In this part we will explore the meaning of the 86th Shloka of Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam.

Suvarnabindur Akshobhyas Sarvavaageeshvareshvarah     |
Mahahrado Mahagarto Mahabhuto Mahanidhih   ||86||

He is Golden limbed and a beautiful form who is Unperturbed, and the most eloquent. He is like a great lake of Bliss and is the Lord of Maya which is like a deep chasm. The Great Charioteer and a Great Being, He is a great treasure for all His devotees who seek refuge unto Him.

The above Shloka has the following Namas:

  1.    Suvarnabinduh
  2.    Akshobhyah
  3.    Sarvavaageeshvareshvarah
  4.    Mahahradah
  5.    Mahagartah
  6.    Mahabhutah
  7.    Mahanidhih

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

806.            Suvarna-binduh – He Who has a beautiful form with golden-coloured beautiful limbs

Vishnu2This Nama has several meanings:
a)      He Who concealed the truth of the Vedic path from the Asuras with sweet words;
b)      He Who has a beautiful form with golden-coloured beautiful limbs;
c)       He Who is in the form of the auspicious Pranava mantra;
d)      He Who has a beautiful form, and Who has beautifully divided the creatures of the universe into their various parts;
e)      The Knower of the Vedas consisting of auspicious letters;f)       He Who has the beautiful golden-coloured sandalwood marks on His forehead, cheeks, etc.

The word Bindu has many meanings and one of them is Avayava or body part. The word ‘Suvarna’ means gold and based on this, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama as ‘Bindavah Avayavaah SuvarnaSadrishaah asya iti Suvarnabinduh – He has body parts which shine like gold hence He is called Suvarnabinduh’. He quotes from Chandogya Upanishad (1.6.6) which says ‘Aaapranakhaat Sarva eva Suvarnah – From the finger nail (till the top of the head) every body part is pure gold as a description of Bhagavan’s body.

अथ यदेवैतदादित्यस्य शुक्लं भाः सैव
साथ यन्नीलं परः कृष्णं तदमस्तत्सामाथ
य एषोऽन्तरादित्ये हिरण्मयः पुरुषो दृश्यते
हिरण्यश्मश्रुर्हिरण्यकेश आप्रणस्वात्सर्व एव सुवर्णः ||1.6.6||
Meaning: Sa is the white radiance of the Sun, ama is its blue intense darkness; thus they (the radiance and the darkness) are designated as Sama. He is the golden person who is seen in the Sun, who has a golden beard and golden hair, who is golden to the very tips of His nails.

Sri Sankara gives another interpretation which is ‘Shobhano Varnoksharam Bindushcha Yasmin mantre Tanmantratma Vaa Suvarnabinduh’ – He is in the form of the beautiful letter ‘O’ and the Anusvaram ‘M’ and hence He is called Suvarnabinduh representing the Pranava or the primordial ‘OM’ sound.

Sri Parasara Bhattar uses the root word ‘bidi – apalaape’ meaning ‘to conceal’ and for Varna as form. Sri Bhattar refers to Bhagavan’s incarnation, such as the Mohini Avataar, specifically taken to deceive the evil-minded people and thereby punish them for their Karmas.  Here, the interpretation is that Bhagavan successfully used “sweet” words to conceal the truth of the Vedic path from the Asuras, and to create a distrust in the Vedic practices among those Asuras who believed in using Vedic rites in order to get powers, and then using these powers to harm others.    He cites examples of SukrAcharya, Indrajit, Ravana, etc., who got powers by performing Vedic rites, and then used those powers to harm His devotees.

Sri PeyAzhwar excitedly describes the beautiful form of the Lord as he experiences Him, in this famous Pasuram in Mundram Thiruvanthadhi where he says:
thirukandenதிகழுமருக்கனணிநிறமுங் கண்டேன்*
செருக்கிளரும்பொன்னாழி கண்டேன்
புரிசங்கங் கைக்கண்டேன்*என்னாழி வண்ணன்பா லின்று
Meaning: First, the Azhwar’s eyes lit up on seeing the glorious form of Sri Mahalakshmi adorning the broad chest of the Lord as he exclaimed ‘Thirukkanden’ excited by the wonderful spectacle that caught his eye.  Having realised the presence of the Divine Consort, he then says ‘Ponmeni Kanden’ – that he saw the glorious golden Thirumeni (body) of the Lord and it was none other than Lord Narayana. The blazing complexion imprinted itself upon Azhwar’s eyes, prompting him to comment ecstatically ‘Thigazhum arukkan ani niramum kanden Serukkilarum Ponnaazhi kanden, puri Sangam kai kanden’ meaning that He also saw the Lord’s brilliant form shining like a Sun with Divine Discus (Sudharsana Chakra) and the Cosmic Conch (Panchajanyam Sankhu) adorning His upper hands, all of which presented a spectacular sight to the fervent eyes of the Azhwar.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri refers to Bhagavan rising with a golden form from the Agni-kundam in yajnas performed by devotees.   Sri Shastri gives references to the Sruti in support:

  • omiti brahma (Taittriya Upanishad 1.8.1) meaning ‘Aum’ is Brahman;
  • sarve vedā yat padam āmananti, tapāṁsi sarvaṇi ca yad vadanti, yad icchanto brahmacaryaṁ caranti, tat te padaṁ saṁgraheṇa bravīmi: aum ity etat (Katha Upanishad 1.2.15) – The goal which all the Vedas speak of (praise), which all penances proclaim and wishing for which they lead the life of a penance, that goal is ‘AUM’.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishta interprets this as ‘Su’ as ‘Sobhanam’; ‘Varaniyam’ as ‘Drishyam rupam yasya sa Su-varnah’; Su-varna bindavah avayavah yasya sa Su-varna-binduh’ meaning ‘One Who has a beautiful complexion and beautiful limbs is Su-Varna-Binduh’.   Sri Vasishta also gives an alternative interpretation using the root word ‘bind – avayave’ meaning ‘to divide or to split’ and gives the meaning to the word ‘Binduh’ as ‘one who divides’. He says ‘Bindati – avayavaan karoti’ meaning ‘One who performs the kriya of avayava or division’.  Sri Vasishta gives the meaning as ‘One Who Himself is of beautiful form (Su-varna), and Who has divided (Binduh) the creatures beautifully into their different parts, while operating as the Undivided One in all of them’. He gives the example as just as in the case of a tree divided into its branches, leaves, etc., or the different planets of the Solar system – yathaayam SuryastathAyam samastah prapa’ncah parasparam avayava-avayava vibhaavam Apannah, patra-phala-pushpa-SakhadIni Vrikshasyeva.

Sri Satya Sandha Yatiraja interprets the Nama as a reference to the Vedas by using the meaning of Binduh as ‘letters or alphabets’.  He uses the root word ‘vid – jnane’, and gives the interpretation that Bhagavan has this Nama signifying that He is the “Knower of the Vedas” – SobhanA varna yasmin sa Su-varno Vedah; tasya binduh – jnata Su-Varna-Binduh. Using the meaning of a decorative mark on the forehead for Bindu (also known as Bindhi),

Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan gives the interpretation – Su-Varno lalaatastho binduh asya iti – He Who has golden mark of decoration on His forehead, or He Who a decorative mark on His golden forehead.   Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj also gives a similar interpretation – Suvarnamiva pItaabha bindavah candana-bindavo yasya cibuka kapola mastake sa Su-Varna Binduh – He Who has the decoration with the golden-coloured sandalwood on His cheeks etc.

  1.     Akshobhyah – One who is unperturbed

ananthasayanamThe word ‘Kshobhya’ means ‘to be agitated or disturbed’. Based on this Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama as ‘RaagaDveshaadibhih Shabdaadi Vishayaishcha Tridashaaribhishcha Na Kshobhyate iti Akshobhyah – He is not agitated or perturbed by internal distractions like desires and hatred or external foes like the Asuras, hence He is called Akshobhyah’. He is always tranquil and calm, totally unaffected by either internal or external opponents thus personifying the meaning of the Nama Akshobhyah, the unperturbed one.

Sri Parasara Bhattar’s interpretation for the Nama is that the Lord possesses impenetrable thoughts and is unperturbed by any distractions – gambhirAshayatvena avikaryah.

Swami ChinmayAnanda’s translation for the Nama is `One who is unruffled’.  He explains that while ordinarily an individual gets disturbed, subjectively, by the presence of desires, anger, passions, etc., and objectively an average man is constantly stormed by the enchanting dance of beautiful sense-objects all around him, the Lord is not subjected to any of these.  He refers us to the description of ‘Sthitaprajna’ (one who is properly situated in perfect knowledge) in the Srimad Bhagavad Gita by Lord Krishna, in response to Arjuna’s question in Shloka 2.54 (Sthita prajnasya ka bhasha…) where Arjuna is seeking to know the qualities and characteristics of a person seated in perfect knowledge.  Bhagavan’s response is contained in Shlokas 2.55 to 2.61, where He outlines the attributes of a ‘Sthita-prajna’. Those are also the characteristics of an Akshobhyah.

  1.    Sarva-Vaageeshvareshvarah – The Lord of all who have a mastery over all words

hayagriva2The word ‘Vaak’ means speech and ‘Vaageeshvarah’ is the Lord of speech or the spoken word. Based on this, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Sarveshaam Vaageeshvaraanaam Bramhaadeenaam api Eeshvarah – He is the Lord of all the masters of speech like Bramha, hence He is called Sarva-Vaageeshvareshvarah,  the Lord of the Lords of Speech’. There are many masters of speech such as Bramha, Brihaspati, Hanuman and the like. But Bhagavan towers over them all as He is the One who has given the speech faculty to the rest. Hence, He is the Supreme Lord of language and so He is called Sarva-Vaageeshvareshvarah.

Sri Parasara Bhattar interprets the Nama Bhagavan was always the clear winner over the ‘learned masters’ in arguments and debates, hence He is Sarva-Vaageeshvareshvarah.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri points out that Brahma with his four faces and four mouths, gives the Vedas to the rest of the world, and hence called Sarva-Vaageeshvaran. As Brahma got this power from Bhagavan, the Lord is known as Sarva-Vaag-Ishvara-Ishvarah, the Lord of the Master of Speech.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan comments that Vachaspati is known for piling points after points in support of his position in any argument.  That skill of Vachaspati is but a tiny fraction of Bhagavan’s power.

Sri Satya Sandha Yatiraja considers the reference of the phrase ‘Sarva-vaag-Ishvara to Rudra, and so describes the Nama as indicating that He is the Lord of Rudra:  Sarveshaam vaacah sarva-vaacah taasaam Isvarasya Rudrasya ca Ishvaratvaat Sarva-vaag-Ishvara-Ishvarah.

Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan lists Brahma, Rudra etc., as those learned in the Shastras, and Bhagavan being the Lord of all of them, is Sarva-Vaageeshvareshvarah – Sarvah SrutyAdilakshana vaaco yatra sa sarva-vaak; nikhila Shastra pratipadya ityarthah;  yata Ishvara-Ishvara vidhi-rudradi niyaamakah.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj gives a similar interpretation – Sarveshaam vaag-Ishvaraanaam Sura-guru-druhinaadeenaam Ishvarah – Sasta iti Sarva-vaag-Ishvara-Ishvarah – He is the Lord of all those who have mastery in speech.

Swami ChinmayAnanda quotes from the Keno Upanishad passage where the question is first asked:  keneshitaam vaacam imam vadanti – At whose behest do people utter speech? and the answer is given: tadeva brahmam tad viddhi – It is Brahman from which all these arise.  Swami ChimnayAnanda explains the Nama thus:  It is not the instruments of actions and perceptions that act by themselves, as they are all made up of inert matter.  The immediate animation to the equipment is given by the `inner instruments’.  Therefore, for all the sense-organs, the mind-intellect-equipment is their immediate lord.  But these subtle instruments themselves get their dynamism to act only in the presence of Sriman Narayana.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishta comments that the Devas for speech and sound are Vacaspati, Agni, Vidyut, etc., and He is the Lord of all those Devas who are the gods of vaak, and so He is called Sarva-vaag-Ishvara-Ishvarah.  Sri Vasishta explains that even though there are a large number of species, each with its own unique structure of the organs that produce sound from them, all of these originate from Him, and ultimately subside in Him.

809.            Maha-hradah – He is the vast Lake in which the sinners drown and the devotees get relief

Vishnu with Pearl MalaThe word ‘Hradah’ refers to a great lake or the Ocean based on this Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama as ‘Avagaahya tadaanandam vishramya Sukham Aasate Yoginah iti Mahahradah iva Mahahradah – The Yogis remain peacefully in His bliss and derive comfort akin to plunging into a lake, hence He is called Mahahradah or the great lake’.

The root from which the word ‘hrada’ is derived is ‘hrada – avyakte Sabde’ meaning ‘to sound or to roar’.   That which makes indistinct, undefined sounds is called hradah.  That which is huge, and makes this sound is Maha-hradah.  The term is used to refer to a deep lake, an ocean etc.  – hradate iti hradah.

Sri Parasara Bhattar’s explanation for the Nama is that Bhagavan is like a deep lake in which the evil-doers sink, never to rise again – yatra paapa-Karmanah apunar-utthaanam nimajjanti.  He refers us to Lord Krishna’s words in the Srimad Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 16 Verse 19:
tan aham dvishatah krUrAn samsAreshu naradhamaan |
kshipaami ajastram ashubhaan Asurishveva yonishu    || B.G. 16.19
Meaning: Those haters, cruel, the vilest and the most inauspicious of mankind, I hurl forever into the Ocean of Samsara with repeated cycles of births and deaths, into the wombs of demons.

Sri Bhattar also points out that while He is the deep lake where the sinners will drown, He is also the deep lake where the devotees will find their great solace, and will bathe again and again without ever getting satisfied – Paapa-Karmanah apunar-utthaanam nimajjanti, punya-krito gaaham gaaham tripyanti, sa Maha-hradah.  In the Narsimha Avataar Bhagavan was simultaneously a cause of terror for Hirayyakashipu, and with that same form, He was the cause of great delight to Prahlada.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri explains the Nama in Thamizh as ‘Anda mudiyaadha Azhnda neert tekkam pondru ulla Ananda kadal’- He is Blissful Ocean that is not-so-easily accessible deep reservoir of water.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan describes the term ‘Hradah’ as ‘eddy’, that sometimes lies in the path of running waters.  If one gets caught in one of these, it is well near impossible to get out of it alive.  Bhagavan is like one of these whirlpools for the Asuras.

Sri NammAzhwar refers to Bhagavan’s compassion in his ThiruvaiMozhi Pasuram (10.1.8) and says:
துயர்கெ டும்கடி தடைந்துவன் தடியவர் தொழுமின்
உயர்கொள் சோலையொண் தடமணி யொளிதிருமோகூர்
பெயர்கள்ஆயிர முடையவல் லரக்கர்புக் கழுந்த
தயரதன் பெற்ற மரதக மணித்தடத் தினையே.
Meaning: O’ Devotees! Come quickly and worship the Lord of thousand names who is also a lake of compassion.  He resides in Thirumogur with lakes and lovely groves.  He was born as Dasaratha’s son Rama to destroy the Asuras. That Bhagavan Lord Sri Rama is here (very much in our midst) as Archa Avataar in this Divya desam of Thirumogoor. Pay obeisance to Him, and all your sorrows will automatically disappear.

In the MahaBharata Moksha Parva (4.50), it says:
Esha Brahma pravisht’Osmi grishme Sitamiva hradam
Saamyaami parinirvaami sukham maameti kevalam||
Meaning – During hot summer we like to take a dip in a cold water pond to make us feel comfortable. Likewise, the JivAtma, under the heat of this Samsara, likes to reach the Brahman, which is like a cool pond to take a dip. The Jivas yearning for Him with true devotion can attain Brahman and enjoy total bliss, without a trace of sorrow, by immersing in Him.

Sri Satya Sandha Yatiraja gives the explanation as ‘One Who is associated with the deep waters in Kaliyan Nardhana, or Him reclining in the Milky Ocean – Mahaan hrado yasya Kaliya mardana kaale va, Samudra Sayana kaale va sa Maha-hradah.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishta interprets the Nama as referring to the Lord’s creation of the great Oceans so that the world does not become completely dry and perish.
Maha-hrado Vishnur-amogha Karma karoti Vishvam bahu-Sadhanaaptam   |
Maha-hradam sa kurute Samudram Sushyen-na bhuh Surya-kharamSupataih   ||

  1.     Maha-gartah – He Who pushes the sinners into the great pit of Samsara

visvam4This Nama has several meanings:

  1. He who pushes sinners into the great pit of Samsara
  2. The Great Charioteer of MahaBharata fame
  3. The One with the Great Chariot (with the Garuda in its flag).
  4. He Who resides in the great mountains such as Seshachala.
  5. The Great Pit in which everything in this Universe originates, resides, and merges back.

Sri Adi Sankara offers 2 different interpretations for this Nama. The first one is based on the meaning ‘gap’ or ‘chasm’ to the word ‘gartah’. On this basis, Sri Adi Sankara’s interpretation is ‘Gartavat asya Maya mahatee Duratyayaa iti Mahagartah – His Maya or the power of illusion is a chasm that is very difficult to cross, hence He is called Mahagartah, the deep chasm’.

He gives reference from the Bhagavad Gita Chapter 7 Verse 14 as support:
Daivi hyesha Guna-mayi mama Maya duratyaya    |
Maameva ye prapadyante Mayametam taranti te ||
Meaning: The divine Maya of Mine consisting of the three Gunas is hard to overcome; but those who surrender unto Me can easily cross beyond it.

Gartah also means a chariot and Sri Adi Sankara’s second interpretation is based on this. Sri Sankara says ‘Yad vaa Gartashabdo Rathaparyaayo Nairuktair Uktah Tasmaan Maharatho Mahagartah, Maharathatvam asya Prasiddham Bharatadishu – Garta refers to a chariot and so Mahagartah means an expert charioteer’. Lord Krishna’s expertise in the craft of chariots is fully evidenced in the battle of Kurukshetra as portrayed in the MahaBharata.

Using the same meaning as above for Garta, namely ratha or chariot, Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj gives the interpretation – Mahan Garto Garuda-dvaja ratho yasya iti Maha-Gartah – He Who has the Great Chariot with the Garuda dvajam is Maha-Gartah.

The root from the word ‘Gartah’ is derived is ‘Grr – nigarane’ means ‘to swallow, to devour or to emit’.

Sri Parasara Bhattar uses the meaning ‘pit’ for ‘Garta’, and refers to the naraka lokas into which Bhagavan casts away those who have lost their souls by following the path contrary to Dharma – evam bahya-kudrishti vinisvishta nashtatmanam rauravadi-Garta asmat iti Maha-Gartah.  He quotes from the Bhagavad Gita Chapter 9 Verse 3 in support:
Ashraddadhanah purusha dharmasyasya parantapa   |
Aprapya mam nivartante mrityu Samsara vartmani  ||
Meaning: Men devoid of faith in this Dharma, O’ scorcher of foes, ever remain without attaining Me, in the mortal pathway of Samsara.

Bhagavad Ramanuja indicates that the people referred to here are those who have attained the fitness to practice the proper Dharma of worship, but then deviate from the path because of Ashraddha or lack of faith.  He exclaims at the end of his interpretation in his Bhagavad Gita Bhashyam – ‘Aho! mahad idam Ashcaryam!’ – O! How strange it is that people just ignore their Dharma and fall into the pit.

Sri Satya Sandha Yatiraja uses the meaning ‘mountain’ for the word ‘aga’, and interprets the Nama as ‘Mahantshca te agashca Seshachaladayah tatra Ricchati iti Maha-Gartah – He Who resides in the High Mountains such as Seshachala.

Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan give another perspective on the Nama – He is ‘The Great Pit’ because everything that exists is part of Him, and he gives reference from the Bhagavad Gita Chapter 11, Verse 7:
ihaikastham jagat Kritsnam pashyadya sa-caracaram   |
mama dehe Gudakesha yashcanyat drashtum icchasi ||
Meaning: Behold here, O Arjuna, the whole Universe with all the mobile and immobile things is centred in My body. This Universal form can show you all that you now desire, as well as whatever you may desire in the future. Everything is here completely.

  1.     Maha-bhutah – He Who is a Great Being

Varaha 5This Nama has the following meanings:

  1. He Who considers great men as His own;
  2. He Who is a Great Being; and
  3. He Who is the Origin of the five elements.

Literally this term means ‘Great Being’. Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Kalatrayanavacchinna Svarupatvaat Mahabhutah – He is beyond the limitations of time because He is unlimited by past, present and future hence He is called Maha-Bhutah, the Great Being’. Ordinary people are born at a certain time, live in a certain period and die at a certain time. But Bhagavan has no such restriction. Hence He is called Maha-Bhutah, the Great Being.

The root from which the Nama can be derived is ‘Bhu – Sattayam’ means ‘to be, to live or to be born’.  The term Bhuta is also used to refer to the Pancha bhutas – Earth, Water, Fire, Air, and Akasha (Prithivi, Ap, Tejas, Vayu, and Akasha).

Sri Parasara Bhattar interprets the term Maha-Bhuta as referring to ‘Great Being’, and gives the meaning ‘One Who possesses Maha-Bhutas or Great Beings’ as His own is called Maha-Bhutah.  The ‘Great Beings’ referred to here are those who are single-minded in their devotion to Him are Great Beings.  Since Bhagavan considers them as His own, He is the ‘Owner of the Maha-Bhutas’ – Maha-Bhutah.

Sri NammAzhwar refers to this Guna of Bhagavan in his ThiruvaiMozhi Pasuram 2.3.6:
சேர்ந்தார்தீவினைகட் கருநஞ்சைத்திண்மதியை,
தீர்ந்தார்தம்மனத்துப் பிரியாதவருயிரை,
சோர்ந்தேபோகல்கொடாச் சுடரை அரக்கியைமூக்
கீர்ந்தாயை அடியேனடைந்தேன் முதல்முன்னமே.
Meaning: O, rare antidote for Karmas!  O’ medicine for devotion, inseparable from the hearts of seers! O’ the glow which lights their souls! I have attained the Lord long ago.  He cut the nose of Surpanakha.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishta gives the interpretation that Bhagavan is Maha-Bhutah because it is from Him that the five great elements – air, water, etc., originated.  Sri Satya Sandha Yatiraja also gives a similar explanation – Mahanti Bhutani Akashadini yasmat iti Maha-Bhutah.

The Story of Sumukha – (Garuda humbled)garuda-pot

Matali’s daughter Guna Kesi had reached a marriageable age and he was struggling to find a good match for her. Just then Sage Narada wandered in with his usual chant of ‘Narayana! Narayana!’  Matali greeted Sage Narada and immediately sought his help. Sage Narada said, ‘You are Indra’s personal and a very skilful charioteer. You have the most talented and beautiful Guna Kesi as your daughter. What problems could you have?’

Matali smiled meekly and said, ‘My daughter is of marriageable age now. And I cannot find anyone who is good enough for her.’ Sage Narada laughed, ‘Spoken like a father. You were not able to find anyone in the heavens worthy for your daughter.’ Matali gave a slight shake as he spoke, “I want to search all the fourteen worlds before I select someone good for my daughter. I was just wondering whether you could help as you have seen the Patala and all the other worlds too.’

naradaSage Narada looked at Matali with mischievous eyes and said ‘Now that you have asked me, I can think of someone who would be a good match for your daughter and I will show you.’ Both Matali and Narada left for the underworld. There in a beautiful garden, he saw a noble looking Naga. As Narada came forward, the man bowed to Sage Narada. He welcomed the two of them heartily.

Sage Narada introduced Matali, ‘Aaryaka! Meet my friend – Matali.’ The Naga’s eyes grew with astonishment, ‘Matali? The Matali? The charioteer of Lord Indra?’ Aaryaka welcomed the two of them and after they finished lunch, Aaryaka called his grandson, Sumukha.  A good looking, noble young man walked into the room. As Matali saw the man, he felt that he had found the perfect match for his daughter. With great joy he spoke for the first time to Aaryaka and Sumukha, ‘I have come here to ask something to the two of you. I have a daughter an extremely talented and beautiful daughter– Guna Kesi! I was wondering whether Sumukha would agree to marry my daughter?’ He asked looking at the two of them.

Matali saw both of them in despair and was stumped. Why would the two of them look so unhappily at each other? He asked, “Why? Is there a problem?’  Aaryaka gave a dry laugh, ‘Problem? You have just offered the most perfect woman to be the wife of my grandson. And I am not in a position to accept it. Yes, you could say I have a problem.’ He continued, ‘The reason Sumukha’s father Chirakha is not here and the reason why Sumukha cannot marry you is Garuda.’

Matali was flabbergasted, ‘Garuda?’ He asked Aaryaka incredulously. Matali sat back and listened as Aaryaka continued, ‘Garuda stole the pot of Amrut from the Devas to give it to the Nagas in return for freedom for himself and his mother Vinata.’ Matali nodded. He knew that episode well.  Garuda came like a storm and blew away all the Devas with his onslaught. Not even a single Deva could stand up against Garuda. Even Indra’s Vajra was useless before Garuda.

Matali remembered wryly.  After handing over the amrita to the Nagas, both Garuda and Vinata had become free. The only way Indra could make sure the Nagas could not get the Amrita was to make a deal with Garuda. The Nagas had gone to take a bath before taking the Amrut and Indra used the opportune moment and stole the amrita at that time.

Aaryaka continued, ‘After that incident, Garuda became a sworn enemies of Nagas. Garuda came here and wreaked havoc on all of us. Nothing we did seemed to work against him. We did the only thing we could do. We promised to send him a Naga a month and in return, Garuda was not to attack us indiscriminately. Last month, my son Chirakha, Sumukha’s father was sent to Garuda. This month, Sumukha has to be sent.’ Aaryaka trembled as he looked at his grandson, who was trying his best to look brave.

Matali looked at the two of them. Now more than ever, he was confident that Sumukha was the right choice for his daughter. He smiled as he saw Aaryaka and Sumukha, “There is nothing you can do. But there is something I can.’

As Matali entered Indra’s court at Amravathi, he knew it was a good omen. He felt that it was destined that the marriage between Sumukha and Guna Kesi was to take place as he saw sitting in Indra’s court was the beautiful Dark Lord – Lord Vishnu. Bowing first to Lord Vishnu, who smiled at him enigmatically, Matali bowed to Lord Indra with Sumukha trailing behind him.

Matali then looked at Indra, ‘My Lord! I have a favour to ask from you. As you know I was searching a good match for my daughter Guna Kesi, I have finally found the perfect match for her. I think Sumukha here is the most perfect man for her.’  Indra vigorously nodded his head. He was feeling very happy for his friend and charioteer. But before he could talk Matali interrupted him, ‘Your Majesty! However I have a problem in the form of Garuda.’

Indra blinked. Garuda? Indra suddenly felt very nervous. He cleared his throat and looked at the Dark Lord for support and spoke, ‘Go ahead Matali!’

Matali narrated his predicament to Indra and sought Amrut be given to Sumukha to save his life. Indra looked at Matali deflated. If he handed over the amrita to Sumukha, Garuda could take offence to it.  Indra shuddered as he remembered the last time Garuda had attacked the Devas. He turned desperately to Lord Vishnu, ‘Narayana! Please tell me what to do.’

vishnu-and-indraLord Vishnu smiled, ‘You are the King of the Devas and I cannot make your choices for you. You will have to decide whether or not to give Amrut to Sumukha.’ Indra nodded to himself and thought for some time and finally looked at Sumukha and said, ‘I will give you the Amrut, Sumukha. And I will face the consequences.’ Lord Vishnu smiled at him but did not say anything.  Sumukha and Matali looked visibly relieved.

As Indra came forward and was about to hand over the Amrut to Sumukha, the court door suddenly flew open and Indra had the fright of his life when he saw a ferocious looking Garuda staring angrily at him.

Garuda thundered (oblivious of Lord Vishnu’s presence), ‘What are you doing? Have you forgotten the last time we met in battle Indra? Do you want a repeat of that? I carry the Lord Vishnu himself! Do you know how powerful I am?’ Garuda ranted on and on.

Indra took a deep breath and said calmly, ‘Garuda, you can eat all the other Nagas. He is the only one I have stopped you from eating.’  But Garuda was past hearing all that, ‘Indra! Do you know how strong I am? My feather can carry the weight of the whole world and I carry Lord Vishnu on my back…”

‘Garuda!’ came a soft voice. Garuda stopped talking immediately, the power of the voice was such. Lord Vishnu spoke, ‘Garuda! I think you need to demonstrate to Indra, exactly how strong you are. Probably that way, Indra would be convinced of your strength and decide not to give Amrut to Sumukha.’ Indra was puzzled even as Garuda went forward towards Lord Vishnu. Lord Vishnu held out his hands. ‘I think you should carry me and show them.’

Lord Vishnu placed his hands on Garuda’s shoulder. He suddenly felt like the weight of the entire Universe was placed on his shoulder. Garuda broke out in sweat. Lord Vishnu’s hand was on his shoulder and it suddenly felt that he was being pushed down. The weight was becoming unbearable. Garuda grunted and tried but Garuda’s back was burning with pain.

garudaLord Vishnu looked at Garuda and said, ‘Garuda! You are strong and powerful, no doubt but you have become proud and arrogant! Let that not get into your head. You carry my weight because I let you carry my weight. It is me who carries all of you.’

Lord Vishnu said, ‘Indra was being reasonable. He has the right to give Amrut to who he thinks fit. He is not depriving you of your natural food. Nor is he insulting you. He is just fulfilling the wish of his friend.’

Garuda fell to his knees his eyes streaming from tears and realised the truth in Lord Vishnu’s words. He bowed to Lord Vishnu, ‘My Lord! I behaved arrogantly. Please forgive me.’ Lord Vishnu smiled and blessed Garuda.

Garuda then turned to Indra and sought his forgiveness. Indra had watched the entire spectacle with awe. He nodded his head reverently at Lord Vishnu and smiled at Garuda. Garuda then apologised to Sumukha and exited the court. Sumukha got his Amrut and married Guna Kesi.

This Story reminds us of His Greatness and why He is aptly called the Maha-Bhutah. Om Namo Narayana!

 812.            Maha-nidhih – He Who has the great treasure in the form of His devotees

Govardhan_Lila1This Nama has the following meanings:
a)      He Who has the great treasure in the form of His devotees;
b)      He Who is a great treasure for His devotees;
c)       He Who is the Abode of everything in the Universe; and
d)      He Who is like a treasure from which His devotees can draw at will.

Sri Adi Sankara uses the word ‘Nidhi’ in the sense of abode. He interprets this Nama as ‘Sarvabhutani asmin nidhiyante iti Nidhih, Mahamshcha asau Nidhishcha Mahanidhih – All beings reside in Him, hence He is Nidhih. In addition to that He is also supremely great, hence He is called Mahanidhih’.

In the Bhagavad Gita Chapter 9 Verse 4, Bhagavan says:
Maya tatam idam sarvam jagad avyakta-murtina  |
Mat-sthani sarva-bhutani na caham tesv avasthitah ||
Meaning: By Me, in My unmanifested form, this entire Universe is pervaded. All beings are in Me, but I am not in them.

He carries all people with Him at all times and ensures that they are protected always. ‘ni’ is a prefix and the root word on which this Nama is based is ‘dha – dharana poshanayordane ca’ meaning ‘to put, to grant, to produce or to bear’;  nitaram dhiyate pushyata iti ;  nidhiyate atra iti nidhih – That in which things are stored is Nidhi.  Usually the term is used to refer to treasure.

Sri Parasara Bhattar uses the meaning ‘treasure’ for the term ‘Nidhi’, and gives the interpretation that Bhagavan has this Nama because He values the devotees as His treasure – they are so dear to Him:  te nidhivat ati-priya asya iti Maha-nidhih.

Sri NammAzhwar captures this aspect of Bhagavan in his Thiruvai Mozhi Pasuram (10.7.8): திருமாலிருஞ்சோலைமலையே திருப்பாற் கடலே என்தலையே
திருமால்வைகுந்தமே தண் திருவேங்கடமே எனதுடலே
அருமா மாயத் தெனதுயிரே மனமே வாக்கே கருமமே
ஒருமா நொடியும் பிரியான் என் ஊழி முதல்வன் ஒருவனே.
Meaning: He appears to love my head as much as He does TirumAl irum Solai and Thiruvenkatam. The Lord bestows the same attachment on my body and limbs as He does to Solai Malai and Thiru Paarkadal.  O Great wonders, My life, thought, word and deed!  O My first-cause Lord, who never leaves me even for a moment!

Sri Satyadevo Vasishta gives the interpretation that the Nama symbolizes that He is the abode of everything in the Universe, including such great things as the Sun – Mahantah Suryadayo’pi graha yatra pakshina iva nihita iti mahatam nidhitvaat sa Maha-nidhih –all the planets reside in Him like birds.

Swami ChinmayAnanda translates the Nama as ‘The Great Abode’. He explains the Nama as ‘The Eternal Source from which everything springs forth, and the Infinite substratum upon which the entire play of the finite is held in animated suspension’.  He also notes the meaning ‘treasure’ for the word ‘nidhi’, and observes that Sriman Narayana is the richest treasure of all for His devotees – to loot at will! The idea is that His devotees will never be satiated with His experience, and He is always there for them to eternally enjoy.  Azhwars refer to Bhagavan as their nidhi in this sense of His being available for their enjoyment and support always.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan gives several references:

  • Thirumangai Azhwar in Thirukurum Tandakam (1) – Nidhiyinai, pavalat tunai… – He is the treasure who comes forth without fail when we are in need; He is like the pillar that comes for us support like to pillar made of pavalam.
  • Thirumangai Azhwar – Periya Thirumozhi (7.1.7):  gatiyel illai nin arulel enakku; nidhiye – I have no recourse to any help except Your Mercy;  You are the treasure in reserve for me when I am in need.
  • Sri NammAzhwar, Thiruvai Mozhi (6.7.11): vaitta ma nidhiyam Madhusudanaiye alarri…..- Madhusudanan is like a great treasure in reserve (vaitta ma-nidhi), available in time of need in future.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj interprets the Nama as a combination for two Gunas – that He is great and He is also held as a treasure by His devotees – Bhagavan hi bhaktaih prathamam pujyate tatashca tasya manomayi pratima hridaye nidhiyate dhyayate ca.


Suvarnabindur Akshobhyas Sarvavaageeshvareshvarah     |
Mahahrado Mahagarto Mahabhuto Mahanidhih   ||86||

suvarnabinduhSuvarnabinduh.  He is not agitated or perturbed by internal distractions like desires and hatred or by external foes like the Asuras, hence He is known as Akshobhyah. He is the Lord of all the masters of speech like Bramha, hence He is called Sarva-Vaageeshvareshvarah, the Lord of the Lords of Speech.

The Yogis remain peacefully in His bliss and derive comfort akin to plunging into a lake, hence He is Mahahradah or the great lake. His Maya or the power of illusion is a chasm that is very difficult to cross, hence He is called Mahagartah, the deep chasm. He is beyond the limitations of time because He is unlimited by past, present and future, hence He is known as Maha-Bhutah, the Great Being. All beings reside in Him, hence He is Nidhih. In addition to that He is also supremely great, hence He is called Mahanidhih.



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

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