In this part we will explore the meaning of the 88th Shloka of Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam.
Sulabhah Su-Vratah Siddhah Shatru-jit Shatru-tapanah |
Nyag-rodhodumbaro’Svatthah ChanurAndhra-Nishudanah ||88||
He is easily pleased and can be attained, even by offering leaves, flowers, fruits, water etc., with utmost devotion. He is of excellent vows and is ever existent with no dependence on others. He is always victorious and torments His foes. He is at the command of His devotees ever ready to bestow His grace when they stand in front of Him with folded hands. He stands tall above all other beings who are below hanging on the skyward (inverted) fig tree (Asvattha tree). He is the destroyer of the Wrestler Chanura of Andhra Desa.
The above Shloka has the following Namas:
- Shatrujit Shatru-tapanah
Now let’s examine the meaning of the above Namas in detail:
823. Sulabhah – He can be easily attained
Su is a prefix meaning ‘Sukham or Saunkaryam’ in this context. The root word is ‘labh – praptau’ means ‘to get with ease’. Sukhena Saukaryena va labhyah Su-labhah – He Who is attained easily. Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama as ‘Patra-pushpadibhih bhakti-matra-samarpitaih sukhena labhyata iti Su-labhah – He Who is easily attainable by offering even leaves, flowers, fruits, etc., with full devotion’.
Sri Sankara quotes from the Maha-Bharata:
Patreshu pushpeshu phaleshu toyeshu akrIta-labhyeshu sadiava satsu |
Bhaktyeka-labhye purushe purane muktyai katham na kriyate prayatnah ||
Meaning: The Ancient Purusha is easily attainable by devotion alone, with the offer of leaves, flowers, fruits, and even water, which are always attainable without cost. When such is the case, why is it that people do not even want to try to work towards emancipation with the easy means of Bhakti?
In Sri Vishishta Advaita philosophy, His Soulabhyam (affability) is one of the two most important Gunas that is adored by the devotees, the other being His Sausheelyam (affection). Sri Parasara Bhattar’s interpretation is that even though He is priceless, He can be easily attained at a small price – ‘Anarghopi mulya-bhasena svikartum Sakyah – Su-labhah’. Sri Bhattar gives the example of a woman with a hunch back body (kubja) who offered sandal paste to Lord Krishna and managed to get Him to visit her house – She grabbed Govinda by His attire and said ‘Come to my house’ – ‘Vastre pragrhya Govindam mama geham vrajeti vai (Vishnu Puranam 5.20.11).
Sri V.V. Ramanujan gives instances from Sri NammAzhwar’s Pasuram in Thiruvai Mozhi (1.3.1) –‘Pattudai adiyavarkku eliyavan – He is easy to reach for those who approach Him with love and devotion. After describing Bhagavan’s parattvam in the first two decads of Thiruvai Mozhi, Sri NammAzhwar describes His Saulabhyam (affability) in the third decad, where he starts describing the incident in which the Lord lets Himself to be bound to the mortar just to please Yashodha.
Sri NammAzhwar was so moved by this Saulabhyam of Perumal that He passed out at this simple, unassuming, virtue of Him mingling with all, and was in a state of trance for six months. Sri NammAzhwar explains his emotions in this Pasuram in Thiruvai Mozhi (1.10.2):
கண்ணுள்ளே நிற்கும் காதன்மையால்தொழில்,
மண்ணும்நீரு மெரியும் நல்வாயுவும்,
Meaning: My Lord unfolds Himself as Earth, water, fire wind and sky. Whenever I worship Him with love, He enters into my eyes and fills my heart. What more do I want?
Among the tattvas, the twenty-fifth is the soul (Jiva), and the 26th is ParamAtma. If someone counts numerals just for counting purposes, and accidentally utters the number 26, the Lord is willing to assume that this person is thinking of Him as the 26th tattvam, and will bestow His grace. Such is His willingness to be easily accessible. He is very near to those who surrender themselves to Him – Aniyan Agum tana-taal adaindaargatkellam (Thiruvai Mozhi 9.10.8).
Sri V.N. Vedanta Desikan comments that when Sugreeva surrendered to Rama for help in getting his Kingdom and his wife, Rama considered it His supreme responsibility to protect Sugreeva above any other responsibility, such is the power of surrender to Him. Lord Rama tells Sugreeva:
tvayi ki’ncit samapanne kim karyam Sitaya mama |
Bharatena mahabaho Lakshmanena yaviyasa |
Satrughnena ca Satrughna sva-Sarirena va punah || (Yuddha Kandam 41.5)
Meaning: If you meet with death (due to Me failing to protect you), I do not care if any of the others are left behind – such as SIta, Lakshmana, Bharata, Shatrughna, or for that matter, Myself.
Swami ChinmayAnanda quotes from the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 8 Verse 14) where Bhagavan Himself declares that He is:
‘Sulabhah’:ananya-cetah satatam yo mam smarati nityAsah |
tasyaham Su-labhah Partha nitya-yuktasya yoginah ||
Meaning: I am easy to access, O Arjuna, to that Yogi who is ever integrated with Me, whose mind is not in anything else but Me, and who ceaselessly recollects Me at all times.
Sri Satya Sandha Yatiraja gives a different interpretation as – Sukham labhata iti Sulabhah – He Who bestows happiness is Su-labhah.
824. Su-Vratah – He Who has taken a good, strong Vow
This Nama has the following meanings:
a) He Who has taken a good, strong vow
b) He Who accepts only the pure food that is offered with sincerity by His selfless devotees
c) He Who observed strict penance in His Nara-Narayana incarnation
d) He Who controls everything in this Universe and keeps them in order
e) He Who observed all the Vratas rigorously in His Krishna incarnation, even though He was the Supreme Soul.
Sri Adi Sankara gives two interpretations for this Nama. The first is ‘Shobhanam Vratayati Bhungte – He consumes auspicious food or food offered to Him with devotion hence He called Suvratah’. He eats any food that is offered with a heart of pure devotion as He did with the humble offerings of Kuchela and Shabari. In his second interpretation, Sri Sankara gives a different meaning and says ‘Shobhanam vratayati Bhojanaat Nivartate iti va Suvratah – He refrains from food and observes penance, hence He is called Suvratah’. In many incarnations as Sages Nara and Narayana, Vyasa, Kapila etc. He observed extreme penances that required Him to totally abstain food.
Sri Ananta Krishna Shastry gives the interpretation that the Nama signifies that He accepts only the pure food that is offered with sincerity by His selfless devotees.
Sri Bhattar points to His Su-vratam as ‘Dridha vratam’ or ‘strong vow’. ‘Yatha katha’ncit pravishthanam sarvathA paripAlana dridha vratah Su-vratah – He Who has taken a strong vow to protect those who come to Him through by one means or another, through whatever means it takes, is Su-vratah. He quotes Lord Rama’s vratam:
Sakrdeva prapannaya tava asmi iti yacate |
Abhayam sarva-bhutebhyo dadamy etat vratam mama || (Yuddha Kandam 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.
And Rama does not indulge in double-talking – ‘Ramo dvir na abhibhAsate’.
The Lord’s sincerity of His Vows is also brought out in the Saranagati Gadyam composed by Sri RamanujAcharya which describes how serious He is in His Vratam – anrtam nokta purvam me na ca vakshye kadacana – I have never uttered a lie before, nor will my words ever be false.
In the Bhagavad Gita Chapter 18, Verse 66, Bhagavan says categorically:
Sarva-dharmaan parityajya mam ekam Saranam vraja |
aham tvam sarva paapebhyo moksha isyami ma Sucah ||
Meaning: Abandon all forms of righteousness and just surrender unto Me exclusively. I will release you from all sinful reactions. Do not despair.
Sri V.V. Ramanujan refers us to Sri NammAzhwar’s Thiruvai Mozhi Pasuram (9.10.5), which expounds Su-Vratam of Bhagavan:
சாணாமாகும் தனதாளா டைந்தார்க் கெல்லாம்
அரணமைந்த மதிள்சூழ் திருக்கண்ணபுரத்
Meaning: To all those who seek Him and surrender unto Him, the Lord gives refuge here and grants Sri Vaikuntham upon their death.
Sri Sayadevo Vasishtha views the term Vratam as signifying control or restraint – niyamanam, and gives the interpretation that the Nama signifies that He controls the world very effectively – Suvratati niyamayati iti Su-Vratah. He gives the following references to the instance of His function of Vrata or niyamanam from the Shruti:
yasya vrate prithivi nannamiti yasya vrate Saphavaj-jarbhuriti |
yasya vrate oshadhir-vishva rupah sa nah parjanya mahi Sarma yaccha || (Rig. 5.83.5)
Meaning: You are the One at whose bidding earth bows low, at whose command hoofed cattle fly in terror, At whose behest the plants assume all colours, You Parjanya, yield us great protection.
825. Siddhah – He protects His devotees without any special effort on their part
This Nama has the following meanings:
a) He Whose protection is ever available without any special effort on the part of His devotees
b) He Who is the Siddho Upaya – the already existing means – for attaining Moksham
c) He Who is fully accomplished, without dependence on anyone or anything else
d) He Who makes His devotees accomplished – in their tapas and other efforts to attain Him
e) He Who gave us the Shastras, or He Who bestows auspiciousness upon us
f) He is the final destination – the Ultimate Truth
g) He Who accomplishes all His undertakings flawlessly to completion and perfection
The root from which the Nama is derived is ‘Sidh – samraddhau’ meaning ‘to reach or to attain one’s goal, to succeed, to accomplish’ etc. The meaning for this Nama is interpreted as ‘One Who is already materialized as a Protector of us, One Who helps us materialize our objectives, One Who is perfect, One Who makes us perfect’ etc.
Siddhih means total fulfillment as well as enlightenment. Based on this Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Ananyaadheena Siddhitvaat Siddhah – He has fully accomplished all his objectives without anyone else’s influence or control hence he is called Siddhah, the truly accomplished one’.
Sri Bhattar’s interpretation is that His protection is available to His devotees without any special effort on their part. The act of protecting His devotees in natural to Him, is ever existent in Him, and is not conditioned by anything – asya goptritvam aupadhikam, sada svata eva sarva-goptritvaat, ayatna sadhyah Siddhah.
Sri V.V Ramanujan refers us to Sri NammAzhwar’s Thiruvai Mozhi 5.7.10 in support – ‘Aru enakku nin paadhame Saran endru ozhindaai – My goal is Your Feet’. The ‘means or upaaya’, is to cling to His Feet, and as this requires very little effort on our part, He is Siddhah.
Sri NammAzhwar, in his Thiruvai Mozhi Pasuram (10.6.3), describes that Bhagavan is already inclined to protect us (Siddhah) as He rushes to our aid just by chanting His many Namas:
நண்ணினம் நாரணனை நாமங்கள் பலசொல்லி
மண்ணுலகில் வளம்மிக் க வாட்டாற்றான் வந்தின்று
விண்ணுலகம் தருவானாய் விரைகின்றான் விதிவகையே
எண்ணினவா றாகாவிக் கருமங்க ளென்னெஞ்சே
Meaning: We approached Narayana by reciting His names which are expressions of His qualities. The Lord hastens to hand over Sri Vaikuntha lokam itself to us, to enjoy at our will, whenever we wish it. He has come the whole way, taken residence near us in Tiruvattaru, and waits, even though He is in a great hurry to take me. These are happening because of His Grace; otherwise, this could not have happened.
Swami Desikan explains that among the upaayas or means for attaining Him, He is Himself the Siddha upaayam – siddhopaayastu muktau niravadhika dayah Sri-sakhah sarva-Saktih – Sriman Narayana, with infinite mercy and infinite Shakti, is the Siddha upaayam in the matter of bestowing Moksham (nyasa vimshati 17) – the means that already exists without requiring any special effort on our part to create this upaaya; all we need to is follow one of the Saadhya upaayas – either the Bhakti or the Prapatti maargam, and He is the pre-existing means (Siddha upaaya) who will grant the Moksham or Liberation.
Sri Ananta Krishna Shastry gives the interpretation that the Nama can also mean that He is the One who makes others perfect through their devotion to Him – The good ones attain perfection or full fruition in tapas, salvation, etc., by serving Him.
Sri Radhakrishna Shastri also gives a similar dual interpretation – He is Siddhah because He gives Siddhi to the practitioners of the vratas etc., and He is Siddhah because He has attained Siddhi in all respects. He gives support from Narasimhottara tapanI 9.9 – Sadevapurastat Siddham hi Brahma.
Sri Satyasandha Yatiraja gives a new interpretation – sidham mangalam Shaastram va dhatta iti Siddhah – He Who gave us the Shaastras, or He Who bestows auspiciousness on us.
Sri Krishna Datta Bharadwaj gives the explanation that Bhagavan is the Ultimate End or the Final conclusion of all enquiries – siddhyati sma Siddhah – Bhagavan hi sakalaih pramanaih Siddhah; tatra pratyaksham pramanam bhaktanam, anumanam pramanam tarkikaanaam, Sabda pramanam ca Sruti-Shastranaam, evam pramana-tryamapi Sri Bhagavantam Sadhayati –He is the eager to please His devotees, He is the final result of the analysis for analysts, and He is the Shabda pramanam as declared loudly in the Shrutis and Shaastras. So He is the end result of all means of establishing the Ultimate Truth.
Sri Sayadevo Vasishtha explains that the Nama refers to ‘One Who accomplishes everything there is to accomplish, with no effort – Sri Rama klamtandraabhih varjito yatnApeksha Siddhiscam Siddhah. He who accomplishes everything to completion and perfection always is Siddhah – sarvato bhavinI ShaasvatI siddhih asya iti Siddhah. He refers to Bhagavan’s creation of the Universe and its flawless functioning, with the right mix of air, heat, water, different species, etc., as He decides.
826. Shatru-jit-Shatru-taapanah – He conquers the enemies of Devas and torments them
Sri Adi Sankara (and other who follow Sankara) take this as two Namas – Shatrujit and Shatrutaapanah while Sri Parasara Bhattar interprets this as a single Nama.
Shatru refers to enemies and Jit is one who wins. Using this, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama as ‘SurAsatravah eva asya Shatravah Taan Jayati iti Shatrujit – The enemies of gods are His enemies and he conquers them all hence he is called Shatrujit, the conqueror of enemies’. Bhagavan of course has no enemies of His own. But He regards any enemies of Devas or enemies of pious people as His own, fights them and defeats them, hence He is called Shatrujit.
Sri Sankara interprests Shatru-taapanah as not only He defeats His enemies but He also torments or punishes them for their crimes – ‘SurAsatroonaam taapanah Shatrutaapanah’ – One who torments the enemies of Devas.
Sri Parasara Bhattar gives the explanation that (in addition to using His powers directly in destroying the enemies of His devotees), He also uses His powers by entering into others with His Tejas, and then defeats the enemies of His devotees as well. Thus, his interpretation for this Nama is that He is Shatru-taapanah (tormentor of His devotees’ enemies) by using Shatru-jits (those who conquer their enemies) as His vehicle. Sri Bhattar gives examples for this interpretation from Sri Vishnu Puranam (4.2.8):
para’njayo hi Nama Sasaadasya ca rajarshes-tanayah kshatriya-varyah |
tac-charire aham amshena svayameva avatirya tan Aseshaan asuraan nihanishyami ||
kakutsthah bhagavatah caracaraguroh acyutasya tejasa Apyayito devasura sa’ngrame samastaneva asuran nijaghana (V.P. 4.2.11).
Meaning: With a part of Me, I will descend into the body of para’njaya and annihilate the asuras Myself. Then, kakutstha (para’njaya), infused with the power of the Eternal Ruler of all movable and immovable things, destroyed all the enemies of the gods in the battle.
“…. Aha Bhagavan Adi-purushah purushottamo yauvanaAsvasya mandhatuh purukutsa Nama putrastam aham anupravishya etan Asesha dushta Gandharvan upAsamam nayishyami (V.P. 4.3.7); rasatala gatAsca asau bhagavat tejasa Apyayita Atma-viryah sakala Gandharvan jaghana (V.P. 4.3.9)’.
Meaning: The Adi-purusha and Purushottama replied – “I will enter into Purukutsa, the son of mandhatri and Yuvanasva, and in him I will quieten these iniquitous Gandharvas; Reaching the regions below the Earth, and being filled with the might of the Supreme Deity, He (Purutkutsa) destroyed the Gandharvas”.
Sri Sayadevo Vasishtha also gives this as his interpretation, the idea of His indirect incarnations, for the Nama Shatrujit and for Shatru-taapanah, He bestows His powers – sarva-suhrdah sadhun dvishanti ta eva Satrvah, tanshca yah sva-paradatta-Saktibhih maha-purushaih tapayati iti Shatru-taapanah – He gives His Shakti to the Maha-purushas, who in turn go after those who harm His devotees, and punish them. He gives the following reference from Atharva Veda (19.28.2), where this Guna of scorching the enemies is referred:
dvishas-taapayan hradah Satrunaam taapayan manah |
dur-hradah sarvaas-tvam darbha dharma ivaabhintsam taapayan || (atharva. 19.28.2)
He further comments that Bhagavan displays His Guna of conquering the enemy, by giving His creation different means to defend themselves, such as the horns for the horned species, the claws for the lion etc., and other means for the other species to defend themselves.
Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj treats the Nama as ‘Shatru-jit-Shatru-taapanah, but gives the interpretation in terms of the two parts: “He Who is Shatru-jit and also Shatru-taapanah” – ‘Satayanti utpidayanti dharmikaan iti Satravah; taan jayati iti Shatru-jit; Shatrun taapayati iti Shatru-taapanah; Shatru-jit ca asau Shatru-taapanan iti Shatru-jit-Shatru-taapanah”.
Swami ChinmayAnanda says that Bhagavan is the One who can drive away the worst of all the enemies, those that are in our mind: In the bosom of man, his enemies are none other than consciousness of his body and the consequent passions of the flesh – both objective and subjective. The seeker feels that these desires in him constitute a very powerful team of belligerent forces, and against their concerted onslaught he feels helpless. But when an alert seeker turns to Sriman Narayana, who is in his own heart, all obstacles wither away, and thus He is the ‘Supreme Conqueror of all enemies’. In other words, it is the identification of the body with the soul that is the worst of our enemies. Meditation on Him is the only means to conquer this enemy, and so He is called Shatru-jit. He continues and comments that Bhagavan as Shatru-taapanah ensures that ‘when the devotee offers oneself at the altar of His Feet, He (Bhagavan) burns down all the negative tendencies polluting this devotee’s heart.
827. Nyagrodhodumbarah – He Who has the Supreme Abode with Lakshmi and everything that is magnificent, but Who is at the command of the devotees who approach Him with folded hands
This is another Nama which is treated as two separate Namas by Sri Adi Sankara (and others) while Sri Parasara Bhattar takes it as one Nama. This Nama is an outstanding example that illustrates the uniqueness of Sri Bhattar’s commentary. But first, let us look at the individual meanings of the two parts:
Nyagrodhah – This has the following meanings:
a) He Who is bound by those who stand below, bowing to Him with folded hands
b) He who controls those below Him
c) He Who is Primordial, and is above all
d) He Who is firmly rooted, and extends in all directions in the form of the Universe
e) He Who subjugates the enemies of His devotees, and punishes them
f) He Who is desired in their hearts by those who worship Him (rudh – kame – to desire).
Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Nyak Arvaak Rohati Sarveshaam upari Vartate iti Nyagrodhah – One Who is Primordial, and is above all, hence He is called Nyagrodhah. Sri Sankara looks at the Nama as nyag-rohah for the purposes of interpretation, and then invokes the grammatical rule which allows for the replacement of ‘ha’ with ‘dha’, resulting in Nyag-rodhah.
Sri Adi Sankara gives another interpretation for this Nama which is ‘Sarvaani Bhootaani Nyakkritya Nijamaayaam Vrinoti Nirunadhi iti vaa – He brings all beings under his sway and subjects them to the spell of his Maya or power of illusion hence he is called Nyagrodhah’. Gita (7.14) talks about ‘Mama Maayaa Duratyayaa – My Maya is very difficult to overcome’.
Sri V.V. Ramanujan refers to the instance of His being tied to the mortar by Yashoda – ‘kattunnap panniaya peru mayan’, as an example of this Supreme ParamAtman being subservient to Yashoda’s affection.
Sri Satya Sandha Yatiraja also looks at the Nama as Nyag-rohah and comes with a different interpretation. He uses the meaning ruh – to grow, and gives the explanation that the Nama signifies that ‘He makes all beings obey Him, and grows or develops all the beings – sarvani bhutani nyakritya rohati vardhata iti’.
The term nyagrodhah also refers to the banyan tree, since this tree grows in the downward direction as much as it grows in the upward direction, (ruh – to grow) – nicair-gatau parohair-vardhate; nyag rohati – grows downwards. Because of this, the tree is very strongly rooted, and is extremely stable. Sri Radhakrishna Shastri interprets the Nama as referring to this attribute of Bhagavan, namely, that He is firmly rooted, and extends in all directions in the form of the Universe.
Sri Vasishtha comes up with the interpretation that He is One who controls those below– nyag runaddhi iti Nyag-rodhah. His other interpretation is – ‘nyagbhih anurudhyate prArthyate Ipsitaptaya iti Nyag-rodhah – He to Whom those below make a plea for benefits that they desire’.
Sri ChinmayAnanda adds that the cause is subtler than the effect, and thus, the essential principle, Narayana, transcends even the concept of space.
Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan gives the interpretation that ‘He subjugates the enemies of His devotees, and oppresses or punishes them – nyak-kritya runaddhi niraye nikshipati sva-bhakta-drohina iti Nyag-rodhah.
Sri Krishna Datta Bharadwaj gives the interpretation: nyagbhih pranataih rudhyate hridaya-pradeshe iti Nyag-rodhah – He Who is desired in their hearts by those who worship Him (rudh – kame – to desire).
Udumbarah – This has the following meanings:
a) He Who has the most auspicious Sri Vaikuthham as His own
b) He Who is ‘above the sky’, i.e., superior to all
c) He Who nourishes the world in the form of food etc.
d) One Who has the best of sounds – the Vedas, as His form
e) He Who is praised by the highest and best of sounds – Bhajans, Nama-sankirtanas etc.
f) He Who has the superior Pitambaram as His garment (ud-ambarah) ‘Ut’ is an upasarga (prefix) and ambaram refers to the sky (derived from am – to go, to eat, to sound). Ut + ambara = ud-ambara, which becomes ud-umbara because of a grammatical rule.
Sri Adi Sankara gives two interpretations for this. The first one is ‘Ambaraat Udgatah Kaaranatvena iti Udumbarah – He is above even the sky or superior to all being the cause of all, hence He is called Udumbarah’.
Sri Sankara gives another interpretation as ‘Udumbaram Annaadyam; Tena Tadaatmanaa Vishvam Poshayan Udumbarah – Udumbaram refers to foodstuff; He nourishes the world with food which is His own form hence He is called Udumbarah’. In support of this, Sri Sankara quotes the following verse from Taitriya Bramhana (1.2.7, 1.3.8) ‘Urg vaa Annaadyam Udumbaram -Urg or foodstuff is called Udumbaram’.
Sri Vasishtha uses the root ‘am – Sabde’ meaning ‘to sound’, and interprets the Nama Ud-umbarah as ‘One Who has the best of sounds – the Vedas, as His form – uccaih sarvata uttamo veda-rupah Sabdo yasya sa Ud-Umbarah sarveshvaro Vishnuh. Sri Vasishtha gives another explanation – He Who is praised by the highest and best of sounds: bhajans, Nama-sankirtana-s etc., – ut sarvata utkrishtatvena ambyate; Sabdyate -sa’nkIrtyata iti ud-umbarah.
Sri Krishna Datta Bharadwaj gives the interpretation: ut utkrishtam ambaram Pitambaram yasya sah Udumbarah – He Who has the superior Pitambaram as His attire is Ud-ambarah. Here, he uses the word ambaram as ‘attire’.
Sri Bhattar’s explanation for the part ‘Nyag-rodah’ is that ‘Bhagavan is subservient to the devotees who stand in front of Him with their folded hands’, and for ‘Udumbarah’, he says that ‘He is One Who has the Supreme Abode with Lakshmi and has all that is magnificent’.
The reason for combining the two into one Nama now stands out at us: ‘Even though Bhagavan is One Who is endowed with everything that is Supreme, He is just at the command of His devotees when they stand in front of Him with folded hands’.
This Nama is perhaps one of the best examples of the uniqueness of Sri Bhattar’s commentaries, appropriately titled as ‘Bhagavad Guna Darpanam’, where he repeatedly brings out the two supreme qualities of Bhagavan – His Saulabhyam (affability) and His Sausheelyam (affection).
Sri Bhattar’s words are: atyucchrita-sevyo’pi atyanta-nicanamapi anuvartana-sadhyah – Though He is worshipped by the highest of the Devas, He is within easy reach of the lowliest of persons (because it is possible to please Him easily). He captures this Saulabhyaam of Emperuman beautifully.
Sri Bhattar’s another interpretation is: nyag-bhutaih–adhah-krita’njalibhih, rudhyate – svapras Adaunmukhyena vyasthapyate iti nyag-rodhah – He Who is controlled by those who stand below, bowing to Him with folded hands. Sri Bhattar stresses the influence of anjali on Bhagavan – anjalih parama mudra kshipram deva-prasadini – The sight of the Anjali (the act of joining hands in supplication), immediately pleases the Lord at once without delay.
Sri Bhattar explains further as ‘Sarva-Gunaih udgatam ambaram – param dhAma asya iti ud-umbarah – He Who has as the Supreme Abode, Sri Vaikuntham, is Udumbarah. This abode is Supreme because it has Lakshmi, and it rises above all other things by its magnificent qualities.
Sri V.V. Ramanujan gives reference of Alavandar’s Stotra ratnam 28:
tvad-anghrim uddishya kada’pi kenacit yatha tatha va’pi sakrit krito’njalih |
tadaiva mushnatya Subhanya Seshatah Subhani pushnati na jatu hiyate ||
Meaning: If anyone worships Your Feet with folded hands even once at any time under any pretence, at that very moment all the sins of this person are driven away, and infinite auspices accumulate for this person.
- Asvatthah – He has established the impermanent gods for performing various functions
This Nama has the following meanings:
- He Who has established the impermanent gods for performing various functions
- He Who is described as the root of an eternal Asvattha tree of Samsara etc.
- He Who eternally rules over the Universe that is never the same, and keeps constantly changing
- He Who pervades the entire Universe in the form of the five great elements
Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama as ‘Shvo api Na Sthaateti Asvatthah – He is constantly changing as a representation of the Universe and hence He is called Asvatthah, the ever changing one. Sri Sankara’s other interpretation is ‘Asvattha iva tishthati iti Asvatthah – He stands majestically like the Asvattha tree, hence He is called Asvatthah’.
Sri Sankara quotes from Katha Upanishad (2.3.1): ‘Urdhvamulo Avaak Shaakha Esho Asvatthas Sanaatanah – The immortal Bramhan has roots at the top and branches below like the inverted Asvattha tree’.
In the Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 15 Verse 1, Bhagavan says:
Urdhva-mulam adhah-sakham asvattham prahur avyayam |
chandamsi yasya parnani yas tam veda sa veda-vit ||
Meaning: The Lord said: There is a banyan tree which has its roots upward and its branches down and whose leaves are the Vedic hymns. One who knows this tree is the knower of the Vedas.
The reference to the eternal Asvattha tree here is a reference to permanent cycle of Samsara, which is rooted in Brahman, and which grows in a continuous flow into the different life forms which themselves perish after some time, but the flow continues. It propagates through the knowledge in the forms of its leaves. This knowledge (Vedas) consists of both the kamya karmas in the form of religious rites and sacrifices that promote the tree of Samsara, as well as the knowledge that is needed to fell this tree that grows by desire etc.
In another verse in the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 10 Verse 26), Bhagavan says – ‘Asvatthah sarva-vrksanam’ meaning ‘Of all trees, I am the holy banyan (fig) tree’.
Sri Bhattar’s interprets the Nama as ‘A+sva+stha’ where Svas means tomorrow and sthah refers to His being the Controller. ‘Asvah’ means `not tomorrow’, namely `that which is impermanent’. Sri Bhattar interprets this as a reference to the impermanent positions of Brahma, Indra etc. The part of the worlds through these Devas whose positions are transitory – na Svah – anityam, indrAdityadi padam yeshaam, teshu niyamakataya tishthati iti A-Svat-sthah or Asvatthah.
Sri Bhattar gives support from Sri Vishnu Puranam:
murtim rajo-mayim brahmim Asritya srjati prajah |
Asritya paurushim murtim sattvikim yah sa palayan |
kalakhyam tamasim murtim Asritya grasate jagat ||
Meaning: Residing within the body of Brahma, composed of Rajo Guna, Bhagavan creates the world. He takes the body of Vishnu composed of Sattva, and protects the world. Assuming the body of Kala (Siva) composed of Tamo-Guna, He swallows the Universe.
Sri V.V. Ramanujan refers us to Sri NammAzhwar’s Thiruvai Mozhi, where Azhwar describes this aspect of Bhagavan:
இறுக்கு மிறையிறுத்துண்ண எவ்வுல குக்கும்தன் மூர்த்தி,
நிறுத்தினான் தெய்வங்க ளாக அத்தெய்வ நாயகன் றானே
மறுத்திரு மார்வன் அவன்றன் பூதங்கள் கீதங்கள் பாடி,
வெறுப்பின்றி ஞாலத்து மிக்கார் மேவித் தொழுதுய்ம்மி னீரே.
Meaning: He is the Lord of all the Gods, who have been established in their positions by my Lord Himself. It is He who accepts all the offering you make to other Gods. The spirits of the mole-chested Lord have filled the Earth singing songs. So shed hatred, cultivate love; offer worship and liberate yourselves.
In the Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 7 Verse 21, Bhagavan says:
yo yo yam yam tanum bhaktah sraddhayarcitum icchati
tasya tasyacalam sraddham tam eva vidadhamy aham ||
Meaning: Whichever God a devotee desires with faith and worships, I make that faith steady so that the devotee can continue to worship that chosen deity (Ishta Devata).
In one of his interpretations, Sri Sayadevo Vasishtha uses the concept of time (Svas = tomorrow), and gives the interpretation: Svah = kaale, tishthati iti Svatthah, na Svatthah a_Svatthah, kaala bahir bhuto Bhagavan Vishnuh – He Who is not constrained by time. This is why He is called Sanatana – Eternal, Permanent.
Sri Sayadevo Vasishtha gives a different anubhavam. He derives the meaning starting from the root As – vyaptau sa’nghate ca – to pervade, to accumulate. His interpretation is: Asnuvate – vyapnuvanti vishvam iti Asvaani – pa’nca maha bhutaani, teshu vyaapakatvena sthitah Asvatthah – He Who pervades the entire Universe in the form of the five great elements.
Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan uses the meaning ‘prapancam’ or ‘the Universe’ for the word Asvattha, based on the niruktam – Svastad-rupena na sthateti Asvatthah prapancah; sa asya asti nityam niyamyata iti arthah – He Who eternally rules over the Universe that is never the same, and keeps constantly changing.
- ChanurAndhra-Nishudanah – The Destroyer of Chanura
Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Chanura Namanam Andhram Nishuditavaan iti ChanurAndhraNishudanah – He destroyed a wrestler called Chanura hailing from the Andhra region hence He is called ChanurAndhraNishudanah’.
Sri Bhattar’s interprets this Nama as Bhagavan’s slaying of an Asura called Chanura, belonging to the Andhra race, who was the enemy of Indra and other Devas – tad-virodhinam Chanura-Namanam AsurAndhra mallam nishuditavan iti Chanurandhra-Nishudanah.
Sri Sayadevo Vasishtha derives his interpretation starting from the basic roots for the component parts of the Nama:
- ‘Can – daane gatau ca’ means ‘to give’; Cananti = dadati daana-Sila sattvica-vrittayah Chanurah – Those who are sattvic by nature and who perform acts of giving to others are called Chanuras. Cai – puja nishamanayoh – to worship, to observe; Cayyante = pujyante iti Chanurah, prasasta-hridayah sadhavah – Those noble people who are worthy of worship because of their noble hearts are called Chanuras. Thus, the term Chanura in Sri Vasishtha’s interpretation refers to good people.
- Andhra – derived from andha – drishtyupaghAte dRshyupasamhAre – to be blind or to close their eyes. Andhayati iti andhrah – Those who cheat or deceive are Andhras. So Chanurandhras are those who cheat or deceive the good people.
- Nishudana is derived from the root ‘Sud – ksharane’ meaning ‘to destroy’; Nishudana means ‘One who gives or causes extreme pain in multiple ways – sarva-prakarena nitaraam bhaadate.
Thus, Sri Vasishtha’s interpretation for the Nama ChanurAndhraNishudanah is: ‘One Who causes extreme pain and misery to those who trouble the good and sattvic people.
Sri Satya Sandha Yatiraja uses the paadham Chanurandha Nishudanah, and interprets the term ‘andha’ to refer to Duryodhana and his associates (andha means blind). This is because they were blind to truth and dharma. So his interpretation is that the Nama means ‘He Who destroyed Chanura, Duryodhana and his brothers – ChanurAsca andhAsca Duryodhanadayah, taan nishudayati iti.
The Story of Chanura
Kamsa had arranged a Yajna in which a bow was to be worshipped. Krishna and Balarama asked around as to where this bow was kept. They arrived at that site and Krishna proceeded to tie a string to the bow. But the bow snapped and the sound of the bow snapping was heard throughout the palace. The guards came and attacked Krishna and Balarama, but the two brothers killed all the guards.
Kamsa had got to know that Krishna and Balarama had come to Mathura. So he called Chanura and Mushtika and told them to wrestle with the two brothers and kill them.
All was now set for the wrestling match. The famous wrestler Chanura came to Balarama and Krishna and said, ‘We have heard about your past achievements. You are great heroes. You are both famous everywhere as experts in wrestling. Hearing this and desirous of seeing your valour, the King has invited you to his Court. I invite you to a wrestling match.’
Krishna immediately understood the wicked motive of Chanura. He was also pleased at the proposal for a wrestling match. But he spoke diplomatically: ‘We shall always do what is pleasing to the King. But we are only boys. We can engage ourselves only in playful wrestling contests with boys of our own age group. The wrestling contest should be arranged according to rules, or else sin would befall on those who even witness it.’
But Chanura replied, ‘Neither Balarama nor you, who have killed the elephant and many others can be called mere boys. You are undoubtedly qualified to wrestle with strong opponents. You show your strength against me and let Balarama compete with Mushtika, another great wrestler.’
Accepting the challenge, Krishna and Balarama approached Chanura and Mushtika respectively. Entwining hand to hand and leg to leg, Krishna and Chanura pulled at each other eager for victory, they clashed. Whirling round arm in arm, pushing away with a stroke of the hand, trying to strangle by embracing, throwing down on the ground, pushing forward and backward—by all such means each tried to overpower the other. By throwing up, by lifting, by whirling, by pressing down and such other tactics, they tried to hurt each other and win. Balarama fought with Mushtika in the same way.
Krishna now decided to kill Chanura and struck him thrice with the fist. The great wrestler furiously hit Krishna’s chest with both his fists but it made no impact on Krishna. Catching hold of Chanura by his hand, Krishna whirled him round and round until the wrestler fell dead striking the earth with his body. Earlier, Mushtika was struck by the powerful fists of Balarama and fell down to the earth.
The people gathered there clapped their hands in great ecstasy. There was no limit to their joy. All the Gopa friends of Krishna jumped into the arena. Krishna and Balarama danced to their joyous singing. Everyone was delighted to see that dance of Balarama and Krishna.
Sulabhah Su-Vratah Siddhah Shatru-jit Shatru-tapanah |
Nyag-rodhodumbaro’Svatthah ChanurAndhra-Nishudanah ||88||
He is easily pleased and can be attained even by offering leaves, flowers, fruits, water etc. with utmost devotion, hence is He is called Sulabah. He Who has taken a strong vow to protect those who come to Him through by one means or another, through whatever means it takes, is Su-Vratah. He protects His devotees without any special effort on their part, so He is Siddhah. He is always victorious and torments His foes, hence He is called Shatru-jit Shatru-tapanah.
He has the Supreme Abode with Lakshmi and everything that is magnificent, but He is at the command of His devotees who approach Him with folded hands, hence He is Nyag-rodha-Udumbarah. He stands tall above all other beings who are below hanging on the skyward (inverted) banyan (fig) tree, hence He is called Asvatthah. He is the destroyer of the Wrestler Chanura of Andhra Desa, hence He is ChanurAndhraNishudanah.
HARI OM TAT SAT
OM NAMO NARAYANAAYA
This Vishnu Sahasranamam series is authored with the help of my friend Shri Balaji.