam when Vibheeshana seeks refuge of Lord Rama, the Lord says:
Sakrid eva prapannaaya tava asmi iti ca yaacate
Abhayam sarva bhuutebhyo dadaami etad vratam mama || 6.18.33
Meaning: “He who seeks refuge in me just once, telling me that ‘I am yours’, I shall give him assurance of safety against all types of beings. This is my solemn pledge”.
Sri Satyadevo Vasishta gives the following references to the Shruti where the Nama Jayantah occurs:
- Jayantam tvam anumade Soma (Rig. 1.91.21) – Invincible in fight, we rejoice O’ Soma.
- Devasenanam abhibha’njatInaam JayantInaam maruto yantvagram (Rig. 10.103.8) – And let the banded Maruts march in forefront of heavenly hosts that conquer and demolish.
- Sarva-Vijjayee – The Conqueror of those who had learnt all things
This is a combination of two Namas viz. ‘Sarvavit’ and ‘Jayee’. Sarvavit is interpreted by Sri Adi Sankara as ‘Sarvavishayam Jnaanam asya iti Sarvavit – He possesses knowledge about everything, hence He is Sarvavit, the All-Knower’. He is also ‘Jayee’ which is interpreted as ‘Aabhyantaraan Raagaadeen Baahyaan Hiranyaakshaadeemshcha Durjayaan Jetum Sheelam asya iti Jayee – He is able to conquer over mighty internal enemies such as passion and formidable external enemies such as Hiranyaaksha, hence He is called Jayee, the Victor’. Finally, He is called SarvaVijjayee because He is the All-Knower and the All-Conqueror. Sri Sankara explains the combination as ‘Sarvit cha asau Jayee cha Sarvavijjayee – He combines the attributes of Omniscience and being always Victorious, hence He is SarvaVijjayee’.
Sri Bhattar’s interpretation is that He won over the learned people among the Asuras who were believers in the efficacy of following Vedic procedures etc. for acquiring special powers, which then were misused to harm the followers of Dharma by His sweet words and convincing arguments.
Sri Radhakrishna Shastri gives references from the Mundaka Upanishat (1.1.9 and 2.2.7) for the Nama Sarva-vit:
yaḥ sarvajnaḥ sarvavidyasya jnanamayaṃ tapaḥ |
tasmadetadbrahma nama rupamannaṃ ca jayate || 1.1.9 ||
Meaning: From the Brahman who knows all and everything of all and whose tapas is in the nature of knowledge; from this Brahma, name, form and food are produced.
yaḥ sarvajnaḥ sarvavidyasyaiṣa mahima bhuvi divyebrahmapure hyeṣa vyomnyatma pratiṣṭhitaḥ |
manomayaḥ praṇashariraneta pratiṣṭhito’nne hṛdayaṃ sannidhaya tadvijnanena paripashyanti dhira anandarupamamṛtaṃ yad vibhati || 2.2.7 ||
Meaning: This Atman who knows all and all of everything and whose glory is so celebrated on earth is seated in the akas of the blight city of Brahman. He is conditioned by the mind, is the leader of the prana and the body and is seated in food, i.e., the body fixing the intelligence (in the cavity of their heart). The discerning people see by means of their superior knowledge on all sides the atman which shines, all bliss and immortality.
He also provides the link between the two part of the Nama – because He is Sarva-vit, He is able to conquer the inner enemies such as Kama and Krodha.
The Nama consists of sarva + vid + jayee. (sarva means “all” – sarati iti sarvah; vid – jnane – to know, or vid – vicarane – to discuss; ji – jayee – to conquer). Sri Satyadevo Vasishta comments that it is by knowing the inner secrets of one’s enemy can one be assured of victory. Since Bhagavan is the Knower of Everything – Sarva-vid, He is the Conqueror under all circumstances – Jayee.
Swami ChinmayAnanda explains the Nama as ‘One who is at once Omniscient (Sarvavit) and Victorious (Jayee). He says that ‘Prattlers of wisdom, however eloquent in their discussions, must become utterly silent in their moments of Samadhi, in the presence of Sriman Narayana, so He is Sarva-Vij-jayee.
Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj interprets the term ‘Sarva-vit’ as a reference to the all-knowing Brahma and the like, and since He is above all of them and because of His Supreme and perfect knowledge, He is Sarva-Vid-jayee – ‘Sarvam vidanti it sarva-vido Brahmadayah; tanapi niratishaya sarva jnataya jayati iti Sarva-Vij-jayee.
Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan gives the same meaning for the term Sarva-vid as Omniscient but interprets the word Jayee as One Who is held in a position of respect and esteem by very learned people. He interprets the Nama as the Lord having a distinct position of eminence and glory with the all-learned Sages such as Vasishta, Vamadeva, etc. – Sarva-vitsu Vasishta Vamadevadishu jayo mahotkarsho’sya nityam asti iti Sarva-Vij-jayee.
Udbhavah Sundarah Sundo Ratnanaabhah Sulochanah |
Arko Vaajasanah Shringee Jayantah Sarvavijjayee ||85||
He takes eminent births of His own volition, hence He is called Udbhavah. His glory or beauty surpasses the whole world, hence He is called Sundarah. He melts greatly (out of compassion), hence He is called Sundah, the Compassionate One. Ratna denotes beauty; His navel is very beautiful like a diamond, hence He is called Ratnanabhah. He has beautiful, bewitching eyes or He has Superior Wisdom, hence He is known as Sulochanah.
He is worshipped by Gods like Bramha who themselves are worthy of being worshipped, hence He is called Arkah, one who is worthy of worship. He provides food to all Beings, hence He is called Vaajasanih. He rescued His devotees by pulling the boat through the Deluge in His Matsya Avataar appearing as a Golden Fish with a horn. He lifted the Earth with His Horns in Varaha Avataar appearing as Wild Boar, so He is called Shringee, the One with a Horn(s). He conquers His enemies with remarkable ease, hence He is known as Jayantah. Because of His knowledge of everything, He emerges victorious in all His pursuits and battles – He is Omniscient and Invincible, so He is called SarvaVijjayee.
HARI OM TAT SAT
OM NAMO NARAYANAAYA
This Vishnu Sahasranamam series is authored with the help of my friend Shri Balaji.